22 October 2018
Mental illness is closer to home than we think. We all have our demons. Photo: Flickr
Mental illness is closer to home than we think. We all have our demons. Photo: Flickr

Go ahead, have a good cry

Warning: Some scenes in this article are disturbing.

That is because nothing about the subject of mental illness is pretty. But only by bringing it to light can we begin to see it for what it is — an ugly truth made hideous by indifference and stigma.

Let’s get the ugly part out of the way and picture this: unwashed human bodies, nothing but skin and bone, shackled together, being hosed down in a dark corner of a hospital back alley; morsels being thrown through a tiny cell window, ending up with rotting, untouched food on the floor, indistinguishable from human waste.

Or a 12-year-old boy jumping to his death.

Go ahead, have a good cry. It’s probably the only thing you and I can do.

But there’s a growing sense that you and I can do more than shed a tear and look away. It comes from knowing in our heart of hearts that distant though it may seem, mental illness is closer to home than we think. We all have our demons.

We can do for mental illness what we have done for AIDS by embracing it in our consciousness and cleansing it in our own minds, so that sufferers can come out without fear and governments are forced to accept their existence.

Mental health awareness is easier said than done, but a proper mental health regime is even trickier because it involves vested interests and needs a lot of money.

Ever wondered why the United States, the biggest economy on the planet, does not have a functional mental health program?

Or why Europe, whose healthcare model is the envy of the world, has more undiagnosed sufferers than anywhere else?

Yet, mental illness is a disease like any other. It may haunt the family genes for generations but it stops at the door. You can’t catch mental illness from the next person.

Worryingly, younger people are getting more at risk, likely from a genetic standpoint. But because there’s not enough research on the subject, the numbers are stuck in the realm of conjecture.

We can only hope our children are safe but we can also do something to make sure they are.

The consequences of inaction and indifference are too horrifying to contemplate.

Because while we sit and wonder whether we’re dealing well enough with our own demons, the future is wasting away in a troubled child.

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