Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
For most of my life I have been shunned due to mental illness. That makes me angry. Having a mental illness is not a disgrace. People do not choose to become mentally ill. I believe too often mental illness gets the blame for a lot of tragic events that happen in society, such as the school shooting that happened Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. True, the perpetrator had mental issues; however, I also believe he had freewill in his actions.
I do want to point out that I believe there is one exception to when having a mental illness is not a disgrace. That’s when a mentally ill person chooses to live in denial and refuses to accept and seek treatment.
The etiology of mental illness is multifaceted. Mental illnesses may develop from genetic factors, chemical imbalances in the brain, environmental exposures, or a combination of any of the aforementioned factors. Some people may have a genetic predisposition toward having a mental illness but not show symptoms until a life situation triggers the onset. The person with a mental illness has no choice nor any responsibility in developing a mental illness with genetic roots. We don’t have a choice as to what genes we received from our parents or which ones we will pass on to our children.
Chemical imbalances develop in children who are abused, especially sexually, or who experience major trauma. Whose to blame in these situations? The child certainly had no control over the abuse. This reminds me of the generational sins spoken of in Scripture (Exodus 34:7).
Exposure to environmental toxins may or may not be the fault of the mentally ill individual. For example, a person exposed to harmful chemicals intrauterine has no control over what his or her mother ingests. However, as children age and when they know a substance is harmful and yet choose to partake of the substance, then they carry partial responsibility for the outcome of their poor choices.
Regardless of the roots of a mental illness in an individual, society needs to drop the stigma of mental illness. What persons with mental illness need most is love, acceptance, and encouragement, not bullying or exclusion.