I’m in psych-mental health nursing this semester. The first day of the semester my professor told us this class was going to change us and was going to bring up “stuff”. And I thought to myself “yeah, okay sure, but I’ll be fine..” Which, yes, I’m ‘fine’ per say, but after only a month of being in this class I’m seeing how it changes my perspective and what it’s teaching me.
The first thing it taught, or rather brought to fuller understanding is that people with mental illness should not be labeled with their disease. You wouldn’t willy-nilly label other people by their disease. You say that person with cancer, or with diabetes, or with heart failure. In the same manner, you should address people who have mental illness as the person with schizophrenia, that person with bipolar disorder, that person with depression. People who suffer from mental illness are people, they are not their diseases. They live with their disease just as much as a person with diabetes lives with diabetes. But their illness is rooted in the organ we probably know the least about, so treating these diseases are hard. And their is a shortage of medical professionals who specialize ins psych because of the stigma that comes with the branch of medicine. So I beg of you, please recognize that when it comes to mental illness it’s not “the schizophrenic” or the “bipolar person” but this person lives with schizophrenia, this person lives with bipolar disorder and they are doing their best to manage their disease of an organ we know so little about.
The second thing this class has taught me is about suicide. Before I go into detail I need you to know something. Which I count on my hand the number of people I have told this to… There was a time in my life where I contemplated suicide. Thankfully, I decided to call a friend, and thankfully she was there to listen when I needed her to, but for so many people that is not the case. (mom and dad, if you’re reading this, sorry I never told you. I didn’t know how. It was a dark place and a dark time, but I promise I’m okay now. And there was only one time. I love you guys and am grateful for you).
Moving forward, for young adults (25-34) suicide is the #2 leading cause of death, second only to unintentional injury. Statistically, more people die from suicide than from homicide, yet we live in a world where people are more afraid of losing a loved one to getting shot at via homicide, terrorist attacks, or mass shootings. However, the chance of losing a loved one to suicide is substantially higher.
My professor sent a ted talk video of a police officer who patrols the Golden Gate Bridge. In his video he talks about a man who climbed back over the rail and decided to give life a second chance. The officer asked the man what made him decide to climb back over. The man said “you listened”. (Here’s the LINK)
The third thing I’m learning is the importance of a listening ear. There’s a stigma with mental health, mental illness, mental disease that causes people to not talk about what’s going on. People who suffer, specifically from depression, feel like a burden and they don’t want to bother someone with their problems (or at least that was my experience). They feel like they don’t matter to anyone, that no one will miss them when they’re gone. They have these oppressive thoughts and feelings that they don’t want to share with anyone because they don’t think they matter. We live in a world where everyone has a mindset of each man for himself and “I’m the only one that matters”. We live in an iworld.
We need to make a change. We need to become a weworld where we fight together, where we ask people if they’re okay, where we make known to each other that we care. We need a world where we see each person as a person, not a burden, not a disease process. In a short month, I’ve already learned so much, which some of it is probably only learned through experience through interacting with patients suffering from these diseases and seeing them as the people they are, but I at least want to try to share what I’ve experienced. I want to help break the stigma of mental health. I want to be a listening ear for people who are broken. I want to see a world where there is more compassion, more love, more selflessness.