Mental Illness and the Cancer Analogy

It wasn’t that long ago that people would get mysterious wasting diseases. They’d lose vast amounts of weight, have no energy, fail to meet obligations, and eventually just die…all with no scientific explanation. Friends, family and society would judge the person harshly. They would say she had lost the will to live, was vain or was morally corrupt.

Today, we recognize these diseases as cancer.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you have likely suffered from depression, addiction, an eating disorder, or any other mental illness out there.

Those who suffer with mental illness are judged harshly; thought of as inferior in some way. Like those with cancer in the days before molecular biology, mental illness is not understood by the general public. 

Most people do not recognize it for what it truly is…a brain disorder, based in genetics and triggered by environment.

I’m not trying to say mental illness is untreatable or those who suffer should be given a pass on life. There is treatment out there and just like someone with cancer, treatment should be sought and encouraged.

What I am trying to get at here is that judgement is unfair and unnecessary. One day the general public will know that mental illness is biologically based and maybe the criticisms and judgements will be less harsh.

Until that day, stop being so hard on yourself, get the treatment you need and pass on some compassion to the next person.

What are some of the judgements you’ve faced? Do you have a message for others that suffer or those that judge?


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