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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Dropout (05/12/11)

TITLE: Tourniquet around the Heart
By Sharon Eastman


Suffering from mental illness is like wearing a tourniquet around your heart. Bearing its stigma is like having social leprosy. Mental illness is a growing phenomenon in the world today. The major mental illnesses of schizophrenia and bipolar are common household words where just decades ago they were hushed. Depression occurs in the heart of America. People consume anti- depressants like vitamins in our times.

Personality disorders are also common today. Some of the headlines we read are due to the antics of borderline, schizoid and others personalities. The most common disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is characterized by rigid adherence to rules. Hoarders are often plagued with this disorder.

Mental illness has been a taboo subject since the beginning of time. It has been misunderstood, mistreated, and maligned. In biblical times King Saul was afflicted from the Lord with an evil spirit. David’s harp playing soothed Saul’s spirit. (KJV 1 Sam. 16:14-17) We might call this “depression” in modern definition. As in Jesus’ miracles, devils and evil spirits are not clearly connoted as depression or madness, but in my opinion they are closely related.

The stigma of mental illness knows no limits. From witch burning, chains, to electric shock, the treatment of the mentally afflicted has been abhorrent. Fear is the reason for stigma. People fear that this malady could happen to their selves. There is a fine line between reality and madness. And, no one can comprehend why a schizophrenic has delusions, visions, and hallucinations. Scientists have discovered some brain anomaly, but no cure has yet been discovered.

Stigma is most difficult to bear in families. Family members are usually ashamed of the afflicted. Years ago the ailing would be isolated in a back room. Now they’re placed in group homes, which only care for the patient’s vital needs. Group homes aren’t perfect, but they are a far cry from the asylums in the past. Treatment from mental hospitals is waning due to decreases in government policies.

Families are known to address and treat the issue by “pulling oneself out by the boot straps.” Where compassion should be, pressure is present. Most families are in denial about this malady.

Unfortunately some Christians and those of other faiths don’t accept the reality of mental illness. Certain unenlightened people believe that sin is the cause of insanity. Surely, sin is probably involved in many cases as in drug abuse, but major mental illnesses are usually caused by brain anomalies. God gives the love and stability we need to exist. He can help heal as we grow in love. Modern church families accept, encourage, and empathize with mental patients.
This stigma is also prominent in the work place. A gracious, intelligent senator lost his opportunity to be Vice President of the United States when his history of depression was revealed. Highly respected former U.S. Senator from Missouri, Thomas Eagleton, was pressured to drop out as George McGovern’s presidential running mate in 1972. Public outcry according to his battle with depression caused this reaction. He had been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment and twice had undergone electroshock therapy. Now, was this a factor of political stress? Or, was this a factor of psychiatric stigma? McGovern said once that he would have won the election if Eagleton had remained on the ticket. Senator Eagleton died in 2007. His legacy was compassion for the mentally afflicted.

Today’s mental patient has more opportunities to function in society than ever before. The magic of modern medication has alleviated some symptoms of mental illness. After centuries of mistreatment and mis-diagnosis, the chemical wizards developed medications that can mainstream many patients. But these are only for the symptoms, not the dire illness.

The mentally ill should be treated with respect and kindness. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind;”(KJV1 Cor. 13:4). After all, some of the world’s most famous citizens were afflicted – Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh – among many others. They achieved brilliance and greatness despite this crippling affliction.

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This article has been read 324 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jennifer Hill05/19/11
Thank you for your article. I have a dear family member dealing with bipolar. It hasn't been easy for them. Thankfully our family has surrounded them with love and support. But it is still very hard. So much is unknown and it a hard topic to tackle. I hope you will take the chance to share more in later writings.
diana kay05/20/11
amen to this :-) good choice of topic and some very very powerful descriptions. The title made me turn to this one first out of the level one entries so i cannot compare it with the others yet..... but think it is winners material.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/20/11
Alot of information poured into this piece. You are so right, mental illness has had a stigma and we need to be compassionate and willing to give grace to others who face sicknesses,etc. If someone has a physical illness we are more apt to accept someone but if it is a chemical imbalance we're not as understanding or loving. Good job in writing this!
Bonnie Bowden 05/20/11
What an apt title. The stigma of mental illness is rampant and in some churches it is still looked at as sin in the person's life. In a few cases, it is caused by sin in a person's life or by the worried well.

I am not too sure that emptying out all the mental hospitals was such a good idea, either. If an illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is not helped by medicines, the person usually ends up out in the streets or in a prison. At least in a hospital a person had food and a place to stay.

The truth is that people with a mental illness have contributed greatly to our society. Many individuals with creative careers such as musicians, artists, or writers are more likely to have some form of mental illness, especially depression.

Thank you for a well written article. Let us pray that the Church will step up with compassion to those in need--mental or physical.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/21/11
You did a great job on this difficult topic, often people will want to find someone to blame. When my aunt committed suicide my grandparents blamed each other for " passing it on" I went through a serious depression and last many friends. Some because if it could happen to me they realized it could happen to them as well. Nice job, hopefully the more people talk about it, the less embarrassing it will be.