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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.

Borderline Personality 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 25, 2003

I helped my brother during a particularly difficult period of his life, his 3rd divorce. During that time my family and I discovered that Bill had hidden his mental illness from us for over 40 years. I served as his legal agent, co-ordinating various aspects of the divorce. For that effort I was "blackballed" by the nanny agency that I have been affiliated with for over 20 years. My mother has spent over $350,000 on the care of her eldest son and our entire family is now precariously brinked on waiting to see if Bill will stay, as he is now, stabilized and happy. The hidden mental illness has impacted an entire family. I am glad to have been able to help him and am hopeful that he will remain in a stable situation. He is my brother. I want him to be happy.

  —Mary
  California

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Borderline Personality Disorder



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 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 18, 2003

I have had multiple diagnoses over the years, the most current being Schizoaffective Disorder. It's been a struggle and I have been hospitalized for suicide attempts. I have overcome childhood abuse and alcoholism. I don't ever remember not being clinically depressed, even as a child. There were times when my anxiety was so high I couldn't leave the house. Then, in my late teens and especially in the late 20's, the paranoid and delusional thoughts began. My life in "reality" began about five years ago with the concept of recovery. Today, I hold a job as an executive secretary, am married, and have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. I will always take medications and have a counselor available when things get too overwhelming. I have a great support system. Recovery is possible if all of these factors are in place, but it also takes being willing to look at myself and be honest with myself at all times. I have to be responsible and do simple daily living tasks, even when I don't feel like it.

  —Anonymous
  Ohio

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Borderline Personality Disorder
• Schizophrenia



August 18, 2003

I was diagnosed four years ago with clinical depression, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. It has been an uphill battle with meds, in-patient stays in the hospital, (10) suicidal ideations and other self-harming behaviors. What impacted me the most is how people treat me. I am very open as I feel I have nothing to hide. I have been the target of a lot of discrimination...from work to friends to church. I have been grieving these losses. I have met some wonderful people both in the hospital, through NAMI, and my outpatient care. I am doing pretty well although I am plagued by dark thoughts of self harm and suicide. I am taking my skills from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and applying them with all the zeal I can muster. I am on a campaign to stay out of the hospital. One last thought... I am very fortunate to live where mental health care is not only accessible but excellent.

  —Lisa
  Connecticut

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Borderline Personality 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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