I’m still blown away by the Public Service Announcement about mental illness, http://www.bringchange2mind.org, but I’ve been thinking more extensively about why is now the right time to bring this message to consciousness? The truth is that we’ve been pushing mental illness to the background because it’s misunderstood. Even in this day and age people don’t know what bipolar disorder is until you say it’s what used to be called manic-depression. The common belief about schizophrenia is that it’s multiple personality disorder, not sure how that happened. Is this the right time for that public service announcement because we’ve made advances in treatment or public opinion?
Look at physical illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease, until Michael J. Fox announced his diagnosis people didn’t talk about the disease. Organizations that emerged to support Parkinson’s patients gained increased credibility when the Michael J. Fox foundation put money into research, advocacy, and support. Was it Michael J. Fox’s job to bring the disease to the general population’s consciousness? It certainly brought people out of hiding because they now had a visible community for support.
I’ve noticed that in the past two years, during the warm weather, there has been a dramatic increase in Walk-A-Thons for various illnesses. In most cases, it brings out those impacted by the disease both directly and indirectly. Organizations create public relations campaigns to educate the public in hopes of receiving donations. These walk-a-thons are very public announcements about illness. Those who walk self-identify to the world their personal health challenge. As I look back at the notifications I get, I don’t recall ever seeing one for a mental illness organization; they’ve all be physical illness organizations. This get’s back to the question, “When is the time right?”
Are we becoming a more tolerant or accepting people? Are we at the point where most of us have come in contact with someone who is facing a physical illness or mental illness? Does that personal experience make us more compassionate? Are we willing to create conversations about the challenges we or our loved ones are facing? If you have any thoughts on this please share them so we can expand the conversations!