We've been talking about stigma and whether someone should tell people they suffer from a mental illness. I've said that some people advertise their illnesses and it draws people in, while other do it and find they are shunned. Commenters have had a variety of responses, but most votes go against telling people one has a mental disorder.
Does it matter what you have? Or how much it's disabled you? Or how it's framed? I talked about the chemistry teacher on antidepressants (and yes, the demographics were changed)--- she framed it as she was having a hard time after a major loss, not that she was suffering from a major mental illness that might effect her current behavior or reliability.
So is it different for the kids? They've grown up on Cymbalta, Zoloft, and Viagra commercials. They've posted their lives on MySpace and Facebook. When I think about my kids' friends, I have to say they are all pretty open about psychiatric illnesses-- I've had kids spend the night who take psychiatric meds, I've had little peeps point out a window and say, "That's where my psychiatrist is." I've heard that Sal and Hal both see the same therapist, that Bobby's been in treatment for anger issues, that Tom, Dick, and Harry are all on ADD meds. I've had a physician tell me about his depression and his family's therapy while we watched our kids' compete (and the whole teams' parents listened on). Back in the day when big pharma distributed pens, my kids would take them to school and other kids would volunteer, Hey I take that! When I think about it, I know a lot of kids who've had a lot of treatment.
ugh...blogger won't let me add a pic...
Kids just say what's on their minds. For example: if you brought a book to a friend's house every St. Patrick's Day to read aloud, say, and this one year the child of your friend discloses that s/he dislikes the books you bring, well that is just the truth for that particular child. And s/he says it and moves on. But you are now stuck wearing the hairshirt of a bad book chooser. That's disclosure for you.
Depends on the kids. I worked as a youth minister for years and have raised my three. In general, the bipolar tending towards manic kids, and the ADD ones are upfront about what they have. Most of the depressed ones are less so. There is less stigma for kids who are "fixed" by their meds or who are naturally gregarious and confident. Most of the kids I've known who have suffered severe to suicidal depression live in fear of being found out, labelled "wack jobs." Several have told me that they never want to have a serious relationship for fear of being found out, that the person will dump them when they find out. Kids are actually more judgmental of weakness nowadays, because fewer are religious and so many have grown up in somewhat loosey goosey households. Pretending to be chill with things reflects learning what is socially acceptable in PC schools more than genuine tolerance or compassion. Kids now, as always, are generally kind to their close friends (if they have them).
Visiting a relative in a local mental hospital, I saw that the manic teens were socializing, chatting, had a different friend in to see them everyday, and were far less shy about talking about their illness.
Sorry to be longwinded, all I am saying is that whether or not a kid tells (or should tell) depends more on their preexisting social confidence, popularity and good looks. If they are hot, they can probably get away with having all kinds of "interesting" issues. If they are shy and sad, they have probably been either ignored or bullied and teased most of school. The depressed kids I have known over the years HATE school, find it excruciating being around cheerleaders and other popular kids...
So, kid fake compassion and concern, but can be cruel and cold when nobody is looking.
1) It does indeed matter what you have. Having a hard time after a major loss is normal. Getting therapy or maybe taking medication is understandable. Having a major mental illness is not normal, not understandable. Significant depression for no reason, mania, psychosis, is not understandable. People assume you will be an unproductive employee, unfit to do what you want to do in life. They are probably right, FYI, as it is true that having major mental illness limits a person in small and big ways. If I was sane, I would be much more productive. I am productive enough, I try very hard, but it bothers me I can't do as much as others.
2) Most of these kids have pseudodiagnoses (ADHD and fake bipolar) and when they grow up they will shuck them off. Or, if they don't "outgrow" it and they turn out to be legitimate mental handicaps, these children will learn to keep them secret so as to better assimilate in the work place. Telling your friends on myspace that you're bipolar is not that big of a deal. Telling your boss and coworkers is a one way ticket to unemployment for false reasons. At the very least, telling everyone at your job that you're bipolar is likely to suggest you have problems thinking (judging what is appropriate to disclose to others and when), OR problems inhibiting yourself (being unable to keep your inside voice, on the inside). Normal people don't go around saying shit like "MY GRANDMOTHER WAS SO INSANE SHE LIVED IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION". Or "I HAVE A LOT OF SUICIDE IN MY FAMILY". Or "I OFTEN HAVE EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWNS AND DEPRESSION, RIGHT NOW ACTUALLY I AM GOING THROUGH PROBLEMS WITH MY MOOD". If you freely disclose such personal and damaging information, it shows you're not right in the head... mental illness or not... normal people generally hide their flaws, work is about being productive, and that is not productive behavior. Save it for your blog or therapist.
I resent anonymous #2's post.
It's very empowering to name what I'm feeling, and to be able to inform others about what I need . I'm now doing my post-secondary education, but even in high school I would selectively disclose my illness to my friends (and certainly to some of my teachers) and they were nothing but supportive and helpful.
By telling my friends and teachers what's going on with me, they can assist me. If I don't say anything, then it's my problem.
I agree with Rach about disclosure being (sometimes) empowering. At work, sure it is bad form to tell everyone because, granted, you will be perceived as being a less-than-optimum performer and will get that "one-way ticket" to the unemployment line. However, you will also gain rights under the FMLA, ADA, and state laws if you speak to the employer and identify yourself as a person with a disability. I am not advocating this as a way to get special treatment or sympathy in the wokplace, I am advocating disclosure as a tool (stepping stone) for a future point when, God Forbid, you relapse and need your job held open while you receive treatment.
As for tweens and teens and the younger crowd, I would hope that those Facebook users who list themselves as bipolar or ADHD purge that data at the time they are looking for their first jobs or competing for college internships. The Internet is used to screen people just as much as it is used as a social networking tool. The Kids, in my opinion, don't yet grasp this.
Is Blogger against Big Pharma gifts now? *giggle*
Joking aside, wow.
Course, I've been very open in alot of ways and closed in others. You wouldn't know about the closed cause, well, closed, but one of my problems is being more open than I want to be or wish I had been before I trust someone or anyone.
And regretting it later.
That's mixed up in some of my openness; not all of it, but it's a difficult tangle.
Maybe it's just cause I've always been alone, my whole life, from as young as I can remember; this coming from the 5th of 6 kids; but I've had to look after myself, emotionally. It's not like there's been anyone else who would or could.
So that's probably why I spill almost to complete strangers because I can't help myself, and then I almost hate myself later.
Impulse control. This is why I was glad psychiatrist #2 diagnosed me with ADD, which I'd wondered for a long time if I had . . . .
But he's still a loser. Stupid black box warning reaction medication and he never followed up after my initial reaction; he was the doc; how was I supposed to sort out what I was feeling on the medication from possibly being
oh never mind, see, there I go again, dammit.
Sara (wondering how I'm going to survive the remainder of the year)
Some diagnoses do carry a stigma even with kids, but AD(H)D is definitely not one of them. Perhaps partly because they can think of themselves as more or less "cured" as long as they take meds, but also because it doesn't seem to indicate the same kind of "mental unbalance" that many other disorders indicate. You just don't think of someone with ADD as having a mental illness, you think of them as not being able to focus.
It's difficult to convince children and adolescents that they don't have to be ashamed or feel defective because they have ADHD, depression, etc. and simultaneously tell them that their peers will reject them if they disclose. Talk about a mixed message!
The key is selective disclosure as Rach said. I find that teenagers who carefully choose which friends or teachers to tell are better able to accept themselves and be more committed to participating in their treatment.
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