It’s no secret that I am an advocate for Mental Health Awareness; I’ve sort of made it my goal to promote awareness and education on the subject. Mental Health has had a pretty bad reputation since, well people first learned to speak. It’s been associated and portrayed in our society as a negative thing; television shows and movies depicting horrific asylums, crazy killer patients, and perverted psychologists (sometimes referred to crudely as “shrinks”). It also doesn’t help that a stigma has been in place for centuries. While researching the subject, I discovered that the first recorded Lunatic Asylum in Europe was the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, and it has been a part of London since 1247 when it was built as a priory. It became a hospital in 1330 and admitted its first mentally ill patients in 1407. Before the Madhouse Act of 1774, treatment of the Insane was carried out by non-licensed practitioners, who ran their Madhouses as a commercial enterprise and with little regard for the inmates. The Mad House act established the licensing required to house insane patients, with yearly inspections of the premises taking place. Back in America, the U.S. Library of Medicine states that the mentally ill in early American communities were generally cared for by family members, however, in severe cases they sometimes ended up in almshouses or jails. Because mental illness was generally thought to be caused by a moral or spiritual failing, punishment and shame were often handed down to the mentally ill and sometimes their families as well. As the population grew and certain areas became more densely settled, mental illness became one of a number of social issues for which community institutions were created in order to handle the needs of such individuals collectively.
Imagine being ostracized because you had high blood pressure, or a broken arm. You were so afraid of being criticized or laughed at, or even worse told to “just get over it.” If you had high blood pressure eventually your head would start to feel like it was going to explode before you had a severe heart attack, with a broken arm the bones wouldn’t heal properly without a splint or some other form of support and you would be in pain for the rest of your life from the severely deformed bone. Mental Illness is the same thing, it’s not a physical condition but it is still a medical condition that requires just as much attention as that broken arm. Yes the asylums were horrendous. Yes the patients can become dangerous. But don’t let American Horror Story be your point of reference for learning about the Mentally Ill. When it comes down to it, we’re all carrying around some sort of hurt. Sometimes that hurt becomes a wound that won’t heal but festers and we need help to make it better. How is that a bad thing? Why are we so conditioned to try and do it on our own when it’s nearly impossible to do so? I’m here to say that it is okay to say that you hurt, that you matter very much, and you are no different than someone with any other medical condition; you just hurt in a different way. That’s the key to getting a handle on your Mental Health: remember that you matter, that there is someone out there who does care, and you story is an important addition to this world we live in.