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Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness

Last night I was feeding my cats and thinking suicidal thoughts – I like to call that a Wednesday night. And I was thinking to myself that no one (save others in my position) understands what that is like – to go from some sort of normal person in the daytime to a sobbing, suicidal headcase at night. I thought about the fact that I have spent eight years talking about this very disease, this very state, this very problem, and yet still, people don’t get it. No matter how many words I use, no matter how I phrase it, people simply do not understand.

So what do we do with the lack of understanding by others?

Lack of Understanding about Mental Illness

It’s reasonable that people don’t innately understand mental illness – it’s a hard thing to grasp and most people don’t have anything to really compare it to. And let’s face it, I don’t understand how such transformations are possible so how realistic is it to think that others can?

Lack of Understanding Hurts


And, of course, this lack of understanding hurts, because most often what it results in is people telling me (and other mentally ill people) that we’re lying, making things up, exaggerating, being dramatic. When this genuinely isn’t the case. And it hurts when people insult you and don’t accept your genuine reality. It hurts to be told that you’re lying.

What to Do about a Lack of Understanding

So I’ve reached a conclusion – some people understand and some people don’t; some people never will. And it’s my job to accept that. You can’t change others and you can’t make them accept you or your mental illness. Their lack of understanding, in the end, diminishes them, not me. I will keep doing what I do, and try to promoted understanding, education and awareness, but I’m going to accept that not everyone can get there. Not in my life, not in your life, and certainly not online. And it doesn’t matter how many words and nifty metaphors I use to explain it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

40 thoughts on “Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness”

  1. You’re right. It diminishes them. I think they fear mental illness so much, that they won’t believe it’s anything but a poor attitude. To suffer with this your entire life is extremely hard. Just because they can’t see it, they’d rather believe it’s bull.

  2. People just don’t get it. I see it all the time. They thing sad is sad, and they just don’t understand I not even sure what to call it lack of eduaction, or care? They think stress is stress and it’s not. A person with mental health issues always shows signs of distress if u understand. I try to tell ppl that and it’s like talking to the wall. Then when bad things happen ppl are in shock. . Can only say ppl don’t have the capability to understand. I try to teach ppl tp watch for warning signs to lower stress and help a person with doing different things. It’s like I don’t say anything at times they do the exact opposite and wonder why everything fell apart. I feel bad for ppl with mental health issues. Many of them have families who don’t get it I can’t imagine how hard it would be to live and have nobody help or understand u and inturn make life difficult.

  3. “…and certainly not online.”

    That is not true. You have helped me understand BPD immensely. I cannot thank you enough.

    Love from Finland,

  4. Hi all,
    just a slight adjustment to my previous blog. the bible charactors according to the bible wanted to die, not that they were suicidal. However there is no suggestion that they were suffering from mental illness just that there situation had become difficult to bear. The fact still remains that God was unerstanding of their situation.

    Sorry for that.

  5. Hi Everyone

    Just to say I have been studying the bible for 30 years now and there is know where in the bible where it says that if you commit suicide you will go to hell. In fact there are occasions where people, like Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Job felt suicidal and cried out to God about it, and he comforted them.

    Whilst the bible is not a medical book it does give comfort to the depressed, such as the many psalms, and tells us at, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 in part to,” speak consolingly to the depressed soles”.

    This is for those of you worried that God might judge you for how you feel, but to take comfort in the knowledge that he understands.

    From a fellow Bi-polar sufferer

  6. Hi Meriel,

    I remember hiding under the desk at work because I had gone from normal to crazy in a few minutes and I didn’t want to explain it to anyone. Only problem was a tradie came in to fix the airconditioning while I was under the desk. Sobbing turned to laughter, and as he walked out of the room he turned around to see me standing there, He looked like he’d seen a ghost!

  7. Hi Natasha

    Great post. Your writing really inspires me. I am afraid I went from some sort of normal person to a sobbing, suicidal headcase within the span of about 5 minutes at work today and THAT, nobody understands. In fact, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. Anyway, I just really wanted to thank you, reading your blog always helps.

  8. I have learned so much helpful information from this blog about bipolar disease. Thank you Natasha and so many of you who have been so open and honest. My brother “complete suicide” three very long months ago as a result of his bipolar disease. I have to politely disagree with some earlier comments. You do not know what is going through the minds of the incredibly bereaved who are trying to answer the why, why, why. What if, what if I had.. Etc, etc. Not only are we trying to accept and process what has happened and how we could have prevented it… And in many cases, family are doing all they can or know how to help. Believe me, you constantly worry about the worst thing that could happen. But once a loved one has completed suicide, there is a transference of the pain, the anxiety and the depression. Many family members at a funeral can’t even comprehend what has turned their lives upside down and how their loved one could have been in so much pain that they’re would be better to leave us all behind. And in many cases, the bipolar person was trying to hide their disease to protect ( insert here, job, family, reputation, etc – because of the terrible stigma.) the family has hundreds of people who want to know why – perhaps they are from out of town or work colleagues, or close friends that did not know or see the signs. But to be insensitive to those who are grieving the death of a loved one that they feel responsible and guilty for or about is just not fair. My hope is to honor my brother’s life by educating people about depression and suicide prevention and I have found this blog to be the most informative so far.

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