Stigmatization of Mental Illness- NAMI Oklahoma

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An individual’s everyday functioning and how they react to others are largely dictated by their mental condition, and so mental disorders compel individuals to experience erratic thinking, abnormal emotions, moodiness, and psychological instability. The mundane burdens of life as a regular functioning become difficult for those suffering from mental disorders (Corrigan et al. 965). Of the various psychiatric disorders that affect individuals, the most serious and common are bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, panic disorder, major depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The prevalence of mental illness cuts across all populations, regardless of age, gender, professionalism, class, or any other social diversity element like race, culture, and religion. Even though mental illness could present with terminal symptoms, most of which lead to inevitable mortality, the conditions are treatable if well managed clinically. Founded in the year 1985 by a group of family members who were suffering from mental conditions, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an Oklahoma based organization (Nasreen 1). The organization is a nonpartisan and nonprofit entity, reaching out to a wider community to offer education, guidance and counseling, research, encouragement, and advocacy to people affected with or at risk of conducting mental illnesses. NAMI provides free education under the direction of qualified and certified teachers. To enlighten the predisposed and the concerned families about the causes of mental illnesses, the presenting signs and symptoms as well as the treatment and management approach.

Much has been said about the people suffering from stigma in the state of Oklahoma, and currently, the situation of mental illnesses remains controversial, as to whether the statistics are getting better or worse. The situation is getting better in an overall analysis. Nevertheless, there remains a myriad of challenges that need to be solved for the situation to get significantly better in Oklahoma (Nasreen 3). People suffering from stigma go through many problems and face a lot of social challenges, one of the primary reasons being that they do not have an autonomous capacity to take control of whatever they go through. Most challenges that present as the aftermath of the established diagnosis are due to anxiety and fear of the unknown. Indeed, most patients do not know how the loved ones and the society as a whole could react to their mental illness ailments, which leads to a mix of fear and confusion, even to the capacity of worsening the prognosis of the condition (Fernando 25). Relatively, the individuals suffering from muscle dystrophy in the state of Oklahoma are lesser in number than those affected with schizophrenia. Nevertheless, as opposed to the patients of schizophrenia, who in most cases encounter secondary challenges of stigma, those who suffer from muscle dystrophy are rather sympathized for but not stigmatized (Corrigan et al. 968). Indeed, anybody is vulnerable to contracting mental illnesses in the society, and even though treatment, as well as management, has been evolving to curb the maladies, the predisposing factors remain to be controversial, and hence the need for more research and improved health care to ensure the reduced incidence levels, morbidity, and the mortality rates.

NAMI has specific objectives which have been strategically put in place to meet both the short and long-term goals of the organization in the Oklahoma society, in particular for the families with mentally ill members in their midst. Furthermore, the motivational course and encouragement behind the whole agenda make all stakeholders remain focused in the group. The biggest motivation and objective in itself is mental education. Information is the core of any medical problem. The pieces of advice, guidance, and counseling, as well as creating awareness among the affected parties encourages them to face the challenge with robust enthusiasm. The approach and the management of mentally ill patients changes from the word went following the advance and informed know how, as opposed to ignorance and traditional methods that add up the stigma to harmful levels for those affected by mental illness (Olstead 124). Breaking the barrier of ignorance and lack of information is a major challenge that needs to be solved in a competent, informed, and rational manner.

There are multifaceted approaches to give an insight into where the stigma and motivation both come from regarding the persons with mental illnesses. One of the central sources of stereotype and stigma for the mentally ill persons is the media. The photos used, the videos played, the movies presented and the cartoons calligraphed all speak volumes about the mentally ill persons in the communities in Oklahoma, and even across the world. The perception of citizens suffering from mental illnesses or even some of their family members is triggered negatively on social media networks and even on televisions and radio platforms, following the teasing and exposure to information has no courtesy for the mentally ill. On the other hand, because the world has become globalized following the twenty-first-century cutting edge technology, social media is the core platform that can connect wider audience across the world about the need to lifting the esteem and hence encouraging the mentally ill patients. Indeed, the media is one platform that set the pace in positive or negative consequences when it comes to mental illness perceptions.

The prevalence of the mental illnesses subtypes differs in Oklahoma, with the data available subject to controversial opinions considering the many factors that entail the same. First is that the most common disease of the mind occurs in rural areas. Nevertheless, it should be understood that lack of information and fear of shame and stigmatization is very high (approximately 40 percent) in the countryside. This makes the family members of the people affected with mental illnesses to shy away from espousing for their real matter and hence situation on the ground, leading to the lack of realistic data about the incidence and the prevalence of mental illnesses. Indeed, the difficulty encountered in treatment and management of the mentally ill patients in Oklahoma is lesser than that felt by the hiding cases and the lack of courage to come out and declare the truth about the prevalence of the conditions.

NAMI is a very indispensable organization in the society of Oklahoma because of the primary roles played by the members. For instance, a story is told of two parents who had a son named Andy aged 13 years then, and the parents Brad and Gia. Andy initially presented with mental illness without the knowledge of his parents when he began posting poor grades at school, and the situation would only worsen when some day he was found in their kitchen on the floor, with a knife in his hands held against his neck. This was startling, and the guardians immediately suspected that their son could be suffering from severe anxiety disorder. When he went to school and cross-examined by his teacher, Andy indicated in writing that he had an irritable passion of killing his parents come what may, and this compelled the parents to begin locking themselves up in their bedroom at night while resting, as opposed to the cultures and the norms of the household (Leff 110). Andy was indeed taken to specialists to counter his mental problem, and so much was spent seeking aide from physicians, doctors, and therapists. Nevertheless, at the age of 15, Andy was evidently presenting with suicidal thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations, symptoms which led to the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. The parents were surprised and disturbed as well, and especially Gia noted that the diagnosis was too severe for the son, and whether recovery was an option, there was dwindling hope. The parents were almost giving up on each other, as their only hope was not real anymore (Reid 65). Nevertheless, while Gia and Brand were experiencing the increasing dose of the challenge daily, someday Gia went to Oklahoma church community and encountered the NAMI hosts support. The organization is a nonprofit entity and a nonpartisan foundation, which helped the young couple a lot. The Gia and Brand were taught to understand their son`s mental illness, appreciate the situation as it were, and enlightened more about mental illness to give them insight on the subject. Both were college graduates but had no necessary information about the condition, because of the stigma associated with the disease. As such, people tend to hide important information about mental illnesses in the community, for instance, Gia reported that there was a history of mental illness in the family, a fact that was not known to Brand, and this only served as a significant step toward the solution, as the couple came to terms with the reality on a positive platform (Nasreen 4). All these changed their imaginations and their culture of life as a family, an encounter that kept their marriage life ticking, hence the essential services offered by NAMI in Oklahoma.

The stigma and fear associated with mental illness are the core challenge NAMI deals with. For instance, the executive general of NAMI, one Traci Cook, reports that the daughter was diagnosed with autism and trichotillomania, a mental condition which compelled her daughter to present with symptoms of pulling out her hair, a very painful and traumatizing experience. Cook noted that nobody was immune to mental illness, but that time and chance was equitably subject to every individual, if they just lived a bit longer, whether in the age bracket of 5 to 105 years or beyond.State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Oklahoma estimates the number of adult citizens who have mental illness to be equal to or greater than 0.62 million people. While 135, 047 have been reported to have had psychological stress in the year 2012, 146, 213 of those with mental illness were reported to be suffering from severe mental illness. It was as well reported that at least one in every four men had mental illness in the state of Oklahoma, and that mental conditions were the third most chronic killer diseases, rated immediately after cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, cancer, and stroke (Nasreen 4). Cook expressed the need to creating awareness in the community about mental illness, an agenda which has been given a central attention as one of the objectives, considering that 70 percent and 30 percent of the adults and children respectively in the state of Oklahoma cannot access mental illness treatment and management following the stigma and lack of information in their families and communities. Together with DeAnn Warfel, the director of NAMI, Cook asserts that the alarming figures are due to the lack of information, guidance, and counseling, and insight among the members of the community.

Another terrifying case that NAMI offered critical and timely intervention is the situation of Warfel’s adopted daughter. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, social anxiety, compulsive disorder, trichotillomania, depressions, and the mood disorder. The chain of mental conditions was allegedly caused by the delayed response and to rescue her from social distress at her tender age, and even by considering that her biological mother had had a genetical history of similar conditions. The adopted daughter attempted suicide at the age of 10, and even though Warfel’s does not blame the blame the situation in entirety on the stakeholders in the segment of health in the state, he notes that lack of information and ignorance is a major contributor, as one of the clergy members had suggested that the mentally ill girl needed to be exorcised for getting rid of the problem, just before the diagnosis was made. Cook notes that since the diagnosis of Andy, he has been a normal person faring on well with his colleagues at school, provided he is on medication, maintains a beverage amidst a guitar-playing experience to soothe his mood up. Consequently, Gia and Brand noted that NAMI was such a central organization that plays a cardinal role in the society. Indeed, were it not for NAMI, the couple would have ended up in dismay, as the early and timely diagnosis improved their son`s prognosis, saved the family the impending stigma, and gave them hope to recognize and appreciate the new normal. The couple praised the efforts made and the change brought by NAMI in their family, and that they no longer close their bedroom door anymore. The gratitude they have for NAMI is to advocate for a campaigning platform in Oklahoma, to challenge and enlighten the parents and households with mentally ill patients to join NAMI and together help the patients (Nasreen 5). Therefore, NAMI remains to be the center of hope and a home of relief for the mentally ill as well as their respective stigmatized families in Oklahoma.

Works Cited

Corrigan, Patrick W et al. “Challenging the Public Stigma of Mental Illness: A Meta-Analysis of Outcome Studies.” Psychiatric Services 63.10 (2012): 963–973. Web.

Fernando, Suman. “Understanding Madness, Mental Illness and Mental Health.” Mental Health Worldwide, vol. 2, no. 1, 2014, pp. 18-32.

Leff, Julian, and Richard Warner. “Why work helps.” Social Inclusion of People with Mental Illness, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 101-113.

Nasreen, Iqbal. “NAMI helps parents understand their son’s mental illness.” The Oklahoman, 29 Apr. 2013, pp. 1-5.

Olstead, Riley. “From Psychiatric Patient to Citizen: Book Review.” International Review of Modern Sociology 30.1 (2002): 123–124. Print.

Reid, Joanne, et al. “The psychoeducation needs of parents who have an adult son or

daughter with a mental illness.” Advances in Mental Health, vol. 4, no. 2, 2005, pp. 65-77.

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