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Mental Illness in America: Did You Know?

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As of November 19, 2007, The United States Census Bureau’s POPClock (a clock that measures the American population based on some sort of ingenious calculation) states that the American population is currently 303, 409, 035. Given the grand scale of things, I find it appropriate to say we are for the most part, a social country.

Our days rely on interactions. Our day is not just what we personally make it; it is what those around us make it as well. At the end of it all, by 6:00pm or so, the chosen or not chosen interactions with others compile into the quality of each person’s day.

I can look on the bright side of getting robbed on a street corner in Detroit all I want, and although I might be smiling on my way home from reporting it at the police office (I can take a pretty confident guess I would not be), I would still be without a purse. My life and credit score will have been affected by a complete stranger. I will inevitably spend hours dealing with a situation I did not get myself into.

Although this particular situation is negative and grim, my point is that in a nation with over 303 million people, interactions between one another are key. How we “deal” with the situations other people put us into is what helps us fail and what helps us flourish. On a day-to-day basis, dealing with situations and other people who put us in them may not seem too difficult. However, if you tell me that, I will not believe you, simply because I have never encountered a “deal-free” day.

There is too much diversity in this country for any span of 24 hours to be “deal-free.” Now, thanks to Desperate Housewives, the nation finally sees that everyone, even suburban soccer moms, must do their fair share of daily “dealing.”

According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) about 26% of Americans suffer from a mental disorder. If that vague percentage doesn’t hit close enough to home, think of it this way: it translates into almost one American out of every four. This means out of the mail carrier, the grocery store clerk, your second grade teacher, and the clown at the circus, one of them is likely to be what many light-heartedly deem as crazy – excluding you of course.

Okay so wow, you might be thinking about all the people who deserve to take the title of crazy, or give the excuse to a bad falling-out you once had with your neighbor, your boss, your family, or your friend. Knowing that one in four Americans has a mental disorder makes it very easy to label someone, call them crazy, and be done with it – but, my friend, that is not “dealing” with the matter. That is excusing the matter. Crazy people are everywhere, my family is plagued with them, and so is your local super market.

My goal is to give you everyday examples of people with mental disorders. I want to show you that people with mental disorders walk, and talk, and interact. They function probably better than myself in normal society. They are not on the other side of the world, and are not living in their own world (unless they are narcissistic, and then an argument can be made). People with mental disorders are exactly like you and me except they are born with a different twist, a perception disturbance.

From these examples, I hope to educate, and in a way equip the public with information on how to “deal” with the everyday interactions of the mentally unstable.

Meet Joe

Joe works as an architect at a well-established company in Philadelphia. He does not miss a day of work. Joe has a wife and kid. On the outside looking in, he appears to be a stand-up individual. Actually, Joe seems to be somewhat more than a stand-up individual. His words and his actions go above and beyond any social standard. Joe goes to church, and is sure to be seen volunteering at the local hospital.

He is very charming. Joe uses this charm as a way to gain importance and position in his field. This charm also makes it easy for Joe’s eyes to wonder at the ladies who laugh so merely at his jokes in the office. Joe is not loyal to his wife, although no one, not even his best friend is aware. Every once in a while, when Joe lets his guard down, a sense of aggressiveness comes through his voice, and the words seem very uncharacteristic. Joe is an everyday example of a sociopath.

First note that my example is not one of extreme severity. Joe however, does show examples of what a sociopath would act like in everyday situations. If you know someone like Joe, let he or she think they do indeed have the upper hand. Joe’s mental disease is a scary one, and I would advise to only maintain a relationship in which he is most comfortable, meaning you should try to only maintain an extremely superficial level of friendship with this person.

Meet Sally

Sally is an artist at a studio in Austin, Texas. She dropped out of college the last year she was there because she believed her beautiful artwork was going to make her famous. To any normal person, Sally seems a little disorganized, very polite, and maybe a little dramatic. Although Sally’s studio is doing well, she is not able to keep all the money she makes. A few years earlier, Sally went on EBAY and charged thousands of dollars worth in clothes to her parent’s credit card. Although Sally does not send money to them most of the time in an effort to pay them back, she believes one day she will.

When it comes to saving her own money for her own purposes though, Sally is frugal, and for the most part does a good job staying in balance. Sally is usually very up, or very down. Only those close to her know about the mood variations. She can bring others down very easily, and often does without noticing or trying. Sally has bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is very prevalent in today’s society. When dealing with someone who may show these symptoms, one must be extremely considerate. When this person is low, they may easily lash out at you, so remember who you are dealing with. Try to remain as calm as possible with them. When the person is on a high, let them be. Try to guide them out of any irrational decisions they may be making, but do not be patronizing.

Meet Katherine

Katherine is a teacher in a local elementary school. She loves children, and is usually a pleasure to be around. To her fellow employees and even to the children, Katherine sometimes gets demanding and impulsive about how she wants things done. Katherine worries all the time, about things that are not real life problems. Her mind is always fluttering around, and although she realizes that it is abnormal to be that obsessive and often addresses it, she still is constantly worrying.

To make the anxiety go away, Katherine does things repetitively. She frequently thinks to herself that if she does one specific thing (if she knocks three times on the table), then something else in her life will happen or not happen as a result (she will not die in the car on her way to school that day). Routines must be followed or Katherine’s anxiety worsens. Katherine has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Katherine’s mental disorder prevents her from doing many things, and prevents freedom in her life. If you come across someone like that, do not mess with their world or their things. It will upset them more than it would any usual person. Do not step beyond their comfortable boundary. Before setting a boundary, always ask if they are comfortable with what you wish to do (don’t just sort through their perfectly stacked pile of papers, ask if you can look through them).

These are just a few of the many mental diseases that plague America, and these examples are very concise. I cannot stress how crucial it is for members of society to become familiar with ways to interact with the many people affected by these diseases. Like I said before, interactions and situations between people make up life, and how we “deal” with the more than 303 million people in America is what will help us fail or what will help us flourish.

About Shill

  • flawedplan

    This is an education in stereotyping, stigma and what is, for lack of a better term, biobabble. People with psychiatric diagnoses are capable of speaking for themselves, all else is hubris.

  • Douglas Mays

    Geez, glad you brought up the subject in this modern day and age. Christ, the world of psychiatry and therapy is so cro-mag. OK, let me say that there are a few good people in the current industry, but for the most part it is criminal.

    I say that because hhhmmm…I guess it comes down to the ego of the people surrounding the so-called mentally ill person. Psychiatry sure seems like a cottage industry of the pharmacy world. You will find that a lot of therapists are just messed up people that get into the industry to ‘help’ people. Sociopaths like Joe mentioned above, will target environmentally damaged people, whose mental illness is actually not that bad, to be a friend. As you mentioned, Joe’s sociopathy prevents him from having real friends (for good reason). So by shoving the targeted person further and further into the mental illness label, a very sick control is created….ugh! The targeted person only becomes worse in a reactive way, therefore validating the ‘mental illness’ false label.

    Anyway, mental illness has to do with the mind. Very few in the industry actually know anything about the flow of the mind of the individual. A generic paint brush of assessment is usually the result.

    The misuse of knowledge and law as a tool of oppression.

    OK, I could go on, but that is enuf for now…

    Stand Up!!

  • Marcia L. Neil

    Modern public schools provide extracurricular sports programs so that individuals demonstrating such competence can move directly into a physical education teaching career path. However, those chosen often believe that they can instead do anything they want, forming elite influence networks to do exactly that–such beliefs and activities cause mental illness among the general populace.