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Stephen Hogan
Mental Illness: as Real as the Voices in your Head
Many people have a belief that mental illness is nothing but a hoax. A way to strike
sympathy into the hearts of the people around them and get certain advantages. Is the struggle of
keeping up that "charade" worth those things though? Is it worth "pretending" to cry yourself to
sleep every night or cutting yourself to prove that you aren't lying or -just to "spite" the none
believers-ending your life? Who is laughing now? Not the dead nor the people who knew him.
Many people would even see this as a sign that they were wrong, that they should have tried to
help this person rather than tell him to "get over it." Mental illness is no joke, it is as real as the
words on this page. Deaths due to mental illness are preventable and the way to prevent them is
to be aware of them, however, the only way to be aware is to realize that mental illness is real.
Mental illness-while it has always been around- has been questioned by people and
psychologists heavily. However, mental illness should not be confused with madness. Mental
illness refers to the state of being in your head caused by a lack of hormones, surplus of
hormones, and lack of neurological activity that leads to a state of being unwell while madness is
the state of being frenzied or unstable in behaviors. With this psychologists can also be defined
as a professional who study's the biology and state of the human mind. People, however, are
more general and can be related to those who would be studied and helped by psychologists, or
as people with mental illness.
Many people, however, feel that mental illness is nothing but "problems in living" (Szasz
114)- a famous notion put forth by Dr. Thomas Szasz in his essay The Myth of Mental Illnessthis said by a psychiatrist led many to look further and further into the fact. His explanation of an


illness, or disease, was that it was a "deviation from some clearly defined norm" (Szasz 114) and
then proceeds to say how in the case of mental health a clearly defined norm is not easily
established. Thus, many followed this belief- and still do today- and claim that mental is nothing
but a claim for attention and just another name for having troubles dealing with normal problems
of living. With all of this scientific evidence- brought up by Dr. Szasz- it is easy to follow such a
theory on mental illness.
Many suffer from these problems of life, though. From everyday people to the stars that
children have grown to look up. One well know case was that of Robin Williams. Robin
Williams was a great man: a genie, a comedian, a woman, a father, and a very depressed man.
The last one was something that very little people knew about; how could anyone know about it,
all the man did was smile and make others smile. However on the inside he suffered, but he
couldn't let that show. He could not let his children see that. He could not let anyone else suffer
from that either, thus his career as a comedian follows suit. He knew what sadness was, he knew
what it felt like to be on the brink of losing it and he did not want anyone else to suffer from such
pain and so he used his talents to make others smile and laugh.
So, for those who have dealt with these "problems of life," mental illness is a war raging
inside of the mind. A war where no one is safe, not even the "happiest" or "funniest" person you
think you know. The disease picks up whatever weapon it can find to use against you and fights
with guerilla warfare; it takes your insecurities, your hate, your love, and your goals and works
them against you until nothing is left but the shell of the person you used to be. People hurt from
these problems, people die from these problems, but in the end they are just "problems of living"
that kill them. This misinformation is the reason that people go to such lengths instead of just
seeking help. If they were to seek help they would just be called an attention seeker and told to


get over themselves. If people understood that mental illness is a real problem and that they can
prevent this with their words and support: people could save more lives than even imaginable.
The first thing to understand is that awareness is the key to understanding and
rehabilitating the mentally ill. The first step to this awareness is Changing Your Mind to see the
pain that your loved ones are in. Unlike physical pain mental distress is more difficult to spot and
easier to hide- especially with people avoiding talking about it due to fear. "Roughly 19% of
adults experience a diagnosable mental-health issue" (Oaklander 1), but people are not noticingor rather they do not want to notice. Life is made easier by just asking the simple question "How
are you doing today" and accepting the simple response "fine." But what if a moment was taken
to look at this person and ask them "how are you-really," such a question could dig out an answer
that the person didn't even realize they wanted to talk about (Oaklander 1). This one question can
lead to people getting the very help they need and all it took was an awareness to the problem
and a simple question. However, as it comes to awareness "the most important thing, says Van
Dahlen, is that people know it's O.K. to not always be O.K." (Oaklander 1). There are signs to
point in this direction of awareness. These signs vary from the person not acting themselves,
unusual moodiness, withdrawal from friends and family, self-destructive behaviors, and a once
hopeful person-for example- not being able to find anything to be hopeful about. If these signs
can be noticed and approached then awareness is reached and people can receive help. But how
can you talk to someone about something that you don't understand? It is quite difficult which is
why the second thing people need to understand is understanding in itself.
Once people are able to be aware of the mental issues around them they must understand
said mental health issues in order to help. When mental illness is concerned understanding is
difficult to those who have not experienced it. This is not helped by the fact that "the news media


may disproportionately portray people with mental illness as dangerous and violent" (Mak 173)
which in turn leads the public to "also perceive people with mental illness as unpredictable and
dangerous " (Mak 173). The blind following of the media is-in turn- a major contributor to the
misunderstanding of these mental illnesses. However, there is another side where instead of
being called "dangerous" these illnesses are romanticized and made to be this "beautiful" thing.
Social media is the top contributor, with tumblr being a big spot to post such things, to this
sensation with artistic posts showing skin as a canvas- or how beauty is about having little
weight. These romanticized posts promote people to do what they are doing thinking that it will
make them "beautiful." Once people understand that things like this promotes such behavior and
make it harder to see what is wrong with what they are doing, they will be less inclined to
continue such behaviors. What though can understanding this really do to help people escape
from their mental illnesses?
When we, as people without mental illness, understand the struggles that the people with
mental illness deal with we can help "rehabilitate" them in a way. First, when they feel we
understand they will be more likely to seek help. The reason being that now they are reluctant to
seek help because "they are afraid of being labeled as mental patients, which brings negative
evaluation, rejection, and even discrimination from others" (Mak 174). In turn, once this feeling
of discrimination is no longer prevalent in society people will seek help more often. Then the
rehabilitation can begin. Then-once it has begun- the many tragedies that occur taking the people
we love away from us so prematurely.
Taken together Dr. Szasz, Mak, and Oaklander can all be seen as having different takes
on the same subject. However, Dr. Szasz-while against the recognition of mental illness- is also
in his own way on the path to helping rehabilitate those who have it. If people don't believe it


exists-to a certain degree- it is easier for people who say they have it to fight it with the thought
of its nonexistence at hand, because how can one have what doesnt exist? This is just a more
obscure way of treating mental illness than that of Oaklander and Mak.
When it comes to the end all of those with mental illness, it is those who do not suffer
from it that need to be the ones who understand it. Only in this understanding can mental illness
be turned from a killer of adolescents across the world to a very treatable part of being human.
The best way to do this is to be aware, understand, and help those in need however possible.
Only then can tragedies such as Robin Williams be prevented. Only then can those who once
suffered in a cage of their own minds be at peace with who they are and what they need to do to
live happily once again.

Works Cited
Mak, Winnie W. S., Eddie S. K. Chong, and Celia C. Y. Wong. "Beyond Attributions:
Understanding Public Stigma Of Mental Illness With The Common Sense Model."
American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry 84.2 (2014): 173-181. PsycARTICLES. Web. 8
Dec. 2015.
Oaklander, Mandy. Changing Your Mind. Time 185.9 (2015): 24. MAS Ultra School Edition.


Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Szasz, Thomas S. "The Myth of Mental Illness." Essay. 1960. Document.