Sunday, 7 October 2012

About mental illness, ignorance and labels

This is a little rant about something I heard a while ago. I thought it was possibly the worst excuse ever to not take a child to a therapist.

The little boy is about 11 years old. He is showing clear signs of ADD, and very strong hints of Bipolar Disorder. He is at times extremely aggressive, and at time almost despondent. Yet his mother refuses to take him to a therapist because she doesn't want him to be labelled for the rest of his life. She even went as far as to label another family member who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder as a "crackpot", saying her son is nothing like him, even though she is the only person saying that.

My jaw dropped. How ignorant can you possibly be? Does she honestly believe that not having him diagnosed and treated will make it all go away? I cannot believe that in this day and age, there are still people out there who are this ignorant about mental illness.

As stigmas go, I carry what is probably one of the worst "labels" - Borderline Personality Disorder. I have even had therapists refuse to treat me because they believed that I would be manipulative, abusive and incurable. And yet, I still believe that being diagnosed was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me. It showed me that there were other people who felt the way I did, and it enabled me to get the help I so desperately needed. If not for my diagnosis I would still be where I was at 23 in terms of emotional stability. I would most likely still be addicted to drugs, still habitually cut myself, and I would not be able to hold down a job and take care of my little girl. That is, if I was still alive, and that is very unlikely.

I have had to deal with a lot of prejudice, ignorance and stigma over the years, but it has all been worth it a million times over. I wish more people could educate themselves and understand that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and in many cases very much treatable. To make a child go through life with untreated mental illness is, in my mind, tantamount to child abuse.

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