By Charles A. Cino, special to the News
We recognize cancer, diabetes and heart disease easily. When told that a loved one is sick with one of these illnesses, we flock to their side. We offer support, encouragement and hope.
Too often in our society, those afflicted with a different illness are shunned, misunderstood and the visits to their side are few. The illness is mental illness.
Mental illnesses comprising of mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, attention deficit disorders and other ailments are serious and potentially life threatening, but treatable illnesses. Our society is recently embracing these types of illnesses after years of lack of attention, however, much more educating must be done. Too often misunderstood by the public, mental illness will affect one out of every five Canadians. And the suffering is real.
And it can happen to anyone. Mental illness knows no boundaries, cultural or otherwise, and affects people from all walks of life. We all experience sadness, frustrations, anxiety and irritability at times, but these feelings dissipate within a short period of time. It is when these feelings persist for weeks that they are considered and diagnosed as illness.
Yet it is unfortunate that only one-third of people afflicted with a menial illness seek professional help!
One significant reason is the stigma of the illness. Fear, misunderstanding and ignorance are reasons people stigmatize the illness, often causing those who have it to fear reprisals, job loss and loss of social interaction. Negative and unfavorable attitudes and negative behaviours make up stigma. The fear that results from stigma causes one to delay or avoid diagnosis, thus making their suffering last longer. This has to change, and it is changing slowly.
We are now recognizing that the human brain, as an organ of the body, is subject to disease, disorders and malfunctioning like other body organs. Health professionals and society must regard the brain as such and treat mental illnesses with the same yardstick measures as other diseases. This will not only speed up the process of recovery for patients, but allow them the dignity to be understood, and regarded as being ill, for mental illness is illness.
For many afflicted with mood disorders, there is a safe haven to learn about them and to discuss individual concerns openly in a safe environment free of stigma.
Mood Menders Support Group has served Hamilton and area since 1985 and offers group support and services to adults who are challenged by a mood disorder. It meets twice monthly in Hamilton.
For more information on Mood Menders Support Group, please call 905-521-0090 ext. 234.
Charles A. Cino is President of Mood Menders Support Group.
The Mountain News is all about the people who live on the Mountain. If you would like to write in this space, call editor Gord Bowes at 905-664-8800 ext. 335 to discuss your idea.