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Let's Talk About Mental Illness

25% of adults experience a mental health disorder in any given year, yet there is a stigma associated with mental illness that interferes with individuals receiving needed support.

Charise (name has been changed) spent the last ten years of her life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. When out, she lived at Keystone, a half-way house in Norwalk, and sometimes with her family or in a small apartment close to the hospital. Schizophrenia. It was whispered. Never spoken aloud. There was no outpouring of support to her or her family. Her younger siblings' schools didn't check on them, to see how they were faring through their family's crises. Friends avoided the subject. The family managed alone.

Sometime during our lifetime, forty-six percent of us will experience a clinical level of a mental health disorder[i], including addiction disorders: Our friends and relatives, our co-workers and classmates, our neighbors and store keepers. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides more startling statistics on how frequently some serious mental health disorders occur in the adult population[ii]:

  • Schizophrenia: 1.1%
  • Bipolar disorder: 2.6%
  • Major depressive disorder: 6.7%
  • Anxiety disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias and panic disorders: 18%


During intimate conversations we learn about a struggle that our closest friend's child may be having, or perhaps it is clandestine gossip about an acquaintance. Why is it that we speak of such things in hushed tones? Why don't we, as a society, talk about an illness of the brain the same way that we talk about cancer or a serious injury. Why is there a stigma around mental illness?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

How is our community coping? For some, life is a mundane trudge managing daily tasks, for others an out-of-control crisis, and many more somewhere in between. Depression, anxiety, psychosis, phobias - the list goes on. Navigating the network of therapeutic services is challenging. Family members struggle to balance the needs of all members of their family.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides the much-sought after help that people with mental illness and their families need. Regularly scheduled support groups (for consumers, family members and parents of children) offer a friendly ear, voice of encouragement and guidance to help recognize and cope with the stages of recovery. Workshops, book groups, guest speakers and legislative advocacy round out the programming. All services are provided free of charge. www.namict.org.

This Saturday morning, May 19, NAMI's annual walkathon, NAMI Walks, will be held at Bushnell Park in Hartford. This is NAMI's big annual fund-raiser, and money raised supports much of the organization's programming. Join an existing team or start your own! If you cannot make the event itself, you can sponsor a walker or make a donation on line. Click here for more information NAMIWALKS 2012.

Okay, so we can help our community by participating in the walkathon or writing a check. Great! What else? Let's start the conversation. What do you think?

[i] Kessler, R., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, & Walters, E., Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Co-morbidity Survey Replication (NCSR). General Psychiatry, 62 June 2005, 593-602.

[ii] National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Illness: Facts and Figures 2009. Downloaded at http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_Mental_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=53155. Accessed on May 14, 2012.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Will Wilkin May 25, 2012 at 06:59 PM
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21580-many-authors-of-psychiatry-bible-have-industry-ties.html EXCERPT: The findings raise concerns over the independence of the revamped Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and scheduled for publication in May 2013. For the current rewrite, known as DSM-5, the APA for the first time required authors to declare their financial ties to industry. It also limited the amount they could receive from drug companies to $10,000 a year and their stock holdings to $50,000. "Transparency alone can't mitigate bias," says Lisa Cosgrove of Harvard University, who along with Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, analysed the financial disclosures of 141 members of the "work groups" drafting the manual. They found that just as many contributors – 57 per cent – had links to industry as were found in a previous study of the authors of DSM-IV and an interim revision, published in 1994 and 2000 respectively. END EXCERPT
Mike S. May 27, 2012 at 04:13 AM
I'm not so sure I agree with you lumping addiction into other mental health disorders. In my experience with patients, they often occur side-by-side, but they require vastly different types of treatments. In particular, most drug addicts need actual medical treatments to reduce chemical dependency, as well as psychotherapies designed to help them abstain. On the other hand, psychiatry alone is usually enough for mental patients to get better and if not - then long-term medication may be necessary. http://recoveryfirst.org/understanding-dual-diagnosis-for-addiction-treatment.html/
Will Wilkin May 27, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Hi Mike, Normal human emotional & mental states have been redefined as "disorders" with speculative neurochemical explanations leading to "treatments" that are in effect brain-disabling. Its making MANY $Billions annually for those vested in the drug industry, such as the authors of the DSM. I'm surprised to read your phrase "psychiatry alone" (ie no pharmaceuticals). From my observations, it doesn't exist; "patients" get a monthly 15-minute appt to discuss their "meds" and then "see you next month, that's what your insurance covers." I find your recommendation that "long term medication may be necessary" to be highly dangerous, though of course it is "conventional wisdom" at this barbaric infancy stage of psychiatry.
Will Wilkin May 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
http://isepp.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-doctor-patient-relationship-is-the-most-important-therapeutic-tool-in-the-treatment-of-disabling-mental-disorder/#more-452 EXCERPT: ...when psychopharmacology was just beginning in American psychiatry, 3.38 per thousand Americans were mentally disabled, with most of them diagnosed with what might be called “pre-drug” chronic schizophrenia. In 2004, fifty years later, with medication having eclipsed counseling within the doctor-patient relationship as the heart of psychiatric treatment, the number of mentally disabled Americans has increased six times, to 19.69 per thousand, again with most diagnosed as chronic schizophrenia – but this is the “drug-era” kind. This startling development, in association with other data, suggests the existence of a new cause of chronic schizophrenia: medication. (Whitaker, 2005) TO BE CONTINUED...
Will Wilkin May 27, 2012 at 03:42 PM
EXCERPT CONTINUED: In support of that hypothesis, Whitaker points out that “MRI studies have shown the … link between [psychotropic] drug usage and chronic illness. In the mid-1990¹s, several research teams reported that the drugs cause atrophy of the cerebral cortex and enlargement of the basal ganglia. Then, in 1998, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported that the drug-induced enlargement of the basal ganglia was Œassociated with greater severity of both negative and positive symptoms.¹ In other words, they found that over the long term, the drugs cause changes in the brain associated with a worsening of the very symptoms the drugs are supposed to alleviate. The MRI research, in fact, had painted a very convincing picture of a disease process: an outside agent causes an observable change in the size of brain structures, and as this occurs, the patient deterioriates.” These patients represent the new iatrogenic chronic schizophrenics. END EXCERPT

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