Some Still See It As 'Character Flaw' Or 'Moral Failing.' What We Don't Get About Mental Illness.

Dec 28, 2018

The song says "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  But for some, the holiday cannot come and go soon enough because with them come the holiday blues - that feeling of anxiety and depression that can surge at the holidays. But what about more persistent mental illness? How do we as a society handle that?

The short answer is: not very well. Despite more education and awareness, misconceptions persist about mental health and mental illness.

One of the biggest myths is that it is not very common. But in fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Austin, one in five people is impacted by a mental health condition.

"If you think about that number, if it's one in five, " says Karen Ranus, Executive Director of NAMI-Austin," that means honestly, every single one of us knows, loves, cares about someone who's living with a mental health issue."

Another common myth is that mental illness only impacts adults. Not true at all. That one in five number is across all ages.

Judy Maggio is Editorial Director at KLRU's "Decibel" news magazine. When doing research for an upcoming episode, she said it was a surprise to her "that it's the same for children, and talk about a group of people who really need input and treatment early so it doesn't become something worse."

Ranus also believes people have difficulty understanding mental illness as a health issue because she says "there's still a part of us that still sees it as some character flaw or some kind of moral failing of some kind, a personality flaw." And that can cause people to approach it differently.

"When my daughter was diagnosed with her mental health issue and ended up in a psychiatric hospital, I didn't post about it on Facebook," says Ranus. "But I know 17 months before when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor I did."

Listen to Ranus' and Maggio's discussion with KUT to hear about ways to get people talking about mental health and mental illness and to hear about sevices in Travis County such as the Judge Guy Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis Care.

Integral Care provides services for people in Travis County living with mental illness, substance abuse disorder,or intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their 24/7 phone line is 512-472-HELP (4357).

KLRU's "Decibel" special "Mental Health: Ending the Stigma" airs Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 29 at 6:00 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 6:00 p.m.