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West 47th Street

Premiere Date: August 19, 2003

   

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Mental illness touches millions of lives, but each story is different. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggles with some form of mental illness in any given year. Research shows that getting to know someone with a mental illness helps fight the stigma and misunderstanding that surround these disorders. Learn more about what it's like to deal with a mental illness from these personal stories submitted by viewers. Or share your own! You can browse stories by clicking on the menu below or you can view a fact sheet and learn more about specific topics by clicking on a topic below.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder More info

September 30, 2003

After working in the "System" as a Forensic Psychiatric Social Worker, I feel that I have touched these people's lives in a way that I never dreamed possible. Only those who work with these very special people can truly understand their needs. There needs to be more education on the elementary thru high school level for all children in the country to give them a greater sense of responsibility for the mentally ill.

  —Judith (CSW)
  New York


• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Substance Abuse



August 22, 2003

I see people everyday with all types of mental illnesses- from chronic schizophrenia to bi-polar, major depression to borderline personality disorder. But like I said, I see people- each with their individual strengths, abilities and personalities. I work at a Fountain House Model clubhouse- Bridge House in Bridgeport Connecticut. I get angry when I see the stigma my members have to deal with daily. The way people assume they're ignorant or dangerous. The way the government cuts the most needy first. I wish more people understood that having a mental illness is like having diabetes. They didn't ask for it or get it by being bad people. It's a disease that with the right treatment and/or medicine, most people can live a "normal" productive life. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

  —LG
  Connecticut



August 21, 2003

I have been living with mental illness all my life and it is not just mine that I have to live with , it has been with my father's and my grandmother's and so on and so on..... back as far as family memory goes there has been some one killed themselves until my father's generation and that is only because he has not succeeded in doing the job. I and my younger sister are trying to break the chain that holds us to the rest of family in this illness. We both take our meds and we see doctors when we need it. But the most important thing that has helped us to work on the over coming of the illness is the believe in the Lord and His saving love for us. We are not an island but part of something bigger and we need to work togather to overcome whatever comes our way. I have spent some time with a group in a small town as one of the clients in the mental health section of the government programs and I was the youngest one there, just at the end of my teens, and the next person closest to my age was at least



August 20, 2003

For many of us with psychiatric histories, the concept of "mental illness" just doesn't fit our experience. "Illness" implies a pathogen, which is not the case for people who experience extreme mental or emotional states. The literature shows that the overwhelming majority of people who end up in the mental health system are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse; again, that is not an "illness." And those of us with psychiatric histories can be subjected against our will to things like electroshock, powerful mind-altering drugs with devastating side-effects, physical restraint, and a host of other so-called "treatments." This issue is not about "illness," it's about how society deals with people who are different, living on the margins, or experiencing difficulties in living. We don't have "diseases," therefore the diagnoses you list here are not relevant to the real problem, which is a human rights problem.

  —Darby
  New York



August 19, 2003

Each time I encounter the metaphor, "mental illness," I wonder how many people who employ it would also employ "physical illness" in the same manner: "People with physical illness", and I know the answer: None. The public prejudice of the "singular" illness is one of the worst of the sources of prejudices we face. I am also bothered by the prejudice of "the." I believed we had learned from WWII the heinous results of categorizing people by a "the," but we have not. The first of the "the's" to be medically murdered were "the" mentally ill, in a gas chamber invented by doctors, Brandenburg 1939. There is no "the" mentally ill, it IS a Nazi metaphor, and it survives. Why? There is no "the" homeless, it is the same metaphor. Why must we endure it.

  —Harold A. Maio
  Florida



August 19, 2003

Born: 1962 Treated for ADD: 1969 - 1974 Drug abuse while away at school (cannabis, hallucinogens): 1979 - 1980 Hospitalizations, as per schizophrenia and bipolar: served 4 1-month terms, 1980 - 1983, community hospital psych wards. Graduated college, BSEE: 1988 Civil Servant: 1988 - 2003; minor nervous collapse; panic disorder: 1992 Currently: DSM IV 295.70; schizoaffective/bipolar type; under meds management, office visits. Live alone in owned 4-bedroom colonial on 0.21 acre. I think it was my parents that made me follow the rules and stick with the program, so they get most of the credit. I have a job with strict quotas, only I like to take my time and follow a ritual (e.g., OCD). My EEO prospects are dim, from reading the handout. But then, year after year after fiscal, never-take-a-risk-al year, I somehow pull in what I need. I am 41, earn 6 figures, and will die with many toys. I suppose I'm stronger than I think, living alone in that big old house on the cul-de-sac. Like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, I would think that repeated humility, mixed, too, with sad disillusionment, has given me this strange prize.



August 18, 2003

My kids are brilliant (near genius actually), caring, compassionate, busy, active, funny kids in spite of their daily struggles. ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression: ask my kids and they understand, they know - and so do their friends. When our son talked of suicide at age 7 I knew we needed help. Medication and support therapy for anxiety, ADD and bipolar disorder has helped him lead a near normal life. But he's going to need it for life. His brother is ADHD (wow!); dad struggles with ADD, anxiety and depression; I have battled depression since childhood. Looking back, the problems we face go back for generations, though no one dared admit it back then let alone get help. Fortunately, I sought help for us all, and with medication ($250 a month WITH insurance!) and support we're doing great. I work daily on educating and trying to erase stigmas so my kids have a chance. We are blessed with good insurance and can get the help we need. We're lucky. Unfortunately, there are millions out there who can't afford the help or don't realize they don't have to suffer. I hear horror stories of moms denying themselves medication so their kids can have SOME (not all they need) of their own. (Imagine having to fight your own mental illness battles without medication and keep it together enough to help your kids!) We need a system to help these people. It'll be cheaper in the long run -- and we'll have a happier, less stressed, healthier, and more productive population. Keep up the good PR ... it's tough for those with mental illnesses, but there's immense help available. We need to make it accessible for ALL. Reducing stigmas, educating the masses and providing medical support are the keys.

  —Anonymous
  Michigan

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 13, 2003

I have been bipolar since age 17 or so and have taken most of my life to get to a stable regimen. I am in my third marriage and have three children. My 15- and 12-year-olds do not know of my illness, but my 20-year-old daughter does. They just think I'm psycho now and then. I am in the middle of changing medicines right know, hoping and praying I don't have an episode while I change. My boss does not know and when I've had problems, I basically am just "sick." It is very difficult to be secretive and see a counselor and psych practitioner to get medications without anyone knowing. The cost of everything is astronomical and (except for meds) is not covered under my insurance. The fact that I have a supportive family and very few friends that know about it is very difficult. To explain to someone the pain and loneliness associated with the whole deal is difficult. When loved ones say they are there to help but can't, it's difficult as well. Even with stability when medicated, you never feel quite "normal."

  —Michael
  Oklahoma

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder



August 7, 2003

Though many make a habit of blaming the media for various problems, I make a point of not doing so. When I hear people complain about the coverage of a subject, I usually suggest that they try reading beyond the front page of their newspaper. I think that mental illness is an exception, though, because there really doesn't seem to be much coverage that doesn't exemplify the problems discussed on the show. My work sometimes brings me into contact with people who are mentally ill, and I have to admit that it took a lot of experience and some self-examination for me to become aware of the stereotyping that is done.

  —Anonymous

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder



August 7, 2003

I was molested by a family member starting when I was very small until I reached puberty. As a result of that and of the social climate where that was allowed to happen, I struggle with depression, suicidal feelings, and a sometimes irresistible desire to hurt myself. Over the years, I have heard a mental health professional say that sexual abuse isn't damaging to the child. I've been told by a psychiatrist that "there was no excuse" for me to still be experiencing difficulties and in therapy. Too many times, staff in psych wards are verbally abusive and blaming. I'm not telling you this because I want pity. I'm saying these things because I hope you can make people feel on an emotional level and in their gut, what it's like to live like this.







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