By Marty Loftin
Mind over matter sounds good in theory, but when the problem is in someone’s head, the matter is a lot more serious.
People with mental illnesses have enough stress in their lives and do not need their friends and family playing armchair psychiatrist trying to cure them.
Neurotypical people cannot understand what is like to be neurodivergent.
Neurotypicals fail to comprehend the difficulties of having a mental illness, which causes them to offer non-cures and impossible solutions, which can include suggesting a healthier diet, more exercise or trying certain legal or illicit drugs.
While these suggestions are usually made in good faith and with the best intentions, they are still ignorant to the nature of mental illness and can make those on the receiving end feel guilty or ashamed of their condition.
Attempts at empathy and understanding are much better than any advice from a non-professional or novice.
No one should feel humiliated by their conditions or the symptoms of their problems. Alienation and social anxiety, commonly associated with mental illnesses, are common.
In the United States 44.7 million adults were affected by a mental illness, according to data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Lots of people are in the same boat.
Many are ashamed to have a mental condition that requires medication. Without the right medicine or treatment, mental illnesses can force many neurodivergent people to suffer incessantly.
Anxiety and depression cannot be cured by sunshine and vegetables, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia cannot be fixed with meditation and vitamins, and other serious mental conditions cannot be alleviated without the right medicine prescribed by a real doctor. Some cannot be cured with currently available medicines.
Neurodivergent people are sometimes thought to be inherently violent, especially those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Truth is, people with mental conditions are more likely to be the victims rather than those inflicting harm. One in four people with mental illness experiencing some kind of violence in a given year, according to a study titled “Mentally Ill Often Targets of Violence” by Crystal Phend, published in MedPage Today.
Less than one percent of people with severe untreated mental illnesses who commit violence grab the most media attention. It does not help that that mental illness is villainized in fiction, especially in Batman, where a mentally ill hero fights a menagerie of mentally ill villains who are often locked up in stereotypical mental asylum, with gothic architecture and straight jackets, before they escape to wreak havoc again.
It is wishful to think that those who would willingly harm innocent people have a problem with their brain and are not sane. In reality, most violent people are perfectly cognitive neurotypicals and their pleas of insanity are often unsubstantiated.
Insanity is a wholly legal concept used to distinguish guilt from innocence when the defendant’s ability to determine right from wrong in relation to their crime.
Even doctors and psychiatrists with years of training have difficulty finding solutions to their patient’s mental health issues. Not all doctors are interested or able to work with their patients with mental illness to help develop the right treatment plan.
Depending on severity of condition and symptoms, many types of drugs or forms of therapy can be used for treatment, but it is not an easy process.
Whether it is anxiety, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia or another condition, not one form of treatment is a cure-all for every person with that condition.
A study published by psychologist Jeremiah Schumm and colleagues reported that 63.4 percent of veterans with PTSD preferred psychotherapy and medication and 30.1 percent preferred psychotherapy alone.
Finding the right cocktail of medicine can take months of experimentation and back-and-forth. Finding the right balance between feeling better and feeling worse is hard.
Neurodivergent people have to experiment with various mood- and mind-altering substances and then report back to their doctor the results over a period of months until they find a treatment plan that works for them.
Until they find the right combo of drugs that helps stabilize their condition, it is up to neurotypical friends and family to support their neurodivergent loved ones, especially when they display the symptoms of their mental illness and need that support the most.
Even if treatment goes well and one has found the “right” cocktail, the body and mind can change and what used to work loses its effectiveness. One must be introspective and vigilant when it comes to treating their mental illness so that yesterday’s cure does not becomes tomorrow’s disease.
Mental illnesses, like any kind of disease, happen to real people and should not be suffered in silence. Chronic mental illnesses can change over time and require a change in treatment. It takes a lot of work for a mentally ill person to keep up appearances and put up a front that suggests that everything is fine. When a person is brave enough to speak out about their condition, it is up to their loved ones to accept them and lend them their ear or a shoulder to cry on.