What Mental Illness Truly Looks Like…

“Here’s Johnny!”
“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

Growing up we all had this view of what the “Mentally Ill” looked like usually from a portrayal in the media.  Instantly the first vision that comes to my mind when I think “Mentally Ill” is Jack Nicholson in The Shining saying “Here’s Johnny!”.  My next vision is him in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.  Visions of people in straight jackets with bulging eyes…  Electric shock therapy… padded rooms… lobotomies…

Then you have the real life people that are portrayed through the media as the epitome of “Mentally Ill”… Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook Massacre murderer), Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz, James Egan Holmes (the Colorado Movie Massacre Shooter), and most recently, the Marine Shooting that occurred in Chattanooga, TN by Muhammad Abdulazeez.  Let’s not forget Andrea Yates who killed her children.

Thank you Media!  Thank you movies, tv shows, music videos… Thank you for creating a stigma behind being labeled “Mentally Ill.”  Thank you for creating an environment where the majority of the Mentally Ill are afraid to speak up, are afraid to tell people, are afraid to get help.

I am not saying that these real life individuals that performed this heinous acts did not suffer from a Mental Illness as I am sure they did or still do.  What is known about these individuals is out of all the massacres that have occurred, only one of these individuals was being medicated for their Mental Illness.  The media’s portrayal of  those that are Mentally Ill is a bit too… clouded.  One thing for sure is those that are Mentally Ill are more likely to become victims of violence and not the other way around.

So, what does the typical Mentally Ill person look like:

There you go! 

Can you tell? 

If you saw me on the street would your first view of me be, “Oh my, there goes one Crazy person?  Let’s get her to an Asylum straight away!  Here’s the next committer of a massacre!” 

Nope, not one bit.  I look completely “normal”.  That is one of the main issues with being diagnosed with a Mental Illness, there is no hard evidence such as blood tests or brain scans that can prove you are in fact ill.  There is no physical characteristics that someone can pick out on the street. 

I was first diagnosed as a teen with Depression.  Since then I have braved battles with Depression six times.  Can you tell from this picture that I was deep into my latest bout of Depression here?  What, I’m not sad?  Not weeping profusely? Not in bed?  Not tearing at my skin? Depression isn’t always like that.  There were points where I didn’t get out of bed last winter, days wasted crying.  Then there were days that the sun was shining and I strapped my snowshoes on.  I did not think about hurting anyone except for myself a few times and in no way did I ever think about purchasing a gun and hurting others.

As someone who will go through the rest of her life with the label “Mentally Ill” I get easily irked when I see the media blame these fatalities on Depression.  While these individuals may have been depressed as I stated before, it has been researched that only 1 out of these people were on medication.  Instead of blaming their actions on their illness, let’s blame their actions on the people themselves.  Lets make people more aware the illness exists, that many suffer from it and get help and that only a small percentage will carry on inconceivable acts of violence while most will be the victims… and HOW we can treat ourselves and others who are affected by Depression.

One Comment

  1. Yeah, Cuckoo's Nest gives ECT a bad name. Of course, that was a long time before. I was "shocked," but I don't think there's been any other media portrayal of ECT since. We've come a long way, and certainly have further to go, but the media has to catch up. Great post!

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