Sometimes, probably due to my particular experiences online, I think that people will never understand mental illness. There are people who think that mental illness isn’t real; there are people that think that medication is poison; there are people that think mental illness is “all in our heads’” there are people that think that those with mental illness just have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” In short, sometimes it feels like there are so many uncompassionate, ignorant, hateful people that all the writing in the world won’t make a difference.
But the thing is, my experiences aren’t necessarily indicative of the real world. And yesterday’s brunch proved that to me.
The Average Person’s View of Mental Illness
Believe it or not, most rational, intelligent people do think that mental illness is a real, biological disease – particularly those with any experience with mental illness.
Yesterday, I’m having brunch with someone I don’t really know and I tell him, I’m a mental health writer. Now, when I tell people this, they have a variety of reactions but I’m used to people wanting to avoid the topic. Really, that’s OK. Not everyone finds such things interesting.
But this particular man, let’s call him Tom, was amazingly chatty on the subject. It turns out he had known a person with very severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and a person with schizophrenia, and Tom was amazingly compassionate about both. Tom’s friend with OCD had even gone through electroconvulsive therapy and Tom still worked to understand that. He did not make judgements and seemed supportive.
Tom was the kind of person we all want to know.
People Can Understand Mental Illness
Well, now, maybe “understand” in its entirety is a lot of ask for, but be understanding? Yes, I think Tom is a perfect example of one who is understanding. And moreover, I don’t think he’s exceptionally rare. I think Tom is a nice, normal guy who tries his best to ferret out the world, just like the rest of us.
Hope for Mental Illness Understanding
All this is a long of saying that while sometimes it looks dark, particularly online, one-on-one, people tend to be more reasonable. No, not everyone, but many. Many people when faced with a person who is so debilitated they cannot leave his or her house will try to understand and not mock or discount or write off. Many people will continue friendships after discovering mental illness. Many people are understanding, informed, reasonable people.
So while sometimes I’m bogged down with the people who throw hate-balls at me, when I poke my head out of the internet for a while, I can see that many people do, in fact, support us. And that’s a good, and hopeful, thing to remember.