May is Mental Health Awareness Month.....Part Two


#2 - Myth of Mental Illness


By Terry Bailey


There is a myth that some people, actually most people believe about mental illness. It is the myth that to suffer from mental illness you must be of weak mental fiber. That you must be poor. That you have to live in the lower rungs of society. Because, after all, those who are successful or pretty or wealthy are above suffering from mental illness.


After all, there was Perry Smith and Richard Hickok who murdered Herb Clutter and his family in Cold Blood for less than 20 dollars.


Then there was Jeffery Dahmer – serial killer, Ed Gein – the real life star of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Charles Whitman – the sniper on the University of Texas tower, and the Zodiac killer and on and on.


But, consider a few of these folks who appeared to have it all, including undisclosed mental illness


Catherine Zeta Jones, one of the most beautiful and successful movie stars of our time went public about her struggle with her diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. She said, “There is no need to suffer silently. There is no shame in seeking help.”


Actress Kirsten Dunst said, “I know what it is like to lose yourself, to no longer know the difference between right and wrong” as she told about her struggle with depression in 2011.


Drew Barrymore, everyone’s sweetheart from the time she starred in ET and many successful movies since, was hospitalized twice as a teenager for substance addiction and once for attempted suicide.


Another well-known actor, Owen Wilson, slashed his wrists at his home in an attempted suicide in which he almost did not survive in 2007. He was depressed from a breakup with his girlfriend Kate Hudson months earlier.


Angelina Jolie sank into a deep depression after the death of her mom in 2007. She said, “I felt I was going into a dark place. Each morning I wasn’t capable of getting up and moving. I did the only thing I could do. I got help.”


J.K. Rowling battled depression for years. Finally when she wrote the first Harry Potter book, the darkness disappeared.


Mel Gibson, a tremendously successful actor and director, today speaks openly about his struggle with bi-polar disorder. “I have weathered some very low, lows in my life,” commented Gibson.


Eminem, successful rap artist, tried to commit suicide on more than once instance in the 1990s.


Carrie Fischer, our beloved Princess Leia, battled bipolar disorder throughout her entire life. She wrote and spoke about her struggles very publicly. Very early she saw the value in telling her story.


Virtually every biographer of Abraham Lincoln agrees that not only did he have to fight the Confederacy, he battled severe depression every day of his life. They all agree that he was the most depressed president of all time.


And finally, what seems to be one of the most tragic episodes of mental illness is Robin Williams. While making millions of us laugh with his quick wit and zany antics, he was battling the darkness of depression alone. Finally, in 2004 he lost the battle when he hanged himself at his home.


There is no doubt that mental illness is a very real part of our society. It was present in Biblical times and it is present in the twenty-first century. It affects the young and old. It affects men and women. It affects the rich and the poor. It affects all ethnic groups. And it has very real consequences when it goes untreated.


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