Sunday, June 12, 2011


By: Tricia Pluta

Mental Illness is one of the last and worst stigmatized illnesses on the planet, yet researchers say 1 in 4 adults suffer with some form of mental illness and 1 in 10 children suffer with a serious mental illness. As a collective society we base most generalizations and stereotypes on what we see, the visual. We assume if there is someone balding and sickly, they may be undergoing chemotherapy. If someone's arm is in a cast, we can safely assume they broke it. What about our minds? It's not always so easy to tell but there are signs. I've listed a website below for you to check if someone you know is suffering. Why is this somehow less important than cancer or other serious diagnosis? Mental illness can be terminal if left untreated. If statistics were this high for another disease there would be an outcry of support and funding. We need to change our mindsets. I have found that most mental health facilities also offer drug rehabilitation services. This does not mean that everyone with a mental illness is a drug user and vice versa. I feel this adds to the negative connotation and stereotype. We have made some strides in the war against mental illness but there are social battles yet to be won. Most all mental illnesses are treatable or at least controllable. Yet due to stigma, so many needlessly suffer. Our brain is one of the most vital organs in our body, yet it remains neglected for the most part. People feel as though it will take care of itself, this is untrue.Some of the side effects of mental illness are depression, anxiety, homelessness, loss of job/income, flashbacks and suicide. We must not fear what we cannot see but do our best to understand the condition and exercise compassion.
We now know that alcoholism is a form of mental illness, twenty years ago you would have just been labeled. Now it is recognized as a disease that most people are genetically predisposed to. We need to be more tolerant as individuals and speak up to de-mystify this illness. Chances are you know or have know someone who is or was seriously suffering. If you saw someone in a wheelchair struggling, you would most likely lend a hand. It should be no different with mental illness. Even just an attitude adjustment would go a long way. You could be instrumental in saving a life. Be tactful, as you would with anyone who is ill, sometimes intervention is the only way to save a life. Be brave and kind for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Below is a link to resources, signs and contacts in the Philadelphia area.


  1. Because most people only see certain illnesses as something serious, like cancer or heart disease, they figure that needs the most attention;which it does. But mental illnesses affect the brain, the part of our body that controls how we function,should be seen just as serious. Depression and anxiety may not be seen as harmful, but the reality is it. With depression you lose major parts of your life because of lack of interest. Anxiety can be fatal as well because it can cause suicidal thoughts which may lead to death if not watched. Mental illnesses should be taken just as seriously as illnesses that you can physically see.

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  3. I think one of the greatest issues surrounding the lack of treatment for individuals with mental illnesses is the fact that most tread on in silence. For some people, it is quite apparent to those around them that they are suffering, but for others it becomes somewhat of an embarrassing topic. One that makes them feel like a burden to friends and family and thus making it harder to reach out for help or be approached with a helpful method.

    I think it is very important to identify the different types of mental illness as well, for the reality surrounding each can be very different for the sufferer. Two individuals may suffer with severe depression, but you can't treat both of them the same. There is no "cure all" for people with like-suffering. This is why there are so many issues when it comes to approaching and helping these people. What works for one, may not work for another.

    This creates an endless cycle of patients in and out of hospitals, off and on new drugs, only to keep them in the same melancholy state in which they started. And for some, hopeless and not knowing where to turn, their lives are cut short at their own hand.

    More time needs to be spent with these people in figuring out what is best for them. It seems strenuous, but it would do such good for the people standing at the edge of their own sword.

  4. I agree with you that there are several different approaches and methods dealing with people with mental illness. Each illness will have to be diagnosed and if needed, properly medicated as with other diseases. Of course there is trial and error in some cases while diagnosing, however the main point is just to be evaluated and treated. There is a cure for many mental illnesses now, we have come a long way with medications. The problem with most patients is they stop taking meds as soon as they feel slightly better. It is an uneasy topic, but a very important one.

  5. This is so true I think it is time that mental illness get the attention that many other illnesses and diseases get. There needs to be less stigma associated with mental illness and more understanding that these are real diseases and that they need to be treated under a doctors care with medication and not looked at as something to be embarrased about.

  6. There is also a big problem that seems to go unmentioned here because I'm sure the information is not readily available. You literarily cannot purchase an individual health insurance policy in Pennsylvania or New Jersey that will cover mental health at all whatsoever. You can get this kind of plan through a group policy or a government policy (Pennsylvania Adult Basic has been terminated) but not through an individual policy. Even within a group plan adding mental health coverage to your policy is very often impossible to afford.

    I found this out the hard way when Americhoice cancelled my then 5 year old daughter's health insurance without notice do to an increase in my earnings. I had a court order for her to have counseling due to possible stress from my divorce. My daughter never had behavioral problems. The counseling was strictly preventative. No medications were required & no diagnosis was every made other than that she was a happy well adjusted child but It was urgent that i have coverage for her.

    i called Aetna & explained my situation. They said no problem and sold me a policy that they claimed would cover my daughters weekly counseling sessions. They lied. 3 months into my policy i got a bill for all of my daughter's counseling because Aetna wouldn't cover it.

    I finally called around & was referred to an honest local health insurance agent who very firmly told me to stop looking. There are literally no insurance companies in PA or NJ that offer an individual mental health coverage. None. I thanked him for his honesty.

    So there is a real issue with the stigma of mental health that goes all the way to the core of our health care system locally & most likely as a nation.

  7. Daniel DickensonJune 15, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    It is true that mental health is looked at differently than physical health. I encounter this first hand in my work at an inpatient treatment center for adolescent boys. If the client has a broken arm, or diabetes, or an infection, without a doubt the insurance companies pay for treatment. It is difficult, however, to get the insurance companies to pay for mental health needs. Unfortunately, the mental health field has a negative connotation that tends to stigmatize those with mental health diagnoses. This tends to leave those who are in need of the services too ashamed to go get treatment.

  8. Charles, there are free or scale services in Philadelphia. Look into Al-assist.

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    1. ???. It will, touch you, a family member,ect..I assure you. It is the uneducated and judgemental people, mocking like yourself. Who will continue stigmatizing and pass it on. Ignorance is bliss, until it sneaks up and destroys people. It could be you. Empathy. educate yourself.

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