The Other Side of Wellness

When people hear the phrase "health and wellness," they usually think of physical health. However, wellness has a mental component that should not be ignored. Society in general seems to have more sympathy for those with heart disease, kidney failure or cancer than OCD and schizophrenia, but they are all diseases. The heart and the kidney are organs, and so is the brain. Whether the brain has a tumor or a chemical imbalance that causes panic attacks should not make a difference in how a person with cancer is treated and how a person with anxiety disorder is treated. Some people think mental illness is not fatal, so it's not a big deal. I beg to differ. For example, depression can lead to suicide, and it is also a killer of the soul. I learned this firsthand when I tried to take my own life in 2002.

Mental illness has been stigmatized long enough. There's nothing funny about a man talking to himself on a street corner because he believes someone is actually standing in front of him. There's no entertainment value in someone wearing a strait jacket in a haunted house. I am not amused by snarky comments such as, "Wow, she's in a bad mood. She needs some Prozac." The National Alliance for Mental Illness, or NAMI, understands this, and they have been fighting to destigmatize mental illness since 1979. That's why I participate in NAMIWalks every year. The Jackson Free Press has a team this year for the Nov. 6 event, and I would like for you to join us. To find out how, go to nami.org/namiwalks10/MIS/jfp2010. You can walk, donate or both. As NAMI would say, help us stomp out the stigma of mental illness once and for all.


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