Monday, July 25, 2011

What is Mental Illness?

Sometimes I worry about social values around the world, and how societies  and their citizens sometimes refuse to admit to the reality of mental illness.

The young man in Norway killed over seventy people, is estranged from his family, and is not, at least according to some news accounts, believed to be mentally ill.

Casey Anthony who danced for a month after her newborn completely disappeared was not accepted by a jury as a mentally ill killer.

If violent acts are not done by the mentally ill, then exactly who in this world fits the label "mentally ill"?

Here's a new story of an educated young Bangladeshi woman blinded, bitten, and mauled almost to death by her husband, and yet her husband is publicly allowed to turn the blame on her.

"With the community breaking its typical silence, a more nuanced universal story is emerging of a young wife struggling privately in a difficult marriage with a man who may have been suffering himself from a mental illness, family members say."

His family finally admits he "may have been" suffering from a mental illness, as if he may also not have been? Excuse me, but exactly who validates, defines and gives mental illness start and end dates? Who decides who is and who is not mentally ill?

If violent acts are not necessarily carried out by the mentally ill, then who perfectly fits the label "mentally ill"? Sounds like a world desperately uncertain of the definitions of mental illness.

We should be skeptical of a so-called division between violent acts and mental illness.  We should recognize the symptoms of mental illness: inability to cope, detachment from reality, excessive anger, withdrawal from friends and activities, and  possibly delusions, in extreme cases. To me, it's  a sign of healthy common sense to believe they must be linked. Isn't that why children can legally be protected from parents, wives from husbands returning from war duty or aggressive sports games?

Here are necessary humanitarian social values as promoted by the United Nations, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

voluntary service
maternal and child health
disease and poverty eradication
environmental sustainability 

and mine,
compassion, and friendship

These are a few of the social values that win against mental illness, ignorance and anger.

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