Looking Inside of the Inside

1 in 4 Americans live with a mental illness. 100 billion dollars is the estimated economic cost of untreated mental illness in the US. But most shockingly, 75% of those who struggle with these illnesses feel like they do not get the understanding and compassion that they deserve from others (The Huffington Post). People tend to treat mental illness as less valid than physical illness, a major problem in our society.This is certainly not everyone, as our country has come a long way over the years in mental illness awareness and understanding.

But out of millions and millions of people, how would they be treated if they instead had a broken leg, had the flu, or a tumor? They would be told that they are strong and brave, and that they should take all of the time that they need to heal. I am not trying to say that those who deal with physical illness are not strong, in fact, those who deal with ANY type of illness are powerful for learning to cope and overcome this obstacle in their life. As one of those 1 in 4 Americans,I can surely say that we need to shed more light on this pressing issue that so many of our friends, family, and even ourselves face every single day. Those with the belief that mental illnesses are not as serious as physical illnesses need to understand that this is not at all the case, and they have more in common than meets the eye. Although it should be clear that mental illness is more prevalent than we think, it is true that it is a lot harder to see than physical illness.Just hearing the word “physical” will make you think of the outside, and “mental” is synonymous with the inside.

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When you fall and break your leg, it’s a pretty clear, black and white situation. You’ve had a mishap and done physical damage, and now you need to go to the doctor and get it fixed. You’ll wear a cast for a few months and get all of the sympathy your loved ones can give, but soon enough you will be out of it and on your feet again. It wouldn’t be too hard to diagnosis something that you can see with your eyes or with a type of fancy technology. Mental illness is not easy to identify, which is a reason why it is so misunderstood.

Even the most expensive machines and smartest doctors wouldn’t be able to fully identify every mental illness case, which causes more than half of those with mental illnesses to go undiagnosed. In Silver Linings Playbook, the main character, Pat, has bipolar disorder. Because of this he has frequent outbursts that shock and confuse those around him. They do not understand what is wrong with him, because he physically appears to be a healthy and “normal” man. The confusion that comes upon those around him is not uncommon or wrong, because the truth is that you can’t know what you can’t see. Our job as a society is to clear up this unclarity so that all of these sufferers can get the proper diagnosis that might help them better understand what is going on in their brain.

In addition to this, there are many misconceptions surrounding mental illness. From the many school shootings that have occurred in the past few years, the shooters themselves are automatically assumed to have committed these horrible acts due to mental illness. This automatic assumption and generalization has given the word “mental” a negative connotation, comparative to “crazy”. The actual crazy ones are the media, who says that those with mental illness are much more likely to commit dangerous acts. This causes some to keep their disorder a secret, in fear that they will be seen as “crazy and unpredictable.” This is a pretty common belief, but only 3% of those with mental illness are violent, proving the stereotype to be untrue (The Scattergood Foundation).

Another misconception of mental illness is that those who suffer from it can be blamed for their condition. They tend to be seen as weak, and that they “just need to get over it.” Would someone with cancer be able to “just get over it?” Absolutely not, because it is not in their control, just like mental illness. When you have a crush on someone, it’s the worst feeling in the world when you know they will never feel the same way about you. It would be so much easier to just not like them, but you can’t simply turn off your feelings. Even though they might be causing you emotional frustration, you have to accept how you feel and try not to be angry at yourself for it.

With mental illness, the only things that you can blame are trauma, life experiences, and heredity, not the person going through it, similar to physical illness. No sufferer of any illness can fully control what they are going through, and this is something that society needs to understand. Despite the misconceptions of mental illnesses, like physical illnesses, treatment is available and recovery is possible. With the right kind of therapy, recovery is definitely an option. A few months ago, I faced my mental illness when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Shortly after, I entered into a treatment program.

I’m not gonna lie, having to put in that much time and effort really sucked. My illness had so much power over me, and I had no motivation to get better. But when things started to spiral out of control, I decided it was time to turn my life around because I was ultimately the only one who could change things. Was it easy? Absolutely not, but after months of hard work in the recovery process, I can proudly say that I am now discharged from my treatment program. Like many illnesses, my eating disorder will never be fully cured, and it is likely that I will have to face it again someday.

But after getting the help I so desperately needed, I now have the resources and tools to fix it before it can go too far. Many physical illnesses are alike in this way. After recovering from a serious or life-threatening disease, you can start to return to your old self again, but chances are it could come back. You have to continue to work at it everyday, and by doing this you can live a happy and fulfilling life. Anyone with any type of knowledge about an illness knows that treatment is out there and recovery is a possibility, so this awareness can make it easy to see mental and physical illness as one instead of two totally different things. We are very lucky that this similarity is eminent, because it makes sufferers of any illness start to see themselves having a chance at recovery.

Our society needs to stop brushing mental illness under the rug and treating it like a phase, because it has the same impact on someone’s life as physical illness. Treating the two more similarly will make those with any type of disorder, limitation, diagnosis or even just a problem regarding their well-being feel like they are not alone and that there are many out there who can relate to them. Is it possible to change the minds of every single person in the world of how they see mental illness in comparison to physical illness? I wish it was, but it never fully will be. There will always be misconceptions about anything that is unclear, especially things that are on the inside. But our job as a whole is to start talking about mental illness more openly, because it is something that no one should ever have to feel ashamed of.

By clarifying the facts from the myths, we are just one step closer to closing the gap between mental and physical illness.