Many people have this notion that people with mental illness are never happy. For some, this may be the case. Their illness consumes them and you can almost see the raging battle in their eyes. But for others, that same battle could be strategically hidden in the deepest parts of themselves with the largest crooked smile and the most bubbliest personality. Because of this preconceived notion, people are ignorant to the fact that several people with mental illness live great lives, with amazing people who help them move forward and see the more beautiful parts of life. Not every mental illness is characterized by suicidal thoughts and depression. Not every person battling with a mental disorder lives a miserable life. Many have families they love, jobs they enjoy, and friends that help them grow. In Show Me All Your Scars: True Stories of Living with Mental Illness, several people who have lived with mental illness tell their stories of how they've overcome their disorders, or how they are living with them today. Many who shared their stories are successful people in their careers and, although they still may be affected by their illness, manage to live healthy lives. In one narrative by a women named Ella Wilson, she tell she her truth about living with bipolar disorder. Shes brutally honest with the way she describes her manic episode and feelings of suicide during her depressive stage. Wilson describes the ugly truth of mental illness and how much of a toll it took on her life and her family's life. Eventually, she learns to live for her children, and her children become her medication and reason to live. She finds that the best way to treat her disorder is through love. At the end of her dialogue, there is information on what Ella Wilson is doing now. She is a successful writer who has won awards and despite her suicidal thoughts, is still alive and sharing her story. This is just one of many examples of people who have not only survived with mental illness, but who are living accomplished, satisfying lives. Of course, Quality of Life cannot be easily measured as Theres is not one way to define it. It can be measured or thought about objectively and subjectively. In a study conducted by a psychiatric rehabilitation center within Mental Health Services at the National University Hospital of Iceland, in the hopes of measuring their patients subjective quality of life, results showed that in ‘General Well-Being’, 59% of patients were satisified, while only 24% were dissatisfied. This attempt at quantitively measuring quality of life proves how, despite the troubles and effects of mental illness, people still find a way to be okay.
Despite this, I am not naive. After all, suicide is a leading cause of death on the United Sates, ranking number two in cause of death among individuals between ages 15 and 34 according to the CDC in 2015. For many, their mental illness does manage to consume them, to become them.
It overcomes their mind and thoughts, to the point where it affects their everyday lives, and they can no longer live normally and healthily. In a website called unitefprsoght.org, several studies were listed to describe the effects of psychological disorders on patients. According to the website, a study by Kessler in 1995 found that “individuals with a psychological disorder were significantly less likely to complete high school, enter college, or receive a college degree, compared to their peers without mental illness.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 20-25% of the U.S homeless population suffers from severe mental illness.
Although I believe that several people can live happily with mental illness, as I have seen it with my own eyes, I do acknowledge the fact that this is not the case for everyone. And that, for some, mental illness can be debilitating. It can cause people to end relationships, live in poverty, and for some, it can lead to death. Even though there is not one way to determine a good quality of life,
these factors obviously do not characterize a positive quality of life. In truth, everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, and it’s important to realize that a person is not defined by their illness, and that they still have control of how they live their life, their destiny, and their legacy.
Kennedy, Patrick J., et al. Show Me All Your Scars: True Stories of Living with Mental Illness. In Fact Books, 2016.
Svavarsdottir SJ, Lindqvist R & Juliusdattir S (2014) Mental Health Services and Quality
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“Suicide.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml.
“Unite For Sight.” Introduction to Global Mental Health: Effects of Mental Health on Individuals and Populations, www.uniteforsight.org/mental-health/module1.