How many people are ostracized because of chronic mental illness?
I was listening to This American Life in the car today. It was called “The Fear of Sleep”. While not the primary subject of the segment, I was struck by some comments about the brother of the protagonist. The 17 year old brother was behaving erratically and coming home at increasingly late hours. When the brother arrived, he’d be met with a shouting match between him and his father. It’s mentioned as an aside that it was the beginning symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as schizophrenia.
I’ve posted a TED talk on the experiences of a schizophrenic before. And I think most people would be surprised to learn what schizophrenia is and isn’t (it’s not multiple personality disorder).
I don’t think the experiences of this person are unique. He was probably described as a difficult child, and his parents likely didn’t know what to do with him. We don’t know the end result of his part in this particular story, and it really depends on the severity of the illness, whether the person was diagnosed properly, and if they have the social support system to stay current with medications and treatment.
Unfortunately, many people with mental illness are described as the black sheep. They were erratic in their teenage and early adult years at home. The family doesn’t understand why. They raised this child just like all of their other children but this one acts radically different. In many cases, the family is relieved for the difficult member to be out of the house. Without treatment and medication, this person is likely to have a very hard time maintaining high-quality, steady employment. They often end up with unsteady living arrangements, and unreliable relationships. Both the families and the afflicted are victims of mental illness.
Please be aware, that there are so many things we’re learning about the human mind, please take a moment to think about the circumstances these people are in and at least consider that in many ways, it may not be their fault at all. It’s particularly keen at the moment – during an election – when a large portion of the dialogue is given to social welfare and health programs. Many of the people who need these programs most don’t want to be in this situation. They don’t want even to behave the way they do. They are are afflicted in ways most of us can’t understand.