On the left is my cat Zoe. On the right is the symbol for Psychology. I just noticed today that Zoe has the symbol for Psychology on her forehead. You may also recall, I teach Psychology. Is all of this a coincidence? I think not.
I love it when we talk about something in class and then it shows up in the news! That just happened yesterday when I stumbled upon an article discussing psychological studies being conducted on animals.
The article discusses how PETA is upset about how the monkeys are being treated and compare it to child abuse. On the other hand, the NIH is stating that the information that they are gathering is providing important insight into human behavior.
I hope that you will take a few minutes to read the article and share your thoughts here. Do you think that the studies that are taking place will benefit humans and improve our lives or do you think that the way that the monkeys are being treated negates any benefit that the studies might provide?
Last night my phone gave a news alert notification that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide. This blew me away and saddened me in a real way---as if I had actually known him personally. I was sad at the loss of someone who was a good actor and who seemed like a good person. I was also upset because of the way that he died. There just seems to me nothing that feels as sad and hopeless as when someone takes their own life.
As I was reading today about tributes to Robin William's career and personal attributes, I noticed a lot of articles discussing the need to have more of a focus on mental health in the United States, particularly concerning depression. This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with. I think that a great way to raise awareness about mental illness in all of its forms is through the study of Psychology, particularly at the high school level. Over the years I've been amazed at the opinions that my students have had regarding mental illness, especially depression. This is one of the reasons why I try to spend so much time talking about it in class and why we watch The Bridge (a documentary on suicide) even though it brings up intense emotions in my students every semester.
Mental illness, particularly depression, is something that gets shortchanged in American society. 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression (according to the World Health Organization) and approximately 30,000 Americans commit suicide annually. The United States typifies this by only spending 5.6% of our national health care on mental health. It is believed that 18.2% (or 42.5 million) of Americans suffer from mental illness. An estimated 10% of Americans suffer from depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 8.3% Americans suffer from diabetes. Our priorities are clear when looking at money put into research for various diseases and disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, $422 million was spent on research on depression while over a billion dollars were spent on diabetes research in 2013.
The other issue with mental illness that I have encountered in my students is stigma. Evidently this is not unique to my students. "According to a 2009 study in Britain, people are less likely to divulge they have a mental illness than to come out as gay in fear of even greater discrimination." Seriously? This blows me away!!! An article concerning Robin William's depression and suicide, confronts some of the misconceptions that people have regarding depression and how stigma can lead to people not seeking appropriate treatment: You can’t just snap out of it. The experts say this is among the greatest myths about depression. “Why can’t you just get over it?” critics may ask. They’ll suggest depression is a sign of weakness or vulnerability, but that’s not the case.
Unlike physical wounds that heal, overcoming depression isn’t as simple as giving it time, Amitay said. And it has nothing to do with strength or willpower – sometimes, people with depression could be dealing with a history of bad treatment, it could be triggered by a major life event, or you could be biologically susceptible.
“It’s a disease – it’s like saying you’re weak because you have cancer,” Amitay said. And these false notions could be what makes victims feel stigmatized and scared to reach out for help, he warned.
What should be done to shine a light on the issues associated with mental illness? I think that a big part of the issue lies in the health insurance industry and providing adequate coverage for treatment. Additionally, more funding needs to go into research. Sadly, I don't have a lot of control over those areas beyond writing my elected representatives. What I can do is encourage my students to study Psychology. Knowledge is power and when there is knowledge there is understanding and empathy. Maybe that knowledge can help you to help yourself or someone else when they need it most.