By now, most of us have already heard the line: As a society, we treat people w/ physical illnesses so differently than we treat people with “mental illnesses.” Those last two words are in quotes bc I so wish we’d move away from using them together to define a class of people so broadly and discouragingly.
We’re so quick to try put simple labels on complex issues/topics, & this is what often gets us in trouble. In an article I was passed today, condemning the way that our politicians have perpetuated the stigmas w/ their recent comments on the Parkland incident – an article written for a major publication – the author used the terms mental health & mental illness interchangeably, numerous times throughout. I’m sure the best intentions, but a clear example as to how confusion arises amongst people even closest to the topic.
Diving deeper into how we treat our mental vs our physical health complications as a society, consider what is common knowledge about the physical condition known as diabetes. It’s a disorder of blood sugar levels, based on how the pancreas is/isn’t able to produce insulin. For some, it develops over time based on a combo of genetics &/or how we treat our bodies. For others, there seems to be a genetic predisposition for developing Type 1, regardless of our lifestyles.
Although the steps in the textbooks aren’t always consistent, the disorder is traditionally explained in stages: insulin resistance, a rise in blood sugar levels (pre-diabetes), actually high blood sugar levels (diabetes), pancreatic damage, & even a failed pancreas. We see physical signs within each step, & we are given recommendations as to how to reverse the trends (e.g., specific diet & exercise, etc.), or at least slow them down.