While the “drama” of mental instability may hold the media and public captive, the stigma of mental illness bars those who suffer from getting the help they need. Mental illness is a biological illness just like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.  No one asks for it. Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan have not asked for their illnesses, but they fight it in the public amidst misconceptions and misinformation.

While there are no truly definitive tests to make a psychiatric diagnosis, the process of making a diagnosis and choosing a course of treatment is a scientific process.    

When a person accepts their illness and the treatment available, most of the time mental illness can be controlled enough for a person to lead a fulfilled life. But just as many people have difficulty following “doctor’s orders” such as in taking care of their hypertension or diabetes, mentally ill people also struggle with accepting someone else’s advice.

There are several kinds of treatment facilities for mental health care. Most people get their regular treatment at the outpatient level—they see a therapist once a week and a psychiatrist once a month.  When a crisis occurs, more frequent visits to the psychiatrist and therapist and changes to medication may be appropriate.  When someone is in the midst of the acute phase of their illness—in a major depression, hypomanic or manic episode, suicidal or homicidal, or having hallucinations or delusions, he or she may need to be in the hospital for a few days, or at a day hospital (sometimes called a partial hospital).

Not all crises require treatment in a hospital. Many crises may be resolved with early intervention.

Medication is only part of the solution, but an essential part.

The overall process of treatment is a labor of patience and tolerance.  Mental illness is not easy to live with, and we as a community need to understand that people with mental illness are not “different” or “abnormal”. Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan are just like the rest of us—normal people with an illness.

Article about the stigma of mental illness



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