Is It All In Your Head? An informational piece about mental illnesses

Madeline lives in America, the land of the free. Or so she thought.

Madeline’s disease, has kept her inside her house, breathing filtered air and preventing her from experiencing the real world. This was her life for 18 years. She knew there was no cure. She could never leave her house. She could never live a real life. She was sick. She would always be sick. Little did she know it was all made up and her mom was controlling her whole life. Controlling how she lives, where she goes, what she eats, and even the air she breathes. Her mother suffers from something called Munchausen by Proxy. This is a mental illness in which a caretaker makes their child believe as well as many others that they suffer from symptoms and diseases that they actually don't have. Sometimes those deeply affected by the illness may even slip something harmful in their food or give them medicine in order to cause a reaction, making this lie more believable.

The book, Everything Everything by, Nicola Yoon provides an example of this disease. Madeline believes she has severe immunodeficiency disease, but the only one in the house with a disease is her mother. She keeps Madeline trapped inside her house where the air is filtered completely every 4 hours, and there is someone beside her all the time. Madeline’s mother keeps her trapped inside and “protected” from everything that might occur in the real world. She is controlling basically all of Madeline's life.

Through my research, I have learned that little is understood about this disease. Around the US there are very few known cases and not much information about this disease in general. Often, the caretaker has enough knowledge of medical issues to hide the problem from others. According to Medpage today, in Mayo Clinic only 6 cases of Munchausen by Proxy have turned up and most have had victims in the late teens and 20s. It becomes difficult to detect when children are the victim with their own parent claiming the symptoms of an illness exist.

Parents sometimes use drugs to make their kids sick.

While Munchausen's is a rare disease, mental health diseases in general are very common. According to the Huffington Post, 1 in 5 adults in America suffer from mental health disorders. This could mean that if you are in a group with 4 other friends, chances are one of you has a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders can significantly affect a person’s life. Victims are often discriminated against just because they behave and think differently. Many people living with mental illness are part of everyday life and hide the disease at work because of the stigma society has about mental health issues. “Approximately $193 billion dollars in earnings is lost each year due to serious mental health issues.” (The Huffington Post). As a result, companies and the economy suffer along with the individual victims.

Mental health diseases are very hard to diagnose since there are so many different types and there is no blood test or x ray to easily identify it. Many people even go through their whole life without knowing they have it. Severe cases may be easily recognised, however, minor to moderate cases can be so easily overlooked. In general, people tend to ignore symptoms and deny problem associated with mental illness. There are numerous types of mental illnesses with varying degrees of severity. This makes is more difficult to pinpoint a specific problem. According to Mental Health America, there are more than 200 classified types of mental illnesses. The variety and severity of mental illness combined with the stigma around the disease makes it hard to identify and treating these diseases.

People suffering from Mental Illnesses often feel alone.

There may not be a full cure to all of these diseases, but there are living things that might be able to help. “More than half of people with serious psychiatric conditions say they feel isolated, struggling with an impaired ability to make friends, a lack of opportunities to socialize, and a stigma against mental illness.”(The Huffington Post). If a person had a physical illness such as Diabetes they would take medications and and be able to manage their disease. Treatment options are limited when dealing with mental illness. Some medications have proven to be an option. Life modifications have also have proven to be helpful. Studies have shown that these people have had a better quality of life when accompanied with pets. When people are feeling lonely and sad, pets will stay by their side and make them feel better.

Pets accompany people with mental illness.

Those suffering from mental illnesses can be all around us, yet so hard to recognise them. Biochemical changes in the brain and mild changes in behavior due to this disorder makes it hard to see if someone is suffering from mental disease and moreover it often it is hard for the victim to recognise it for themselves. Many people believe these diseases are not real and everything is all in their head. While researching and reading about mental health, I realized how their emotions were altered, affecting the way they act and conduct their lives. Exposure to people with a mental illness as well as education of treatment and supportive plans at younger ages would make it less uncomfortable for people to talk about and it makes people more aware about situations with these people. We can all take an active role in identifying, treating and supporting the many affected or at risk.

Gever, John. APA: Munchausen by Proxy Victims Not All Kids, MedPage Today, May 15, 2011 Web January 7, 2017

Holmes, Lindsay. Let’s Call Mental Health Stigma What It Really Is: Discrimination, Huffington Post, September 27, 2016 Web December 9

Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope, Mental Health America, Web January 7, 2017

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