In random fun, on a Saturday afternoon I decided to start a Q&A session on Instagram “ask me a question.” While most questions were all in fun and a bit flirty, one question sparked my interest. “What are some common misconceptions about mental health?” My first thought was, “where do I start?” I immediately expressed my hatred toward the system, and this is why.
But first, please note, this blog is based on my studies, personal experience and professional time working in the field.
During my college years, psychology was my first and only true love. Although I had a couple flings with biology and anthropology, I somehow found my way back to psych. I became intrigued with field; the way people act and why was extremely fascinating to me. I soon started to analyze those around me, including family and friends, but never myself until recently. Mental illness was in my family, my uncle Gerald suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The onset of his illness occurred sometime during the late 70s to early 80s. Looking back, my memories of him was few and far between. He was institutionalized most of my childhood, and I never had the chance to know “the man” my family always talked about. Prior to his illness, he was a very well-established man, until the day he was shot and left for dead. My mom said that he was never the same after. He became “religiously preoccupied” seeking healing after his recovery.
As I carefully dissect the misconceptions of mental health, notice that there is a fine line between mental health and mental illness. Mental health is often overlooked and ignored. It seems as if it is not a concern until it develops into an illness. In life there are stressors, and without proper intervention things are subject to get worse. I would often wonder, what if he had gone to therapy to help him process what happened to him? But of course, we live in a society where mental health is not taken seriously, and the corporate greed of our nation is constantly putting profit over people.
My happiest moment was when I earned my Associates in Social Work, and as I walked across the stage, I knew Uncle Gerald was there cheering me on. He had faith that I would do great things, but sadly he passed a year later. My mission was to save the world around me. I wanted to help people who was just like him. I also developed a passion for at risk girls because they reminded me so much of my younger self, fatherless home, fixed income and absolutely no clue as to how to thrive in life.
But I quickly realized that everything I learned in school was not applied to people and real-life situations. What about the Code of Ethics? You know, social justice, service, integrity, competence, importance of human relationships and dignity? 1.05 Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity of the NASW code of Ethics states, “Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability.” In other words, when will these things be taken into consideration when human lives are on the line?
Uncle Gerald like many others have been misdiagnosed, misunderstood and misrepresented due to the misconceptions of our mental health care system!
So today and everyday I will keep his memory alive and continue the fight that I promised.
Rest Peacefully Uncle Gerald!