Can People Without a Mental Illness Understand Us?
I have been writing about mental illness for almost a decade now and part of the reason was to try and help people understand bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. And I have succeeded in some regards. I get emails from people quite frequently that tell me how much more they understand about the disease now that they have read my writings. I am tremendously gratified by this.
But, of course, I reach a tiny percentage of people and the issue of mental illness stigma still affects us all. And some people, no matter how hard we try to explain ourselves to them, never seem to understand mental illness.
Which begs the question: can a person without a mental illness ever really understand what we’re going through?
Must You Live with It to Understand Mental Illness?
Recently I was quoted as saying, “Having a constantly broken brain is akin to some form of torture,” and to me, that essentially sums up my experience with mental illness. Experiences vary, of course, but I would say I’m hardly alone in that view.
But it’s very difficult to explain the realities of that statement to others. There is no bamboo under my fingernails, no water is being forced down my throat and no one is beating me with a cane. And while I do have my share of body markings from this particular illness, this often doesn’t convince people of the harrowing nature of mental illness as much as it asserts the notion that I’m bat-crap crazy as people find it extremely difficult to put such scars into context.
Moreover, I’ve found that many, if not most, people with a mental illness have a really tough time expressing the depths or heights to which they reach. The average person might feel unable to express it due to discomfort or simply not being able to find the words. The difficulty simply cannot be overstated.
What Can People Without a Mental Illness Understand, If Anything?
While many people believe that, no, they never really can, I disagree. I think that if a person makes a concerted effort to go out and educate themselves about the illness and reads real stories from people with the illness, they can come to understand what a person with a mental illness goes through. Certainly, I have heard from enough partners of people with a mental illness to believe this is true. They often understand the suffering of the person on a very deep, personal and profound level.
Tracy, N. (2012, June 25). Can People Without a Mental Illness Understand Us?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/06/people-without-mental-illness-understand-us
Author: Natasha Tracy
The mental health system in Australia may as well fund suicide prevention more than anything because access to appropriate intervention services is a bad joke. As observed, the health system will do nothing until you are contemplating killing yourself (like I have for a decade now) due to inadequatesocial supports and the fact that as a citizen the taxpayer should assist people in getting better not to have them on payments forever practically because of the barriers to see a psychiatrist who you can build an ongoing theraputic relationship with.
On the whole, Australia, allegedly one of the most developed countries on the planet cannot help a small percentage of the population adequately when there are methods that will work.
Suicide is welcoming to people whom cannot and have not got the supports they require in a wealthy country such as Australia.
I don't know how much worse it is overseas but if Australia is this bad at providing the right services then there is some majorly underlying assumption which is totally unjustifiable.
If we as a nation of people think we have good services that allow its' citizens access to world-class mental health services then we all need to wake up. People suicide everyday because they cannot get help beit because they can't get the help they need.
The Australian government really knows how to sit on their thumbs indefinitely but expect populations of people with complex disorders and needs to just get a job; you'll be fine. Just go talk to this social worker; you'll be fine. I've written to the minister for human services in Australia with a pretty extensive list on where they fall short on the mental health services front and still get a standard-worded piece of toilet paper.
You know what I've learnt from my experiences? No one cares until your dead or are toeing that line to suicide.
I really do not think anyone without mental illnesses and who experience difficulties in the area of access have any idea what they are implying when they say go see a psychiatrist.
It's not easy to find one and it is financially impossible to see one when on welfare payments.
The Australian government need to pull their head out of their arse on the mental illness front.
Sorry for sounding like a ---- but through my experiences no one without mental illness could understand if they continue be complicit on the policy front.
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I just wanted to say I understand where you're going through and you have my empathy. A lack of understanding does not mean a lack of love. Many people are so upset seeing their loved ones so ill that their way of handling it is to pretend it isn't real. I hope that you're able to rely on a strong support system of family and friends until he comes around.
This is also similar to family members who also suffer from the effect of the illness. The suffering for family members and the suffering of the person who has the illness is different, with different issues, nevertheless, it's suffering.
You make a good point. While, I think, many of us feel the need to explain ourselves, we certainly don't have to and shouldn't feel the pressure to explain. However, I think it's very human to want to feel that other people understand you and for people with a mental illness that generally involves a lot of explaining.
It's good if you're able to fight that urge though, as you said, sometimes you're never going to win that battle.
Both of those are good examples of people who likely _woudn't_ understand and I do agree with you that other's who have experience a mental illness (or something they have perceived as a mental illness) can be the worst due to their perception of understanding. There is nothing more irritating than someone who thinks they understand an illness when clearly they understand nothing of the sort.
Would you please describe the exercises you used in your speaking that caused people to "get" mental illness? That would be SO helpful to a lot of us!
The word 'depression' is used in a number of contexts.
There is everyday use, such as "Dude, I failed my exam and now I'm really depressed, let's get wasted"
There is depression which is part of the grieving process, such as when one loses a loved one.
And then there is clinical depression in its various forms.
Each one is quite different, but we use the same word. No wonder there is a lack of understanding.
Key in that sentence is one word: Empathy. Only those who have the capacity to be empathetic, only they have a cat in Hell's chance of truly understanding, and some of them will probably have a mental health problem that they are not aware of! That is especially true, I suspect, of those who have Dysthymic Disorder: They frequently believe their constant state of depression is normal and how everyone feels!)
What is more, people who experience mental illness are not all empathetic, either; some cannot imagine what it takes to handle, for example, a Bipolar depression. Sometimes, I think those people are the worst because they imagine they speak from experience when they say,"You just have to snap out of it, like I had to do when I was depressed after I lost my job/parent died/divorced.."
Someone without a mental illness will never fully be able to understand our experiences unless they actually are unfortunate to develop mental illness, just as I will never be able to understand the experience of a cancer patient or someone who is dying unless I fall into their shoes, but the 'ah-hah' looks on the faces and the tears of some told me that they were able to get at least a glimmer of understanding.