Monday, November 10, 2008

If you weren't sure there was a stigma attatched...

While waiting in line at Wal*Mart, I found my eyes wandering to those magazines that remind you of a car wreck. You know that they are something you shouldn't waste your time with, but at the same time, you can't help but gawk at it. Afterward, you always wonder why you looked and feel a little disgusted. There were magazines about which stars are pregnant and which are suspected to be. There were headlines advising how to have the greatest love life, how to lose the most weight, how dress and look like the stars, and the latest gossip involving people's lives who have little to no impact on the average person. I think we might all get more out of the Weekly World News or whatever fake magazine might be on the racks today. However, one caught my eye (isn't there always one that does that!) This was about Britney Spears. It supposedly chronicled her "brave battle with mental illness". Honestly, I don't care about her "brave battle". What bothered me was how this was written to catch the eye. On the same magazine, the word "cancer" appeared, but the words with the biggest font and the most prominent place on the magazine were the "mental illness" words describing Ms. Spears.

The most prominent feature is usually what the magazines rely on to sell their magazines. So the average Joe walks up, looks at this, and gawks at how mental illness destroyed this star's life. Writing about the bizarre behavior, the magazine attempts to look as if it is showing the star rising from the depths of whatever her affliction is but instead it is another gossip column selling magazines at the expense of this star and quite possibly of all people suffering from some sort of mental illness. Disgusting doesn't quite cover it in my book. Regardless of how you feel about the star, her choices in life, and how she lives her life, there is no need to make the main point of the article about the horrors of mental illness, virtually scaring anyone from coming in contact with those who have a mental illness because they might all have a breakdown and act like she did. Granted, the right people got involved in her life to help her straighten it out, but she has been branded as a fragile, mentally ill person who probably will never be able to take care of herself. Although this is sometimes the case, it is by no means the prevailing prognosis.

Those of us who have a mental "illness" are no different than those who have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a multitude of other health issues. It all goes back to the fall of mankind in Genesis 3. Unfortunately, because people don't understand and are scared of the things that cannot be tested for by a blood or urine test combined with the fact that for centuries those with a mental illness obvious enough to need drastic help were locked up, it seems as if those who have any sort of mental disorder are looked upon with a strange combination of fear and distrust. In all likelihood, in your family you have a brother, sister, mother, father, cousin, child, spouse, aunt, uncle, or grandparent who had a mental disorder. Things like depression, anxiety, OCD, and a multitude of others are more common than you think. Think you are untouched? Think again. Most people are pretty good at hiding what is going on with them. Others chalk it up to personality. At any rate, instead of looking to sell more magazines, it might be prudent just to talk about how a star got their life back together and present the mental illness as one component, not THE component.