For Kenya, references to her and mental illness are surrounded with negativity. This is the negative stigma that our president wants to eliminate. If we got rid of the stigma, Kenya would not accuse Phaedra of using making mental defect claims to “simply humiliate or smear an individual for revenge.”
If Phaedra had said Kenya had diabetes, heart disease or even broke her leg could there be a perception of slander? All of these disease conditions can and should be treated. The same thing goes for mental disease. Maybe, we can reduce the stigma if we think of mental health disorders as a broken brain.
A broken brain isn’t simply my idea. Dr Bailey suggests just that approach. Rahn K. Bailey, MD, FAPA is President of the National Medical Association and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College. His approach is consistent with President Obama’s in his speech.
Dr Bailey explains that when someone is making poor choices where thoughts and actions aren’t don’t align properly, it could be a sign that the brain is not working correctly. This person has an illness that – just like most others – can be treated and managed. Sometimes, family and friends are the ones to recognize that these issues are happening and force the person to get treatment. They may be in denial just like the person who keeps claiming “sugar diabetes” and eating everything they want.
We seem to understand when that brain issues are a disease if the person is more senior. However, Dr. Bailey reminds us “You don’t have to be 70, 80 or 90 for the brain not to work properly.”
Back to Kenya, or better yet back to your friend whose actions may be a little more than inappropriate. What would have stopped her from getting the help she needs in the first place?
Dr. Bailey finds 3 basic barriers to people seeking help.
- People don’t want to be sick. This is true with any kind of sickness. People ignore and deny mental disorders just as they attempt to ignore and deny diabetes or hypertension.
- Lack of motivation. Basic pain often leads people to seek treatment from a doctor. Mental illness is not typically associated with physical pain and people ignore the symptoms because they feel they can live with it where pain would be too uncomfortable.
- Stigma. Again, the stigma is real. People care about what other people think. Even those with mental health concerns might not want to write their issues down on the pre-exam record sheet. Early in his career, Dr. Bailey took on a moonlighting job at a medical clinic. He found that patients who had mental health issues would typically write physical ailments and would not share their mental health concerns until the exam room door was closed.