P.T. Barnum used to exhibit what he called the Fiji Mermaid. This Fiji Mermaid was rumored to be the torso of a monkey sewn onto the tail of a fish, but for the sake of argument, we will call it a mermaid. Some children have imaginary friends, some people, especially adolescent females, fancy tending pet unicorns, and some people even go so far as to claim to have a mental illness. I would suggest that there are similarities in each and every one of these attitudes and perspectives.
Why do I bring this subject up? Because since 1990, when the US Congress legislated it an officially designated day, in recognition of efforts by the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) to label family members “mentally ill”, imprison and drug them, the week that started yesterday has been known as Mental Illness Awareness Week. This is the week when NAMI and other organizations would educate people about “mental illness” and those human beings, although some people have doubts about their sapient status, sometimes characterized and stereotyped as “the mentally ill”.
If you believe the literature some people call propaganda, it, what is termed “mental illness’, is real, it is brain disease, and 20 % of the population of the USA has it. As you can imagine, all these stats are relative. NAMI goes a little further in claiming that fully 26.2 % of the population has it (i.e. “real” “brain disease”.) In other words, we’re a really “sick” nation, or, at least, better than 1/4 of the citizens of this country are ailing tremendously. Uh, their “brains” are ailing tremendously anyway. Good thing it can’t kill you. A true statement as long as it isn’t a gun in somebody’s hand, cocked, loaded, and aimed at the temple of his or her head. Oh oh.
I’m not sure having a day so designated is such a good idea. Why, you ask? Because, if 26.2 % of the population is “brain diseased”, advertising “brain disease” in this fashion represents a quick way to increase your incidence of “brain disease” significantly. Why just next year it could be 27 %, 28 %, or even 30 % and beyond. 1/4 of a nation is a lot of people with “brain disease”. Can we sustain such a hit on 1/3 of the nation as we’ve now got on 1/4? Nobody is yet suggesting that the numbers of people suffering “brain disease” is anywhere near leveling off, much less going down.
My suspicion has always been that there was an element of fixation to a lot of this “mental illness” business that so many people claim to possess, that is, if anyone wants to have one of these “brain diseases”, there is plenty of literature on the subject, and plenty of opportunities to learn all there is to know about being the proud owner of a spanking new “brain disease”. Unlearning is the problem. There just isn’t a whole lot of literature on how to live life without a “mental illness”. Should a person grow overly fond of their “mental illness”, there’s no getting rid of the matter, menace to society or pussycat.
For this reason, and as a much needed antidote and remedy to “mental illness awareness”, I suggest we designate the same week Mental Illness Unawareness Week. I feel certain that if many of us set out to unlearn about “mental illness”, you would see a sharp decline in the numbers of people suffering from such debilitating “brain disease”. If we were to unenlighten people on the subject, I feel certain, it’s incidence is sure to go down. It might help if you think of it as an empty glass case sparing that poor mermaid of much public ridicule and humiliation, and imagine the flap of her tail fin, as swimming out to sea, she disappears into the distance.
I don’t know if we can vaccinate the populace against the epidemic of “mental disorder” that is sweeping our nation in this fashion, but there is sure as heck no harm in trying. If everybody took a few minutes of the day out of every day this week to forget about “mental illness”, maybe we would be getting somewhere. Mind you, I’m not saying “mental health” is any more “real” than “mental illness”, but if whatever isn’t “mental illness” advances, I will call that progress. If I use my imagination, I can see nearby warehouses of suffering humanity emptying out and fallen into decay. Given further forgetfulness, any day now, the idea of “mental illness” will be a thing of the past, relevant only to the diligent historian, intent on reminding us not to repeat the mistakes of our forbears.
When it comes to forgetting, 7 days is a good start, don’t you think? 7 days without “mental illness” would be quite some feat. Who knows what kind of forgetting could follow those 7 days. We’re on a unlearning curve here, and its pretty spiffy. If we could forget “mental illness” maybe we could forget war and hatred, too. Famine also. Stupid and wasteful research projects as well, not to mention ridiculous bureaucracy, with it’s tons of paper work, and for such bad reasons. Get back to one to one I always say. Perhaps we could reform our education system through forgetting to boot. How easy it would be to forget ‘no child left behind’. We could forget to deprive folks of housing. We don’t have to remember any social disturbance until those 7 days are up, just imagine. We’ve got this “mental illness” thing licked.