October 04, 2009

Here's What My TV Will be Tuned To...

In October, PBS stations across the US will be showing the program Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness. This one hour program is the start of a national initiative to improve the support and treatment of people with mental illness.

From the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these sobering statistics:

An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness.

The Minds on the Edge program hopes to get the dialogue started. Mental illness is still our "dirty little secret" in this country. Oh, we make jokes about Prozac and Xanax - but if we have a diagnosed mental illness and actually NEED these medications, we probably aren't telling friends, family and co-workers about it.

The program features a panel of experts - judges, attorneys, physicians, and mentally ill individuals. They also offer hypothetical situations, and the experts try to figure out what is the best course of action to take. Here's a link to their viewing guide, so you can actively participate in the discussion (even if it's just you in your own living room).

I've already posted on my blog about our recent foray into the juvenile justice system, and the predilection of public safety officers and the courts to criminalize the mentally ill - we're living it every day.

Perhaps if people had more information about what really goes on in the brain and body of a person with mental illness, folks will have more empathy, and the authorities will develop strategies and programs that will allow the mentally ill to not face ridicule, scorn, or just plain ignorance when they are in the midst of a major episode.

The Web site associated with the program, mindsontheedge.com, will, starting later in October, become a clearinghouse of sorts for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of successes. (When the new site launches, it may actually be mindsontheedge.org, as it says now, but the link did not work for me.).

With statistics of twenty six percent of American ADULTS with a mental illness diagnosis each year, it is certain that among your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, someone you know and care about is needing our support and understanding regarding the struggles and discomfort they are dealing with. And I didn't include the numbers for children, or those who have co-morbid (more than one) diagnoses at the same time (like The Boy).

Here is the link for the viewing schedule. When I looked at it, many stations were beginning to show the program today. I apologize to the folks whose PBS stations already showed the program.

I urge all of you to spread the word about the program. You can download a button for your blog to show your support, you can participate in viewing parties that are scheduled across the country.

I don't ask for much. If the program is available in your area, I'm asking for you to watch it for just an hour out of your busy day. Tell your friends and family members to watch it. Let's inform people, and give hope to those who already have a diagnosis, and courage for those who have yet to seek help.

I'm not asking you to send money, or to cut out coupons, or even to come fold the small mountain of laundry that awaits me while I type this.

Hopefully, we can end the stigma and discrimination faced by mentally ill Americans and find realistic, workable solutions to the problems they face every.single.day.

Thank you. You may now return to your normally scheduled activities.


  1. Those statistics certainly are sobering. I'll be tuning in, for sure! Thanks for the heads up...

  2. i suffered from post partum depression after the birth of my son and it was one of the most traumatic phases of my life

    i too felt very judged and very inept about being a 'good' mother and wondered why i just couldn't be 'normal'

    now i understand that i couldn't help it - my brain's chemicals were nothing i could control

    i was able eventually to come off of the anti-depressants and did not suffer from PPD after the birth of my daughter, a great relief to me as it was one of the things keeping me from having more children

    thanks for bringing this issue to light and best of luck to you in your journey down this path

    found you from quiet commotion and now a new follower

  3. Thanks for sharing your story and this info.

  4. Having gone down the dark road of depression and suicide with a loved one, I feel your pain, my friend. I am not ashamed and will talk about it with anyone and everyone. You would not be embarrassed if their loved one had cancer or MS. Mental illness is a disease like any other, only worse, and sadly more fatal.

    Good luck to you. Keep shouting from the rooftops, it's the only way anyone will learn. Our Mental Health Association calls it "Lifting the silence".


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