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Mental Illness: Myth vs. Fact
People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness often don’t discuss it. They feel embarrassed or ashamed rather than treating it like other medical conditions. They may fear people will avoid them or that they may lose their jobs if someone knows of their illness. People may not seek help for that reason. The stigma surrounding mental illness is often fact.
There is another fact that needs consideration. Stigma and myths are based on fear of the unknown, that which we do not understand or information that is not available. This can be changed when information becomes available and we can use it to understand and manage a situation.
New technologies have allowed scientists to learn that many mental illnesses are actually caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. These mental illnesses may more appropriately be called brain chemistry disorders, which can be treated as physical illnesses. Brain chemistry disorders include: depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety and panic disorders, schizophrenia and others.
Much like diabetes, achieving or returning the chemical balance is a major part of restoring health. Technological advances such as brain imaging, molecular biology and genetic engineering are enabling scientists to learn more and develop better treatments.
Brain chemistry disorders are not a matter of will, poor parental upbringing or character flaws. They are a matter of biology and occur throughout the world’s population––rich, poor, illiterate or well educated. All of us can, together, dispel myths and stigma by learning the facts and resources for help. Local libraries have directories of agencies providing a variety of mental health services.
There is a Mental Health Service Provider Directory listing mental health services for the tri-county area and a Charles County Directory of Human Services listing other services as well as mental health, available in the libraries. Information is available on the internet under mental health and mental illness. Ask, learn, and have no fear.
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