Monday, February 25, 2013

Sad and unnecessary end to a life

I was saddened to hear the news of singer Mindy McCready's tragic death. It hit very close to home. Although it sounded as if she tried to get professional help, the stigma of mental illness and the ridicule she thought she might face were bigger and stronger than she was.

In a statement about her death, Dr. Drew Pinsky said, "Mental health issues can be life threatening and need to be treated with the same intensity and resources as any other dangerous potentially life threatening medical condition." He went on to say that treatment is effective, so long as treatment is maintained.

I agree - treatment can be effective. In my opinion, mental illness is a serious medical condition just like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are serious medical conditions. It's a medical condition that requires medical intervention.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness, fewer than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental health disorder receive treatment in a given year. That means many people are able to manage their illness. They follow their doctor's recommendation for treatment, whether it's medication, counseling, inpatient treatment or a combination of therapies.

What about the other two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental health disorder who don't seek treatment? Is it the stigma of mental illness? Like Mindy McCready, do they fear ridicule?

I'm hopeful that the more we talk about mental illness, we are able to tick away at the stigma. I hope that movies such as Silver Lining Playbook demystify mental illness and encourage people to seek professional help. I hope that celebrities and other public figures who suffer some type of mental illness are able to talk about their experience. Catherine Zeta-Jones comes to mind. She bravely shared her story about suffering from bipolar disorder. While she said she didn't want to shout it from the rooftops, she hoped "fellow sufferers will know it's completely controllable."

However, there are people who follow their doctor's recommendations, take the medications that are prescribed for them and attend counseling, yet the illness still wins. That's the ultimate tragedy. The tragedy I'm all too familiar with.

And the journey continues ...