Take some time this October to educate yourself on this stigmatized issue
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
In terms of bringing awareness to and assisting those who are less fortunate, there hasn’t been a more game-changing decade than this one. Nearly 50 years after Stonewall, gay marriage is finally legal in the States. The inequalities between genders and races have been acknowledged, and less privileged voices are being heard. Not to mention, one of the single most famous people in the western world this year is Caitlyn Jenner, who came out as a transgender woman and publicly transitioned. But things are far from perfect.
As is the case with these aforementioned aspects of social progression, we’ve come incredibly far with bringing awareness to mental illnesses, and improving treatment and conditions for those who suffer from them. For most of recorded history, insanity was generally chalked up to magic or demons—even as recently as 50 years ago. However, in the past there was still such a massive misunderstanding of mental illnesses that treating them usually did more harm than good.
Stories from the past, such as those of Rosemary Kennedy, who was lobotomized at age 23 for a simple learning disability, show just how important it is to make people aware of these illnesses—to understand what those who suffer go through, and how we need to keep pushing on and progressing to a world where we can quickly turn mental illness into mental wellness. In order to promote understanding, I’ve decided to address some of the more common mental illnesses of our generation.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
Easily the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children and adolescents, ADHD is a condition that manifests itself in many different facets of one’s personality. It can generally be categorized into one of two types of ADHD; the first and more stereotypical is the hyperactive type, which causes restlessness, hyperactivity, and an overall inability to just chill out. The second, and more common, is the inattentive type, which is the space cadet version of ADHD—lots of daydreaming, forgetfulness, and lethargy. It’s usually treated with a strict regimen of waking up and going to bed at the same time, as well as focus-enhancing stimulants such as Adderall.
This ailment was originally referred to by the much less vague name “manic-depressive disorder”, and it’s exactly as advertised: someone who suffers from bipolar disorder experiences a roller coaster of emotions, going through one period of time feeling like the lowest of the low (crying, hopelessness, and, in some cases, self harm), only to turn it all around suddenly and end up in a state of extreme energy and happiness. In this state, sufferers are known to be extremely impulsive to the point of being a danger to themselves. Unfortunately, bipolar disorder is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, and like others, there is no cure. Management involves cognitive behavioural therapy with a specialist, and a strict diet of mood stabilizing medication.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
As anyone who’s been diagnosed can tell you, there’s “feeling depressed” and then there’s “having depression”, and they’re similar in name only. The major difference between the two is the ever-present quality of feeling incredibly down. This can manifest itself in seriously disabling ways, including but not limited to suicidal thoughts, an inability to feel pleasure, a stagnant sex drive, and difficulty just getting out of bed in the morning and doing what you need to do to survive. Fortunately, it can often be managed with anti-depressant medication, although sufferers may have to try multiple medications to find the correct one for them.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
As someone who suffers from mental illness (not this one, though), there are few things that piss me off more than hearing someone say something along the lines of: “Oh, you know, whenever I stack my movies on the shelf, I always put them in alphabetical order by director. I’m sooooo OCD.” Stuff like that really underestimates the impact OCD has on an actual sufferer. Not only does OCD show itself through odd habits, such as constant handwashing—to the point where sores will develop—a less spoken about symptom of OCD is intrusive thoughts. For an emotionally fragile individual with mental illness, thoughts that they don’t want to have—be they demonic, violent, or vulgar—can be disastrous for their mental state.
Mental illness, though still stigmatized and shushed in society, affects about one in five adults in North America every single year. One fifth of our peers are suffering greatly, usually either in silence or without treatment. Take time this month to learn about this, because mental illnesses are only becoming more understood as our society moves forward.