I’ve been told that I’m a funny guy, and I mean that in a 'ha ha' way. But this is not going to be a feel good article because it’s going to address an issue that is shunned by society as a whole; more than any other disease or human condition in the world.
Now don’t worry folks, it's not going to be anything too graphic or disturbing nor will it upset your day. However, this topic affects every single one of us to a certain degree.
I can hear the clicking of your computer mouse as you frantically try to navigate to ANY other site. I apologize, but I need to be the one to pull back the scab on this issue.
I happen to be a bit of an 'expert' in this area due to personal experience. I won't elaborate as my experiences involve other people, so my purpose is to merely communicate what I have observed about mental illness. I want to shed some light on the condition and alleviate any fears or misconceptions. I am not a doctor nor do I have any formal training in the field of psychiatry.
I am hoping my observations will encourage those of you who inclined to be prejudiced to re-examine your preconceptions . The number one observation I’ve made is that mentally ill people suffer more than anyone else in society. They are feared, jeered, yet they carry more fear than all of us. They are laughed at, ridiculed because of their apparent differences, yet they have no more control over these differences than I have control over my baldness. The most damaging of all is that they are EXCLUDED.
Kind of reminiscent of the lepers in biblical times, isn't it? Feared, scorned, and hated! But why? There has to be a valid reason, doesn’t there? We’ve learned throughout history they have been persecuted, killed, and exploited regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Society’s reaction makes them unique because usually a consistently persecuted group is is easily identifiable. Yet it appears they are gifted with an equal-opportunity illness.
The mentally ill walk amongst us everywhere and share our society because they WANT to live a ‘normal’ life. They don’t want to experience the pain of ostracization because they are sensitive caring human beings, who have feelings. Which identifies my second observation, that these individuals who are mocked and ridiculed by many… are not oblivious to this treatment. It hurts them.
Many of them have resigned themselves to this ritual of torment, especially after years of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This feigned coping doesn’t mean they like it, they’re ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’.
Which leads to my final observation - we can never assume that a mentally ill person lacks intelligence. The movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ presented this awareness with amazing clarity. It is also a known FACT that many of society’s more enlightened minds have suffered with one type of mental illness or another. (Remember that expression, There's a fine line between genius and insanity?)
What we fear is the unknown of the illness and unpredictability of the sufferers because they look and sometimes act differently than 'us'. And what are the chances they may be... dangerous? Well, that is true and could also be said of every human being that ever walked the planet - no matter what their state of mind. We all have the potential to do something dangerous. (Reading the daily news attests to that.)
So the next time you’re walking around your city (as it’s everywhere), and you spy a person, on a pleasant afternoon, who appears slightly dishevelled or unkempt and he or she is holding out a spare change cup. Use personal safety discretion and perhaps drop in some change that’s been jangling in your pocket. The recipient will be appreciative of the kindness you extend, even though they may not show it in the conventional fashion.
And allow them the one thing we all ALL need more than money or charity - empathy and compassion from their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, that seems to be a diminishing quality in today's’ fast paced modern world, but a change in attitude could start with you.
image from http://brainblogger.elise stobb and .namigainesville.org