Why Do People Care So Little about People with Mental Illness?
By: Beth McHugh 2010
I hear some pretty sad stories in my work as a counselor, but the saddest ones are when the family and friends of an emotionally unwell person refuse to help or even try to understand. I know that the sufferer is not deserving of this treatment yet it is relatively common. Why? Because people are afraid of the unknown.
The joke is that, if the friends and family were to educate themselves about their loved one’s plight, there would be little reason for fear. Even those people who will mock their family and friends for being “weak” have a modicum of fear in their bravado, because if you truly understood mental illness you would never call a sufferer “weak”. So once again, fear is the common thread when people won’t help, back out of promises and cross the street to avoid a situation they just don’t have the personal resources to cope with.
Interestingly, some of the best carers for people suffering from a mental illness do not have a degree, a certificate, or any special sort of training. They have genuine caring, coupled with a lot of patience. These are the best carers and are far superior to any therapist or hospital staff member.
Many people suffering mental illness are deprived of love. Give it to them and they will thrive. Depending on the condition they suffer from, there will certainly be a vast improvement. Not always a cure, but definitely a much happier and well adjusted person.
So this begs the question: why do we as a community not love or care for the mentally ill? Are we heartless? Why do we let our fear override our loving nature? Or do we not have a loving nature at all and are preoccupied so much with ourselves that we do not consider for one minute what it is like to suffer from mental torment.
As I talk to my clients I constantly ask myself why are we as a society so abjectly hopeless at offering assistance to those in need of emotional bandaging? Are we frightened of our own fears so much that we cannot entertain coming in contact with the fears of others?
Yet thankfully, there are hardy spirits out there who realize that it is not that difficult to sit with a person in emotional need, to keep regular contact with them, to love them to a state of wellness. These are the angels that walk among us, and if you are mentally ill and you find one of these angels, then you are truly blessed.
If you would like to become an angel, try spending time with the newly bereaved for starters and just listen. Train yourself not to run away, but to consider that whatever uncomfortable feelings you may be having, what feelings must this mental sufferer be going through? Asking yourself these questions and acting on them will help you to grow in ways you never thought possible. You can then volunteer to be with depressed and anxious people.
The end result is that the sick person will get a wonderful by-product of your own personal growth.