… Seek the council of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being.
…Though we may feel we are like a broken vessel as the psalmist says, we must remember that vessel is in the hands of the Divine Potter.
Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work, making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, non-judgmental and kind.”
-Elder Jeffery R Holland
|by Sarah Hancock|
It feels as though every single goal they ever dreamed of achieving is ripped away, handing them a death sentence instead.
No, I take that back. Having a mental illness can be worse than a death sentence. Here's why.
When you think about mental illness, what are the first things that come to mind? Straitjackets, mumbling incessantly, heinous murderers -- the list goes on and on, none of it flattering. Why is that? Because the public at large only takes their information about mental illness from what they see on TV or in the movies.
Let's face it. Movies, news, television shows and any other media could never make money broadcasting stories about everyday people living boring lives. Instead the media turn their attention to things either positively amazing or downright horrific. Average doesn't sell.
Consequently, the general public gains all information about mental illness from either positively amazing people (like John Forbes Nash, Jr. a mathematician who received the Nobel for Economic Sciences in 1994, diagnosed with schizophrenia) or by heinous murderers diagnosed with mental illness. I'd give you an example but you can probably already think of several on your own.
If you believed the media, people who have a mental illness just don't fall in the gray area between amazing and horrific. In that respect they're like Mormons. You rarely hear about everyday Mormons on the news. But the minute a member of the Church does something bad, the news headlines read, "Mormon Steals Car!"
However, I bet that your preconceived notions about mental illness are just as erroneous as the average nonmember's understanding of what members of the Church truly believe. Did I just say that?
Many people think that schizophrenics are violent. However, evidence suggests that "people with psychotic symptoms account for only 5 percent of violent crime, and some estimate the number closer to 1 percent. In fact, people living with schizophrenia are in greater danger of being victimized by both violent and non-violent crimes than the general population." Surprised?
Mental illness is simply misunderstood, yet it's something that affects everyone in one way or another. If you think you don't know anyone with mental illness, you're wrong. I promise!
According to the National Alliant for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), "One in four adults -- approximately 57.7 million Americans -- experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder and about one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder."
The thing is, no one talks about it. Well, hopefully that is about to change.
I can be quite verbal about my experience with mental illness. I'll be the first to admit many people don't feel comfortable about my candidness, but I am candid for a reason. When I was diagnosed and drudging through the worst symptoms I'd ever experienced, I felt alone. What made matters worse was no one wanted to talk about it. People felt uncomfortable when I brought it up. I felt completely alienated.
I never want anyone else to feel like that. So, sometimes if there is a moment in class where I feel my experience with mental illness taught me something I share it, regardless.
One Sunday after sharing such an experience a sister came up to me after class in tears because she'd felt all alone and didn't know where to go to talk to about her depression. She was grateful I said something, enabling her to recognize she wasn't alone. She swore me to secrecy, not wanting anyone else to know about her struggle.
Ironically, a sister who'd sat next to this first sister also approached me afterwards, asking to talk to me more about her depression while swearing me to secrecy. She, too, didn't want anyone to think less of her for struggling with depression. Two sisters sitting next to each other were struggling with the desperate symptoms of depression, yet both were unable to support or console one another because of the embarrassment of being labeled as mentally ill.
Feeling isolated in a room full of people can be worse than a death sentence.
So what can you do about it? Be willing to talk. I'm not saying you have to shout it from the rooftops, nor am I saying that being glib about details is always appropriate. I am saying that in order for the general public to become savvier about mental illness, we need to start talking about it.
Helping people become more aware of mental illness will help their understanding to grow. Only then will the general public realize people with mental illness are just everyday people. After all, one fourth of the general public already knows that since they have a mental illness!
Perhaps its someone you are sitting next to at church or someone you share a cubicle with at work. Perhaps someone you love needs your support and you don't even know how to give it. If we all start talking about mental illness a little more, everyone will realize no one is alone.
Be wise in sharing things with others. You'll be surprised at how many people understand because they've been there too. So, back to the original question: What is mental illness? Start talking and asking questions from sources outside the sensationalized media, and you'll find the real answer.
by Sarah Hancock
Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about Psychiatric Recovery and teaching others how to strengthen their "Recovery Toolbox." Sarah finds comfort in writing, having completed more than 29 journal volumes. She teaches occasional recovery workshops using principles she learned from Recovery Innovations.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in the San Diego area with her husband. They have four teenage children.
She currently loves serving as Young Women secretary and ward missionary.
Where we have no documented evidence that the profet had a mental illness, there were many who believed he did because of the vision he claimed to have seen. We know those claims to be true... but to those who thought otherwise... I think brother Joseph can relate to the experiences some of us who do have a mental illness may have faced at one time or another in our lives....
How do we treat those people in kind? What would Jesus do?
In May 2011, Noone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric condition marked by alternating periods of intense depression and good or irritable moods. While seeking treatment for his mental health at a hospital, his doctors and fellow patients all told him the same thing – don’t tell anyone about your illness.
“They all said, ‘You have to be careful about who you tell, because people may discriminate against you, and it could ruin your career,’” Noone, a 23-year-old Connecticut native who now lives in California, told FoxNews.com. “And it was really frustrating for me because I thought, ‘Yeah, but they might not.’”
Though he adamantly disagreed with the idea of keeping quiet, Noone ended up taking his physicians’ advice and ultimately kept his condition to himself.
"I’m just a normal guy, and I can still fit in with everyone else. We all have something wrong with us; no one’s DNA is perfect."- Logan Noone, on his new attitude towards being bipolar
The silence tore him apart. For the next six months, he spiraled into one of his worst depressions, feeling nothing but shame for his condition and the life he was leading.
“I thought it was a flaw; I didn’t think I could be anything successful,” Noone said. “I didn’t have the drive to get better, because I thought I was destined for suicide.”
Then a seemingly small moment would catapult Noone into a completely different phase of his life. Just two days after moving to California for a job transfer, Noone nonchalantly told his new Craigslist roommates his biggest secret – that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Then something incredible happened.
His roommates did not discriminate against him and embraced Noone for who he was.
“I’ve been able to teach them what bipolar disorder is and change their misconceptions about it,” Noone said. “…They also taught me the lesson that I’m just a normal guy, and I can still fit in with everyone else. We all have something wrong with us; no one’s DNA is perfect.”
Since then, Noone has purposefully gone against the “keep quiet” mentality, making the choice to step up and speak out about his experience with mental illness. Having recently been hired by the California Speakers Bureau, Noone travels to different colleges throughout the state, giving speeches about his life story and how people can help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. He has since posted a video of his speech on YouTube, which is quickly gathering views and enormous support.
Now, Noone and others are poised on the brink of what they are calling a mental health civil rights movement, aimed at encouraging those with mental illness to break their silence and talk about their experiences as something positive – and not something to hide.
Depression vs. mania
Having grown up with a loving family in Litchfield, Conn., Noone had always been a happy, normal kid. He would sometimes experience periods of depression and anxiety, but he could always turn it around quickly.
It wasn’t until he studied abroad in Scotland while attending his junior year at the College of the Holy Cross that he started to notice something wasn’t quite right.
“I started to have racing thoughts that were so consuming,” Noone said. “I couldn’t focus; I had trouble interacting with people. I didn’t feel like I knew who I was. It ultimately lead to drinking and self-medicating, which is certainly not healthy.”
Noone questioned everything from the love of his friends and family to his sexuality. And the thoughts showed no sign of going away, haunting him throughout his junior and senior year – causing him to isolate himself and become extremely anxious. Then when it came time for his final week of college, a lot of major changes happened all at once. He had just recently broken up with his girlfriend, was about to walk the stage for graduation and was starting a new job in just a few short weeks.
He said his parents likened it to the ‘Perfect Storm.’
Noone finally decided to speak with his friends about how he had been struggling. While he was telling them, his mood suddenly started to turn around. He started to have feelings of euphoria and felt as though he had a ton of energy. As his friends began their celebrations for senior week, Noone felt excited enough to join in on the fun – but the partying didn’t stop.
“I was having a blast, but I couldn’t turn it off,” Noone said. “I had a constant, insane amount of energy, and it continued to get worse as I continued to lose sleep. I started having all these grandiose ideas that I thought could make work. I thought I could make a billion bucks off of them in a week. I was calling investors before I had even written anything down, and it even got to the point where I thought people were going to steal them from me, that people were monitoring my email and cellphone.”
It didn’t take long for his friends and family to figure out something was very wrong. After about a week of not sleeping, Noone himself started to realize he might be suffering from something very serious, and knowing that bipolar disorder ran in his family, it wasn’t hard for him to put the pieces together.
Realizing he needed help, Noone’s family arranged for two psychiatric disease experts to come to their home in order to advise him about what to do next.
- Facts About Bipolar Disorder - People with bipolar disorder alternate between periods of depression and elation or sometimes mania
- The condition usually begins between the ages of 15 and 25.
- Symptoms of the manic phase can include problems controlling temper, high energy, reckless behavior, and little need for sleep.
- Symptoms of the depression phase can include very low moods, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, isolation, and even thoughts of death and suicide.
They told him he ultimately had three options. He could do nothing and continue to suffer, schedule an appointment with a therapist (which could ultimately take weeks), or he could do something even more drastic – check into a hospital.
“Saying I should go to the hospital was shocking,” Noone said, “but it really only took my five to 10 minutes to make that decision. I finally just said I should suck it up and, ‘Let’s do this.’”
The experience was rough, but necessary. Over the next five days, Noone worked with his doctors to figure out the best treatments for moving forward and the right combination of medications that would help control his symptoms. He wasn’t allowed to leave the building until the process was done.
It was during his time at the hospital that Noone learned about the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder and mental illness in general. Everyone he met said keeping his disorder a secret was the best course of action, as people would ultimately view and treat him differently. Even his fellow patients at the hospital said talking about their symptoms and struggles was just too risky.
The silence contributed to his worst depression yet, and Noone spent the next six months feeling ashamed of himself and his condition. But in those last few months, he started to have a change of heart. His employer, Hanover Insurance, decided to transfer Noone to California for a new position, and he spent five days in a car with his father, thinking about life and letting everything sink in.
Those five days would later change everything.
“During that time period, I thought, ‘I’m not going to live this life anymore,’” Noone said. “‘This is stupid, and I’m not going to be ashamed.’”
Starting a movement
This decision to tell his roommates about his disorder had an unprecedented impact on Noone. His instincts had been right all along. Not only was it OK to talk about bipolar disorder, but it was actually therapeutic, inspiring him to turn his life around in a way he had never imagined.
“It started this momentum of happiness in my life,” Noone said. “I started working out, eating better…. I started this last May, and until now I’ve lost 70 pounds.”
Just the simple act of revealing his condition to his roommates motivated Noone to start attending meet-up groups for people with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. He began listening to all of their life experiences and learned helpful insights and coping mechanisms he could apply to his own life.
“This was the key to my recovery, because I didn’t feel all alone,” Noone said. “Five percent of the population has bipolar disorder, and they think that number is grossly underestimated. So it was really rewarding being able to connect and meet more of them, because that’s how people are going to get inspired to get the help they need.”
Noone’s involvement with the bipolar community ultimately caught the eye of William Taylor from Mental Health America, who runs an event called “Recovery Happens,” a celebration of people with mental illness who have made recoveries in their lives. Taylor approached Noone about possibly speaking out about his bipolar experience, and Noone was eager to sign up.
Now, Noone is set to travel to different colleges to give speeches about his life story. His first speech at Sierra College in Rockland, Cali., turned out to be a great success and encouraged Noone to go one step further. Given the response he received, he recorded a separate video of his speech in his kitchen and posted it to YouTube, hoping to better spread the word online.
So far, the response has been overwhelming.
“I’ve been getting messages from people I don’t know, people in different countries,” None said. “They tell me, ‘I can really relate to this story, and you’ve inspired me to live a healthy life.’”
Besides his speaking engagements and YouTube video, Noone is working to start a non-profit, which strives to create an online community revolving around mental illness pride, as well as a marketing campaign called “Repaint the Picture,” aimed at erasing the misconceptions of mental illness and spreading mental illness pride. And Noone is not alone in this endeavor. He has already received substantial interest in starting his own initiative. Many high-profiled celebrities – such as Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, Russell Brand, Howie Mandal, and Robert Downey Jr., to name a few – have already come out about their struggles with bipolar disorder, spreading knowledge and awareness of the disorder.
Overall, Noone feels the whole mental health community is on the brink of a civil rights movement, in which people with mental illness are about to come out of the shadows and spread their stories for the world to hear. It is through this effort, he says, that things will inevitably start to change.
“We’re going to try to tell the success stories,” Noone said. “The stories people need to hear. The truth.”
First Aid Strategies
The Action Plan
Mental Health First Aid teaches a five-step action plan, ALGEE, for individuals to provide help to someone who may be in crisis.
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen nonjudgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
When helping a person going through a mental health crisis, it is important look for signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors and/or non-suicidal self-injury.
Some Warning Signs of Suicide Include:
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
- Seeking access to means to hurt or kill oneself
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
- Feeling Hopeless
- Acting Recklessly or engaging in risky activities
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from family, friends, or society
- Appearing agitated or angry
- Having a dramatic change in mood
It may seem simple, but the ability to listen and have a meaningful conversation with an individual requires skill and patience. It is important to make an individual feel respected, accepted, and understood. Mental Health First Aid teaches individuals to use a set of verbal and nonverbal skills to engage in appropriate conversation – such as open body posture, comfortable eye contact and other listening strategies.
Give Reassurance and Information
It is important for individuals to recognize that mental illnesses are real, treatable illnesses from which people can and do recover. When having a conversation with someone whom you believe may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it is important to approach the conversation with respect and dignity for that individual and to not blame the individual for his or her symptoms.
Mental Health First Aid teaches you helpful information and resources you can offer to someone to provide consistent emotional support and practical help.
Encourage Appropriate Professional Help
There are a variety of mental health and substance use professionals who can offer help when someone is in crisis or may be experiencing the signs of symptoms of a mental illness.
- Types of Professionals
- Doctors (primary care physicians or psychiatrists)
- Social workers, counselors, and other mental health
- Certified peer specialists
- Types of Professional Help
- “Talk” therapies
- Other professional supports
Encourage Self-Help and Other Support Strategies
There are many ways individuals who may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness can contribute to their own recovery and wellness.
These strategies may include:
- Relaxation and Meditation
- Participating in peer support groups
- Self-help books based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Engaging with family, friends, faith, and other social networks