When I think about mental illness, what comes to my mind is that mental health is a real problem that affects the mind and can alter one’s thinking, emotions and behaviour and the way they interact with those around them. These changes can be difficult to adjust to and cope with as it can affect your daily routine. Good mental health is when one is able to control the way they think, feel and act and live the way they want to live. Experiencing a mental illness can often be perceived as a sign of weakness or one is unable to cope with the stress of their everyday lifestyle. Someone who is experiencing a mental illness may feel frightened or confused as these fears are reinforced by the negative way that people perceive mental illnesses. The main reason as to why these negative connotations are evident is due to the way the media portrays a mental illness for example on Television, movies and by the media. Due to this, some people are hesitant in discussing the problems they are experiencing and even seeking help as they are afraid of the judgment they will receive. This can cause an increase in their symptoms and also cause isolation. However, many people are not aware of how common mental illnesses are today in society and how it has become a common human experience. Majority of people may know someone who is experiencing a mental health problem as it can happen to anyone as one may experience a mental illness regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
The term mental illness has engrossed a lot of stigma and discrimination which has been two of the major problems for those with these disorders. Mental illnesses can range from; anxiety disorders for e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood disorders for e.g. depression and bipolar, eating disorders and also psychotic disorders for e.g. schizophrenia. As Mental illness varies from anxiety which has a severe and tangible effect on one’s emotions and motivation to psychotic disorders for example schizophrenia that can affect your perceptions or sense with things like delusions or hallucinations, living with these symptoms can be unbearable. As humans, we rely on our senses, emotions and perceptions in our everyday lives and when those fail, it can make our lives challenging. A mental illness affects the ability for someone to function at work, in relationships or in his or her day to day tasks. However, not only does a mental illness cause a great deal of pain and suffering to those experiencing them but as well as their family and friends. A mental illness is associated with distress when attending family functions. A mental illness is treatable and the majority of individuals experiencing them can continue to function in their everyday lives depending on the severity of the illness.
Growing up I was not aware of Mental Illness as no one in my family was diagnosed with an illness or even experienced symptoms of an illness. So in saying that, I did not have a lot of knowledge about Mental Illness until I began university. During primary school and even high school, we were not informed about Mental Illness and the impact of it, which could be due to the stigma that was surrounded by this topic. However, when discussing with my family, my younger sister who is currently in high school has informed me how they are now educating students from early as year 7, on the importance of mental health. This is designed to remove the shame from this topic and bring awareness that Mental Illness has become a crucial matter in today’s society. This has been completed by implementing strategies for students to handle stress and depression and also educating students on the importance of a positive self-image and self-belief.
Mental Illness has become a common theme in today’s TV shows and movies which has allowed many people to understand the impact a mental illness can have on someone. The Disney pixel movie Inside out focuses on an 11-year old girl named Riley who is forced to move to a different part of America and she experiences voices inside her head. Inside Riley’s mind are her five emotions, joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust and they are all trying to make sense of the changes in her life. Riley is generally happy as her main emotion is Joy, however, when she is not, everything inside of her works to restore the balance to take her back to that happy place. This movie was a way to explain mental illness to people of all ages but especially young children and assist them in understanding how our minds cope with the pressures of our lives and changes. It was also a way to assist children in understanding that there is nothing wrong with the way we feel, whether it be happy or angry as without these emotions, we won’t be able to be who we are. Inside out is clearly a movie focusing on depression, how quickly it can develop and more importantly it has allowed society to become ok with discussing mental illness concerns. I believe society today has become very concerned with the way we discuss mental illness as it has become apparent that experiencing any form of emotion is seen as an issue and a sign of weakness. Inside out has allowed society to perceive how dangerous it can be if one was to feel nothing and how scary it could feel to also feel no emotion. After watching this movie, it became apparent to me that it was a way to let people in who do not know much about mental illness and to also allow us to feel more comfortable with letting us be in touch with our feelings and to stop fighting them. This is significant in this movie as the main character does not want to open up to her parents about what is going on inside her mind because she is unable to which emphasises how she has shut down and is no longer able to feel a sense of joy or sadness. The inability to open up about her true feelings increases her symptoms of depression and to then start feeling almost nothing. Inside out was an effective way of explaining mental illness to the younger audience who may not quite understand it and it demonstrates to children that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad, angry or any feeling not associated with happiness.
Another movie that captures the essence of mental illness is also another Disney movie, Frozen. One of the main characters Elsa struggles with is her ice powers as they are controlled by her emotions. However, it is believed that her struggles with her power are a metaphor for her battle with depression and anxiety. Elsa is born with magical “powers” to create ice and snow, however, due to her lack of control over these powers, her sister Anna is injured. In this scene, we learn of the darkness in Elsa’s powers, as she is warned to control them otherwise she will become a danger to those around her. This signifies how she may be suffering from depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness because no matter how hard she tries; Elsa is unable to control the “darkness” that resides in her. Throughout the movie, Elsa experiences a range of emotions which determines how her powers are used, for example, when she is happy, she is able to use her powers to create sculptures and entertain her sister Anna. However, when she is feeling stressed or intensifying emotions, she is no longer in control of her powers and she pushes Anna away in fear of hurting her. This portrays the symptoms of a bipolar disorder as those who experience it will understand the endless highs and lows of unpredictable emotions and how they can cause harm to their loved ones. By Elsa pushing Anna away, it signifies how those with this illness, push their loved ones away in fear of harming them.
One of the main messages in this movie which emphasises how mental illness is portrayed in society is being forced to hide your feelings as opposed to overcoming them. Just as many people who experience mental illness, Elsa had no support or guidance instead she was taught to conceal her emotions and is given gloves to assist her in suppressing her powers. The sad reality of mental illness is shown when Elsa is away from her family and is isolated where she is able to express herself and break away from the chains that have held her down. The feeling of shame is also present as Elsa is treated differently from everyone around her for displaying her powers which leads her to run away, creating a new life for herself and she is also seen to be chained in a dungeon which portrays the way patients who suffer from a mental illness used to be treated in hospitals. I believe both these movies captivated the essence of mental illness and how society perceives people experiencing it. They are also a way for people with minimum knowledge about mental illness, to be able to understand and be aware that mental illness is present in today’s society and people experiencing it should not feel ashamed or feel the need to hide it.
Many celebrities have worked on normalising the discussion around Mental Illness as they are aware of their power and how they can capture people’s attention. Selena Gomez is a recent celebrity whom I used to idolise when I was younger, is one of many to openly discuss her battle with mental illness, more specifically with depression and anxiety due to a health issue. Even though many people portray celebrities as being “perfect”, not many understand what they are truly going through as like any other person suffering from a Mental Illness, they hide their true feelings in fear of hurting others and even themselves. Selena Gomez undertook forms of therapy as a part of her treatment plan which included her being hospitalised in a mental health facility. This helped me to understand that Mental Illness can happen to anyone no matter your status or ethnicity, it is widespread and more people need to understand the impact it can have on an individual. People who have a mental illness can vary in the way they behave and the symptoms they experience as every mental illness is different. From what I have perceived, people with a mental illness constantly feel anxious or worried, feel depressed or unhappy even with things they used to find enjoyment with, experience emotional outbursts, sleeping problems, act quiet or withdraw from social activities, substance abuse and changes in their behaviour or feelings. These signs can assist in diagnosing a mental illness as they all play a major role.
Mental Illness is treatable and most people do recover well or completely, however, each mental illness needs to be treated differently depending on the severity. Each mental Illness cannot be treated equally as there are differentiating factors that contribute to the development of each illness and it is difficult to advise someone how or when someone will recover. It is beneficial for someone to receive the correct treatment as it is detrimental for them in the long-term if they are mistreated. Treatments are essential in improving one’s condition and to motivate them in wanting to get better. The first step in seeking treatment for a mental Illness would normally be to first speak to a GP as they have the ability to diagnose someone based on their particular pattern of symptoms. This is when the GP can recommend a certain treatment plan that best suits the patient. When discussing the term treatment, I define it as a way someone experiencing a mental illness can assist in minimising the effects of the illness and stimulate recovery.
There is a range of ways that someone can undertake treatment, for example, psychological therapy, medication and support programs in the community and also speak to those experiencing a similar situation. Psychological therapy can include a GP, psychiatrist, counsellors or any health professional that can assist someone with their symptoms, concerns and recovery. A psychiatrist is known to be a recommended practitioner as they specialise in treatments for Mental Illness and the majority of people who are affected by a mental illness will seek assistance from them throughout their illness. Mental Illness is also linked with the perception that an illness occurs due to psychological concerns, for example, the way people think, react and perceiving things. This is why it is believed that psychological treatments are another form of treating Mental Illness, especially for anxiety or depression disorders. Based on my previous knowledge, psychological treatments are a way to assist those in reducing their symptoms and also demonstrating to them how they can help themselves through this. The main form of psychological treatment that I have been aware of is Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which is used to observe one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The client and the therapist work together to implement new ways of thinking and feeling in order to assist the client in their everyday activities and help them with their recovery.
Medication, on the other hand, is a main use of treatment as Mental Illness is perceived as a chemical imbalance in the brain. So medication is a way to assist in restoring the brain to its usual balance so that the symptoms someone may be experiencing are not intensified or even eliminated. Majority of people who are diagnosed with depression are recommended Antidepressant medications as their initial treatment as it is the most effective form of treatment. Antidepressants are known to improve symptoms of sadness, hopelessness and lack of motivation. Community support programs are beneficial for all people with a Mental Illness but more beneficial for those who experience re-occurring symptoms or a more severe case of their illness. They have access to more information regarding their illness, accommodation facilities, gaining access to suitable work and most importantly rehabilitation. By them participating in a community support program, it demonstrates to them that people are accepting and non-judgemental which will assist their recovery process. Going through a Mental Illness is difficult in itself, so it is beneficial for those to be surrounded by a support group, especially friends and family. Staying connected with friends and family will help make the adjustment to treatments easier as they know they have people to rely on and trust.
When diagnosed with a Mental Illness many people are not aware of the Illness itself and how excruciating it can be which is why it is beneficial for one to understand more about their Illness. By becoming more aware of your own Mental Illness, you are able to understand why it has occurred, what you need to do to help yourself through it and whom you can speak to about it. A doctor or therapist can provide one with information regarding any mental illness and also recommend or refer them to the appropriate people or place. By being self-informed, they are not only helping themselves but will also be able to explain more efficiently to their family or friends and that way they will gain an understanding on what they are going through and how they can assist them.
The community plays a major role in responding to and supporting people with a Mental Illness as it could be a negative or positive effect. Stereotyping has become an important factor when recognising people with a mental illness as they are depicted as being dangerous, unpredictable, incompetent and even portrayed as responsible for their own illness. Stereotyping is harmful to an individual’s recovery as it can lead to discrimination, for example, excluding them from certain events, employment and educational prospects. Someone with a Mental Illness can begin to believe what is being said about them which can later lead to self-stigma due to these negative thoughts that are expressed by the community. A person with a Mental Illness can begin to feel shame, believe that they are unable to recover from their illness and could even refuse to seek out help because of their self-doubt.
It is clear to me that my personal beliefs and assumptions about Mental Illness have been developed throughout the course of my life. They have been shaped by my family, friends, the community and most importantly the media as they all contribute to our perceptions of the world. My personal beliefs about Mental Illness have mostly been developed over the past few years as my awareness for this topic has been heightened over the recent years. I believe Mental Illness is a real concern that many people do not take seriously as it not only affects the mind but it alters the way an individual thinks, feels and behaves with those around them. I have also come to learn more about the stigma that is surrounded by the term Mental Illness as I was not aware of how many people are ashamed or worried when discussing this. Individuals with a Mental Illness are seen as weak or not able to handle the pressures of their day to day activities which portrays to me how many people are not educated of the severity of how a mental illness can affect an individual. Volunteering at lifeline has also enhanced my knowledge with the different types of Mental Illnesses that individuals experience as before becoming a crisis supporter, we must complete mental health courses to be able to assist the help seekers in the way that they need. After completing these courses, it was evident how the symptoms individuals experience can range and how there are many treatment options. The main aspect of Mental Illness that stands out to me, is how many people are not aware of how common it is today in society and it is regarded as a common human experience. This was quite a shock to me as reflecting on today’s day and age, I would have assumed that many people are educated in the sense of being conscious of how certain things can trigger different people which can later lead to a Mental Illness.
I have come to learn more about Mental Illness which has shaped my beliefs and assumptions through the use of celebrities and movies. When I first discovered how Selena Gomez who is idolised by many people over the world, was suffering from anxiety and depression, I was stunned as it occurred to me how common it can be and that anyone can be affected by it. This portrayed to me how others experiencing the same or similar illness are able to be supported by someone they look up to which is beneficial for their recovery and also to remove any stigma. This was a very significant influence that assisted me in becoming more aware of how Mental Illness is present in today’s society and I was also relieved as teenagers who are suffering from their illness are given inspiration, motivation and are also aware that they are not alone. Hearing about her diagnosis came as a surprise to me but I was pleased with the way she spoke about her situation as she was able to advise people that it is possible to live with a mental illness and still succeed.
Also, when looking back at the movies that have based their film on Mental Illness, for example, Frozen and Inside out, I was surprised how well they were able to portray both the positive and negative connotations surrounding this topic. When I discovered that the message behind Frozen was to portray how an individual can struggle with a mental illness and how they are perceived in society, I was amazed at how precise and educational it was. This was the same for the film Inside out as they were able to turn a children’s movie into an educational film to help get the message across that it is okay to feel different to others and to help them understand how our mind copes with the pressures of our day to day lives. After watching this movie, I believe this movie has opened the gates for society to openly discuss mental illnesses as it is becoming more apparent in society today, it is vital that we start by acknowledging it.
As a counsellor, my personal beliefs and assumptions in regards to Mental Illness will assist in developing my skills with future clients that suffer from a mental illness as I have developed more self-awareness and gained further knowledge. As a counsellor, I can see myself being consciously aware of the impact of mental illness on an individual, communicating correctly with the client as I want them to be conscious that I am aware of their illness and also increase their self-awareness with their illness. I also see myself over time being able to develop the correct coping strategies for the particular illness, depending on the client. Enhancing my knowledge and assumptions about Mental Illness will not only allow me to develop as an individual but also as a counsellor as I will be able to benefit the clients efficiently with their recovery.
When being confronted with a client who is suffering from a Mental Illness, I will react in a way that it is not a shock to me as I have been able to gain an understanding of the different types of mental illness and the impact it can have on an individual. This will assist my relationship with future clients as they will appreciate that they are not the only ones who have gone through this situation and they are not alone due to the influences and understanding that have shaped my knowledge about mental Illness. However, as a future counsellor, I would like to know more about the causes of the different types of Mental Illness as knowing the cause behind an illness will assist in my techniques and skills in supporting clients. It is also crucial to treat all clients equally in the sense of not putting labels on them due to their specific illness and also being aware that not all techniques or skills work on every client. This is where it will be beneficial for my enhancement as a counsellor to know how to treat all clients differently even if I have had similar cases.