So much has exploded in the news lately about systemic discrimination of every stripe and polka dot that I felt someone from the silent 25% had to weigh in. One in four Canadians and Americans are mentally ill. Hold on, hold on. Before you click the X, consider this: One in every four of your family, friends, colleagues and other acquaintances have, or have the potential to have, mental health illnesses or conditions. We don’t like to advertise it (OK, so I’m a bit weird that way), but this isn’t Complex PTSD which is what is all the rage these days in the news about COVID survivors. It’s the pre-existing, age-old, persistent, pervasive, and always discreetly disrespected, illnesses like Depression, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality, and all the inglorious incarnations listed in the DSM-V. They are brutal, nasty, and incurable.
There are no known cures. Imagine. You have a rough start in life because, as most of these illnesses go, genetics and environment rule your fate. You learn through observation and immense self-control to keep it together until you hit the first break from reality. It could happen at six, thirteen or twenty-five. It doesn’t matter in terms of stigma. You are FUBAR. Rough, hey? Oh wait, let me elaborate on that acronym. You suffer from a brain disease that ravages your ability to think, feel and act. To your family, you are a burden. To employers, useless. To society, you’re a perceived menace. It doesn’t matter how well you performed on your entrance exams to university. It doesn’t matter how popular you were in high school. It doesn’t matter if you’re naturally gifted and turned those talents into transferable skills. The label “CRAZY” is all people look for when they try to schuss you out. They want to know if you’re crazy right away because then they have the option to reject you. Or, if they’re less than righteous, they take advantage of you. Life after CRAZY destroys every shred of social approval and dignity you might have had, previously.
But the problem is not just that people hate you or don’t give you a chance; it’s that while other pariah groups are given a voice, given multinational coverage, and given hundreds of hours every month with a platform to air grievances, crazy people only given a byline, a royal assent, or 5 seconds of an anchorperson saying “Please support the mentally ill. It’s important. Too many people suffer in silence.” Then, nothing. No follow up. No effort. Texting for raising awareness by donating 5Cents of every text to mental health groups doesn’t help either. We need to de-stigmatize these illnesses and escalate in finding science-based cures. Right now or at least before COVID-19, the emphasis was on cosmetic changes to older drugs, like turning a pill into a wafer, an injectable. or a sublingual, form. Why cosmetic changes? Why would a drug company pay good money for a cure that kills their cash cow? A cure would destroy their bottom line. Maintenance rather than a cure costs taxpayers and private insurance, out of pocket expenses billions each year. And profiting off of that is far more lucrative than using company money to find a cure—only to have to then stop to their reliable income stream. It’s not Big Pharma; it’s Smart Pharma.
Let’s face it. Mental illness is not a sexy issue. Star athletes will give a small boost to kids’ hospitals. People run pledged marathons for cancer. Mental health? Oh, well, the dedicated facilities for that in a country as advanced as Canada will only triage the very discombobulated or those with comorbidities, i.e. are drug addicted and in distress. The walk-ins who self-identify as medicated mentally ill, who look perfectly fine but are suffering still, are considered the walking wounded…falling through the cracks of the system as they lead compliant but desperate lives. They may never end their lives through suicide. They may never commit any crime. They may even finally go back to university to finish a degree. What’s their problem? Well, they think every small noise is their landlord upstairs talking about them. They can’t go through one day without ending up unhappy. First-World Problems, you reply. So we suffer in silence, wishing for an end to our lives not by suicide or aggravation, but just an end so it stops all the damn trauma that happens in our heads as soon as we wake up until we go to bed.
Of course, I don’t expect you to care or give us the time of day. You’re too busy. You don’t have time for all this. And most of you are faith-based in some way. Yay. After all, we deserve everything we get, as one religious blogger said of the mentally ill. I wonder if his opinion would alter much if it happened to his kids.
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