Imagine a day…..when illnesses such as ‘Depression,’ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,’ ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,’ ‘Anorexia,’ ‘Bipolar’ etc are no longer recognized as ‘mental’ illnesses, but grouped under the more aptly named umbrella of ‘neurological illnesses.’ Imagine a day when recognition and respect is given for these illnesses to generate funding and find advanced treatments and cures. Better still, imagine a day when these illnesses are used in past tense, no longer afflicting millions worldwide.
To give a detailed description of one illness that manifests within the brain, lets look at ‘Depression.’ Countless neurological studies are providing insight when looking at a depressive brain in comparison to a healthy one. There are marked differences and some are now saying it should no longer be classed as a ‘psychiatric’ illness and it is evident the brain, may be the organ where the source of the suffering is rooted. There is also discoveries being made about genetic involvement and how that plays a part in developing this illness. Although the brain may well be the cause, the powerhouse of our bodies, it inevitably affects more than just that organ.
When we think of ‘Depression’ some may imagine someone feeling full of self pity, having a bad day or even lazy! To have this perception of a depressed individual is dangerous.
Lives are being lost!
The reality of clinical depression, at its worst, includes an excruciatingly indescribable pain, memory loss, lack of coordination, poor judgement, indecisiveness, aches, extreme free floating anxiety and a strong lethargy which can debilitate someone to being bedridden and perhaps catatonic, a stark contrast to the person they once were. No one is exempt from this illness. Those that come out of it, are much stronger than when they went in, relieved that this insidious disease relented. Just because you can’t see the pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. More often than not, depression can be episodic, a life long recurrent illness, for some, a milder continuous form known as dysthymia is endured and for others a singular reactive depression leads them to the gp’s door. Knowing you have to fight this battle no matter what severity takes strength and determination. Increasingly, the scientific evidence stacks up to substantiate that the severe disability from depression is very real. Depression kills many each year, ranking it as one of the top causes of death in the 21st century. It is usually precipitated by stress and although causes can be a culmination of factors, the real changes appear in the brain.
People who have suffered strokes, cancer and heart attacks also can have their roots based in their biology and environment. The way we all live our lives can impact our health from the very food that we eat to the relationships we have. All illnesses vary in severity, they can affect body and mind, they have various levels of disability and multiple outcomes including partial to full recovery or regrettably, a devastating loss of life. There is such striking evidence that people with depression feel pain in a multitude of ways. The aches, the pounding chest, night sweats, retching and many other physical symptoms, which unfortunately are not known to most, albeit those who suffer and their loved ones. It is only right to ensure we as humans, make it aware to both professionals and to the public that depression deserves attention that has grossly been dismissed. Their are people out there doing their utmost to raise awareness but being in a minority can be an uphill struggle when the ones who can make a difference are putting research and funding way down the list. It is minimising the disease and this needs to change.
‘Mental,’ when spoken about in society is still very much a dickensian term. Envisioning a ‘psycho,’ ‘unbalanced,’ a ‘nutter,’ These ideas encouraged by scare stories in media are wholly inaccurate. There are times when desperation and delusions cause grave consequences, but these are much rarer than we are made out to believe. There are many people who are inherently not nice, but have no history of suffering from a ‘mental’ illness. The term is flung around by people who are not qualified to diagnose and can cause much damage. Lack of awareness and discriminative behaviour has a ripple effect. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression you can literally be scared of your own shadow. The illness is lonely, placing an invisible force field between you and the rest of the world. Compounding this with fearful perceptions from outsiders is it any wonder sufferers become more withdrawn than they already are? Undiagnosed psychopaths, sociopaths and pathological liars walk amongst us every day. The problem is they are the ones frequently you last suspect!
I like to read about advancements in many medical treatments for a wide range of illnesses. What I have been really amazed in, is that although there are fantastic medical developments and new medications discovered across the board, there is also an increasingly amount of positive outcomes for ALL illnesses that are also treated with cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness as well as complimentary therapies such as yoga, meditation and exercise. The very treatments given for problems such as anxiety, ocd today are widely used for a great deal of other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and heart disease patients. They are not ‘mental’ but ironically the holistic treatments are the same!
In reality, the key to changing the perception is to invest in raising more awareness, increase funding for research, You and I need to stop others turning a blind eye to it. Its not making anyone less vulnerable by pretending its not there. The Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute is a new addition to Kings College, London, UK. The medical team are pivotal in their research discovering more every day through their brain scans and genetic studies. One of the professors there, Dr Allan Young a director of mood affective disorders is one of 250 professionals who want to invest more time and effort in progressing treatments and cures. They need to be able to run studies, they need to invest in medical advancements and without funding, a brick wall is built. If suicide is one of the highest causes of death in western society, then like cancer, it deserves to be given the same credence.
Perhaps by those of us willing to raise awareness we can collectively be the turning point for sufferers and their families. Finally, for those who have lost their lives, for those who were robbed of loved ones, in their names, may we do all we can to support advancements to combat these range of illnesses placed to the back of the line.
Imagine a day when ‘mental illness’ didn’t exist, the name was a thing of the past, and the illnesses under them were eradicated too.