I sat there in that hospital recliner listening to a man talk non-stop for 8 hours straight. Most things he spoke of made absolutely no sense at all. At times he would begin a story in the middle of a story. Other times he would be in the middle of a sentence and stop abruptly and just sit there staring into space, appearing as if he were listening to someone tell him something. At times he would respond to questions asked by no one in the room. He became quite frustrated when the female nurse aids would enter the room, often times cursing and raising his voice. He wrote furiously throughout the night on pieces of paper given to him at his request. “Here”, he said as he passed me a note he had written, “They’re out there watching us.” He was elderly, he was confused, and misunderstood. This man suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real and what is not. (2) It’s a disease you’ve probably seen in movies where the character, often times, is involved in a series of murders or deranged acts of violence. Unfortunately, this nonsense has led to a stigma by the general population of patients suffering from mental illness. These poor souls are misunderstood by most, feared by many, and made fun of by more than a few.
Mental illness is certainly no laughing matter. Because of its prevalence I’d
be willing to bet many of you've been directly or indirectly affected by mental illness at one time or another. As an ER/ICU Nurse, I can tell you I’ve definitely seen my fair share. You know what’s terrible? What’s terrible is that when someone has a physical sickness, they get sympathy and love from those in their lives. However, when someone begins to suffer from mental illness, they’re looked down on or socially exiled. It’s for this reason that most people with mental illness choose not to seek help. Let me give you guys a few statistics that I believe will blow some of your minds:
1 out of 4 people in the U.S. has some sort of mental illness (2)
Severe mental illness is classified as having schizophrenia, major depression, Bi-polar Disorder, or psychosis (2)
5.4% of the U.S. population are classified as mentally ill (2)
You have a 1 in 88 chance of being killed in a car wreck but you have 1 in 14,300,000 in being killed by a stranger with schizophrenia (2)
I could spend a whole lot of time on this topic because there's so many different mental illnesses; from anxiety to eating disorders to severe mental illnesses as I described above. What I’d like to do is just hone in on 1 particular mental illness-schizophrenia. As I sat there with Patient X, I could only imagine the solitude he experienced every day of his life. The fact that he was homeless wasn’t a surprise to me. Many of the homeless suffer from mental illness. My heart went out to him as he sat in that hospital bed talking at length about whatever random fleeting thoughts that would come up. Check out this great infographic on schizophrenia…
I certainly hope my post here will cause you to think twice before you judge someone experiencing mental illness. Fortunately there are many things that can be done to help those with psychological issues. If you or someone you know is experiencing a form of mental illness, please know that there are people there that want to help and that there is help. If you need to know where to start, click here. Are you concerned you might have a serious mental disorder? Take this quiz.
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