I was watching the first episode of a PBS docu-series last night, "Mysteries of Mental Illness," and heard this sentence: "In many cases, women simply voicing their opinion, participating in society or offending a prominent male in their household would be branded as mentally ill."
Rather than go into details about why this so strongly resonated with me, I will just share a few beliefs I hold, related to illness, that are based on experience, observation, and research.
I invite you to share any beliefs you have, in the comments, as well.
Here are some of my heart-felt considerations:
Illness is illness.
Differentiating mental illness from other illnesses, as less worthy of compassion, preventive measures, treatment, and care is unproductive to society (to put it mildly) and cruel to those suffering.
Illness is a condition that should justify increased care, not diminished care.
Illness does not mean that a person suffering has more rights - special, exceptional rights - making others' rights no longer equal.
Illness does not mean a person has fewer, less-than-equal rights than others.
Illness does not justify abuse (whether the perpetrator or victim or both are ill).
Illness is not a license for someone to violate the law.
Illness should be diagnosed and treated, if/as necessary, by trained health professionals.
Illness should not be stigmatized.
Abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences are risk factors that increase the likelihood of mental illness (from mayoclinic.org).
Care, including self-care, can keep symptoms of illnesses, including mental illnesses, under control; lack of self-care and neglect from loved ones can exacerbate symptoms.
"Self-care" does not encompass acts such as evicting family members from their own residences, disowning family members from their rightful property, giving family members the silent treatment when they reach out for help, or spreading lies about family members - including circulating alleged, non-professional diagnoses about a family member's mental health.
Because of its stigma, labeling a person as "mentally ill" can discredit them in a community where they have otherwise established their credibility.
Mentally ill people can be highly credible; diagnoses by people with personal agendas for labeling others with mental illness are NOT credible.
It is common for people with malignant narcissism and other personality disorders to "accuse" a person they wish to control or undermine as having mental health issues (along with accusing them of being unfaithful, dishonest, cruel, ugly, fat, offensive to authority figures, incompetent, undependable.....)
One should not mandate treatment for an undiagnosed health condition as a requirement for marriage, for one's living at home, or for other basic needs to be met.
Church leaders (or others in influential positions in a community) who participate in a narrative about a spouse's purported mental illness without verifying the facts could be complicit with spouse-abuse.
Enabling a perpetrator of abuse, even if the perpetrator is ill, is complicity with abuse... and abuse is a risk factor of illness.
It is human to be vulnerable to illness - both physical and mental; we are all likely to become ill at times, possibly even to become chronically ill. That doesn't make anyone less human.
Honoring and loving a person, illness and all, can be very healing.
If you are ill, you are in good company with a vast number of the rest of us humans.
But when Yeshua heard, he said to them, "The healthy have no need for a physician, but those who have become very ill; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Mark 2:17, Aramaic Bible in Plain English
I welcome your comments, if you have anything to add or anything with which you disagree.
I believe our wellness depends upon each of us being a member of a healthy community.
The difference between "ILLNESS" vs. "WELLNESS" is "I" vs. "WE". (I heard that in a support group meeting... it's not original, but it sure resonates with me as the truth.)