Post No.: 0101
Despite mental health being related to one of the, if not the, most complex enclosed machines we currently know of (i.e. the brain) and therefore mental health problems being far more common than many people may think (for more things can go wrong with more complex things compared to simple things) – awareness and acceptance of the prevalence and burden of mental health disorders and suffering is relatively low across the world as a whole.
Mental health problems are most likely being vastly under-reported too, for many people all over the world are suffering in silence. Many people can’t or don’t recognise a mental health disorder even if it’s right in front of them because they erroneously attribute all emotions and behaviours to strictly free choice, immutable personalities or people just being ‘weird’ or ‘crazy’. Either most people fail to pay enough attention, overestimate their own abilities to read other people or judge people’s characters accurately, sufferers are indeed hiding it well, or whatever the reasons – lots of people jump to the wrong conclusions about people who behave abnormally or who have changed for the worse from how they used to be.
With external physical problems, such problems are visually obvious to oneself and to others – but with mental problems (or internal physical problems of the brain organ), a problem isn’t typically visually obvious by merely superficially looking at a person’s face or body. Plus many people naïvely think that because a problem is of the mind then it’s ‘purely a choice of the bearer to have the problem or not’, when in fact it’s as much a choice as external physical problems or other internal physiological problems that don’t primarily involve the brain. Mental health disorders are not externally obvious like external physical problems but they are essentially physical problems too – internal ones, involving arguably the most complicated organ and enclosed machine in the universe confirmed to humans so far. They’re also not a choice – just because they involve the brain and mind, it doesn’t mean everything to do with the brain and mind (or even arguably philosophically anything) is strictly a pure, unadulterated choice.
Pain, fear and really any other emotion, feeling, thought, belief or memory is psychological but they come with a ton of physiological causes and symptoms hence making psychological problems no less real than overt physical problems – arguably even more so for the bearer because everyone’s versions of realities exist inside their own heads, and no one has an objective version of reality inside their own head. Well for any person, fully healthy or otherwise, how something feels is all that ultimately matters (e.g. feeling that we have free will is more important than any evidence that we don’t, feeling that we’ve nabbed a good bargain is more important than whether we actually did, people can possess a lot of material wealth yet still not feel rich enough, no human feels aerially-disabled even though humans aren’t biologically born with wings to fly with, euthanasia and feeling pain-free is more important than living in acute and chronic pain for many people suffering with terminal illnesses).
There exist some people in the world who even show little compassion for the externally physically disabled, but most people understand that if someone isn’t walking anymore then they’ll wonder what’s wrong and will be concerned, yet many people don’t seem to similarly understand that if someone isn’t the same mentally anymore, to wonder what’s wrong and be concerned about them – they often instead marginalise and ostracise them, for labelling them as e.g. lazy, fussy or moody. They won’t likely automatically blame an externally physically injured person for their own injury, yet they’ll automatically blame a mentally ill person for their own thoughts and behaviours and so won’t offer similar compassion to them. They understand problems with the heart, lungs, liver and other internal organs and external body parts, yet strangely don’t understand that a myriad of problems can occur with the brain too – the most complex organ of anyone’s body. This marginalisation, ostracisation, fear and blame may be unwitting, but it contributes to exacerbate rather than help a furry sufferer’s situation and recovery.
So-called ‘invisible conditions’. like many mental health conditions or even traditional physical health conditions like lupus or genuine food allergies or intolerances, are often naïvely met with comments like, “Well you don’t look ill”(!) If you haven’t heard of a particular condition yourself then it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and it’d only speak of your own lack of education (e.g. if one said, “I’ve never heard of dragon fruits before” – would that mean that dragon fruits are just made up or would it mean that one personally lacks knowledge?) Even if the entire pool of human knowledge so far currently doesn’t understand something or can’t get a consensus on something, it won’t necessarily mean this ‘something’ doesn’t exist (e.g. myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome was once considered ‘imaginary’). It’s like we do not currently know or cannot get a consensus on what ‘dark matter’ or ‘dark energy’ are but astrophysicists pretty much know ‘something’ must explain what we’re observing when we look at the structure and movement of galaxies or the evolution and expansion of the entire universe.
Some children in school receive ‘perks’ such as extra time in exams or special meal treatments because of their conditions – but no, they’re not lucky and you wouldn’t want the same conditions as them just to receive the same allowances or special treatments as them too(!) They’re not being lazy or fussy. And for many conditions, sometimes the symptoms come and go from one moment to the next so being okay yesterday doesn’t necessarily mean being okay today or vice-versa.
Many mental health disorders are more debilitating than many (overtly) physical health disorders, and they’re harder to fix too. An analogy could be car engines with old mechanical carburettors versus car engines with modern ECU software controls – problems with the former were generally easier to diagnose and solve than with the latter by most mechanics without specialist equipment, because problems concerning the former were more visually transparent, accessible and mechanically-intuitive compared to the complex and opaque latter.
So the brain is the most complex organ in the body, and the mind is the result or output of this physical organ – a lot of different subtle or serious problems can go wrong with such a complex organ, and evidently frequently do amongst the population. It should therefore be no surprise that so many things can go awry with an organ so complex, and it should be no surprise that mental health problems are so prevalent.
And so stating that someone has a mental disorder hardly narrows it down too – there are so many different ones and different severities. It’s like saying that someone has a physical disability, but a partially deaf person is very different to a paraplegic person. Or it’s like there are many different types of computer software-related problems, not just one homogenous problem that requires a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Thus one should not generalise or homogenise mental health sufferers as dangerous, useless or any other stereotype – some disorders can even enhance certain abilities (e.g. high-functioning autism and a tremendous focus on mastering one subject), and most sufferers are very empathic too for they know what deep suffering is.
Education and awareness regarding mental health is gradually improving though in many parts of the world, and the marginalisation and ostracisation of sufferers is slowly being replaced with understanding and compassion. Now we’ve got to keep up this momentum, especially in parts of the world where mental health education is still lagging behind. Furrywisepuppy believes we’re going to get there one day!