Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Treating Mental Illness With Compassion

“If your mental illness makes you feel guilty, review the definition of ‘illness’ and try to treat yourself with the same respect and concern you would show to a cancer patient or a person with pneumonia.”
— Mental Health Awareness Australia
There is too much humanity in human beings for our own good. In our unique and innate brokenness, we take any example of maladjustment that clings to us as persons and we berate ourselves for it. If our ears poke out too much, or we speak with a lisp, or our hips appear too disproportionate to the rest of our bodies, or we are no good at math, we feel ashamed. There is an ancient form of guilt imposed from deep within and there seems nothing we can do about it.
Mental ills are perhaps the biggest scourge of all, or it least among the biggest of them. We feel ashamed to admit we have been depressed or that we cannot handle the anxieties that flood our lives. But if most of the population will be impacted at some point in their lives by these things – even minimally – why do we feel so bad?
It is time to smash the stigma. Thankfully more and more countries and agencies around the world are using things like social media to propagate the message: mental health is about wellness and illness – and no judgment between them.
Contrasting Wellness and Illness
There are billions of dollars spent on wellness programs every year around the world. There is much more spent on illness, and poignantly mental illness commands its share of that purse. Still, the world cannot keep up.
These facts don’t help the person shut in to their mental illness, but they go a long way towards proving how tremendous this nemesis is. It is beyond humanity to solve it. And many issues around wellness and illness defy our understanding. Why are some people well and some ill? Child development theories may help to explain some of it, but there are always the confounding exceptions – and so many of them.
Our inherent mental health or ill-health is neither about our glory nor our fault.
And what is not our fault we should not feel guilty for or ashamed about, but inevitably we will because we are human.
We need to be able to forgive ourselves, or better, receive God’s forgiveness, for the times when we struggle to accept ourselves as we are; to treat ourselves with the same respect and show ourselves the same concern as someone physically ill.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

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