Who Are the Mentally Ill Among Us?

This is a guest post by author Stephanie Anne Allen

Stephanie Anne Allen is the author of My Mental Madness Memoir--The provocative true journey through my struggles with mental illness. She is 38 years old and resides in Michigan USA. Stephanie has a BA degree in clinical psychology, and is a former case manager/social work technician for the mentally ill. "I wrote this book to help others who suffer from mental illness, their friends and families, and anyone looking to get a better understanding of what actually goes on within the mind of someone with mental illness. Now that I am mentally stable, I want to give back and help others with their own recoveries. Writing this book to help others was my first act, but not my last, in helping fellow mental illness victims."--Stephanie

Mental illness can strike anyone, at any time  Yes, even you.  It is more common than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  One in five adults suffer from one or more mental illnesses.  One in twenty-five people live with someone who is affected by a serious mental condition.  It can affect either sex, any age, any income, any educational level, any race, any ethnic group, any social class, etc.  It may affect you now or anytime in the future.

Who are the mentally ill?  We are people who suffer with conditions within our brains that can drastically affect our daily lives and can make the activities of daily living very difficult to accomplish.  Mental illness can affect how we think, how we feel,  how we behave, our mood, and even our ability to relate to others.  Some days we may find it extremely difficult to even get out of bed in the morning.  We may lose our jobs or relationships.  We may stop functioning all together.

Some even resort to suicide which is at a successful rate of 800,000 per year worldwide, but with so many more that have attempted it and not succeeded.  It accounts for 1.5% of deaths and is in the top twenty causes of death.  The rate sky-rockets among 15-29 years old, with it being the second leading cause of death for that age group.  The highest suicide rates are among males in low and middle income countries, which account for about 78%.

The incidence of mental illness is on the rise due to people living longer and the population that continues to grow.  In 2015, the rate of depression in the USA exceeded 300 million and was at an increased rate among those in poverty, the unemployed, those experiencing the death of a loved one, sufferers of physical illnesses, and people having drug and alcohol addictions.   The rate of anxiety disorders nearly matched that.  Take into consideration that some of those with these illnesses had them at the same time (comorbidity).  Depression, which is more common in women, was rated the largest contributor to global disability at a rate of 7.5%.  Anxiety disorders ranked number six at 3.5%.  Anxiety, which is also more common in women, affects 264 million Americans daily, which had no variation in occurrence between age groups.  Bipolar disorder affects three million Americans a year!  That’s 2.6% of adults, in which it affects an equal number of men and women.  Borderline personality disorder affects four million Americans and women are diagnosed more, at 75%.   The thought disorder called schizophrenia effects 1 to 1.5% of the US population, that’s 3.2 million people in the US alone! Schizophrenia is more common in men at a ratio of 1.4 : 1.    And then there is schizoaffective disorder which is fairly rare and affects just 200,000 people in the US yearly.  But still people who are affected by this disorder still matter.  That’s 200,000 lives!

Think of all the people who suffer from mental illness in silence.  People who are afraid to reach out because they fear rejection and judgment.  These people suffer alone and are not able to discuss their mental conditions.  Why not?  Did they do something to deserve this infliction?  Would we not listen to them if they told us they had cancer?  These people are all around us.  They are our friends, our family members, our coworkers, strangers, and even ourselves.

We are people too.  We have hopes, dreams, and goals.  We have needs. We have desires.  We have a purpose.  We matter too!  Please look beyond the myths and stigmas that have been in place for years, and open your mind to who we really are.  Learn about and try to understand mental illness, listen to our concerns, and love us unconditionally.  Be not judgmental and closed minded.  We are human too. You never know, you could be one of us someday!

Clinical Depression

Depression is a mental illness that causes people to feel extremely low, hopeless, helpless, suicidal.  People with this illness may have self-mutilating behaviors, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.  They may sleep a lot or cry constantly.  They lose interest in things they used to enjoy.  They may feel worthless and feel they have no purpose or reason to live.  They feel so alone (like most people who have any mental illness) and they think the only way to end the pain is to end their lives.

Bipolar Disorder

This mental illness, commonly referred to as manic depression, is characterized by mood swings from depression to mania.  During the depression phase, the person feels like a person with clinical depression, but in a manic phase the victim feels extremely elated and overly happy.  They may have rapid thoughts, rapid speech, delusions of grandeur, excessive  and irresponsible sexual activity, and engagement in risky behaviors such as gambling or over-spending.  People with bipolar disorder often love the highs and do not admit they have a problem until they experience the depressive part of the illness.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder that is known for its delusions and hallucinations.  I person experiencing this mental illness is unable to distinguish what is real and what is not.  They often begin to believe their own delusions.  People with schizophrenia may hear voices, see things, and rarely may have hallucinations of the other three senses.  Schizophrenics often invent their own realities.  Their psychosis often affects their behaviors severely.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by the inability to obtain and keep successful interpersonal relationship.  They may feel empty and bored.  Sometimes, they use self-mutilation as a way for them to “feel real”.

These are just a few of the mental illnesses that affect millions of people worldwide.  They are real diseases.  The victims are not at fault.  They suffer and when the people around them can’t understand, they suffer even more.  That is why we need to learn, to educate eachother, and eventually come to an understanding of what mental illness is.

So who are the mentally ill among us? It’s me.  It may be you, now or in the future.  It could be someone in your family, a good friend, or perhaps your soulmate.  We do not want our illnesses, and we do not deserve them.  We want to be successful and productive, just like you.

With proper treatment, a person with mental illness can achieve recovery.  They can become mentally stable and live a relatively normal life.  Treatment consists of psychotherapy and medications.  And it’s OK.  Yes, it really is OK to admit that you have a mental illness and need help.

Who are we?  We are the mentally ill but we are not hopeless and we will not be forgotten.  We have a purpose too!