We talk about the mentally ill as though they are a defined class of people. The mentally ill need this or that... The mentally ill live shorter lives.... need different resources...are dangerous...are not dangerous...smoke more...eat less chocolate... whatever....
So who are these mentally ill people? And what do we mean when we speak of "the mentally ill?" Community based studies showed many people-- I'm thinking the number is 56%- have a lifetime prevalence for psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, phobias, and substance abuse disorders.
If someone had a bad episode of depression that resolved years ago, are they mentally ill? What if they remain well for years but only if they stay on medication? How sick do you have to be and for how long to enter the club?
The NAMI website says:
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
I'm not so sure that does it for me. I'll let you chime in.