A while back I posted a blog entry talking about how mental health issues are treated differently than physical health issues. Well, I'm going to go on about it again, as this is an issue that's very important to me. I've dealt with depression off and on throughout my life. Rebecca still deals with PTSD as a result of being robbed at gunpoint. Other members of my family have dealt with affective and anxiety issues, and earlier this year a dear friend of mine was hospitalized because she was having trouble dealing with gender identity issues, so mental health is something that I'm always thinking about. It probably also doesn't hurt that I hold a degree in psychology either...
One thing I've noticed is that if someone tells another person that their child has been admitted to the hospital because they're undergoing testing for something like cancer, people react differently than if you were to say that the child was undergoing psychiatric evaluation and testing for depression. Why should this be different? Both are ailments, and both children deserve our sympathy, but the child being tested for depression is more likely to be looked at as being weak, or the parents are going to be looked at as if they've done something wrong. An important thing to remember is that most psychiatric disorders have a physical and biological cause. Most cases of depression are caused by a neurotransmitter imbalance, but somehow this is viewed as being different than abnormal cell growth causing cancer. Both of these illnesses have a very physical causative agent.
It's true that life choices can exacerbate an already existing psychiatric condition. For example, continuing to date someone who is abusive can make a depressed person's depression worse. So, should we judge these people because their choices have helped contribute to their illness? Before you say yes, keep in mind that a lot of physical ailments can be exacerbated by our life choices as well. How many health issues, especially in America, are made worse by our eating habits? We usually don't judge people for making decisions that helped lead to their cancer (except maybe for lung cancer) or any other ailment, so why should we do it with mental health issues.
Once again, until America wakes up and realizes that mental illness is an illness, not a weakness, we are not going to be able to solve many of our problems. And things like gun violence are only going to get worse.
Please don't judge someone who is dealing with a mental health issue. You have no idea what they are going for, just as you don't really know what someone with a severe illness is going through unless you've dealt with it yourself. There's no difference whatsoever between physical health issues and mental health issues. No difference at all!