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Mental Illness and You

I was born in the 70’s, but I was a child of the 80’s. The music, the food, the crazy hair, the zest for life, the cars, the wonderful Saturday morning cartoons, and those crazy parachute pants.

In the 80’s the big thing that was sweeping the world was HIV/AIDS. We were told not to share water fountains, swap spit (Kiss), or help someone who was bleeding. All those things could cause us to catch AIDS. I remember that people did not want to kiss you on the cheek because they were afraid to get AIDS.

The Stigma was high.

You were an outcast if anyone thought you had it.

It was a way that school kids used to bully other school kids.

I was at the receiving end of this one.

In the 90’s the big thing was cancer. The T.V. talked about cancer. Your parents talked about people they knew who had cancer. The school system taught about cancer. As a young teen, I believed that everyone you knew had cancer.

In the 90’s there was a big power line scare. We were told that if you lived near a power line that you would somehow develop cancer.

The stigma was high.

People would shun you if you had cancer. Believing that they could possibly catch it because you may have it.

It was in the late 80’s and early 90’s that I lost a great deal of family and friends to cancer. It hurt. I still have the scars from the loss. Scars that I may carry with me for the rest of my life.

Every decade has its social stigma.

Something so pervasive and devastating that people would isolate you.

In 2016, the new AIDS epidemic and the new cancer hysteria is mental illness.


Mental illness, according to NAMI (https://www.nami.org), effects 1 out of every 5 Americans.

Think about that for a moment.

[bctt tweet=”1 out of every 5 American people is currently suffering from a mental health condition. #nami” username=”jim_Burgoon”]

These conditions include Schizophrenia, Bi-Polarism, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, major depression, Anxiety Disorder, Dementia, ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyper Activity Disorder , Autism, Eating Disorders, Addictions, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).

The above list is not an exhaustive list. They are only the most common types.

[bctt tweet=”It is heartbreaking to think that there are millions of people are suffering at this moment.” username=”jim_Burgoon”]

What is even more staggering is the social stigma that we attach to these conditions.

Every time we think of mental illness we think of people shooting up schools and movie theaters.

We think of people “losing it” and hurting everyone around them.

There is  a lot of fear that we experience.

We just don’t know what to expect.

Instead of embracing people in their pain and getting them help we distance ourselves.

Distance is somehow easier than dealing with the pain.

I am no stranger to mental illness.

As a church pastor, I come in contact with people from every walk of life and belief system. I minister to the hurting. After 14.5 years of ministry, I can tell you there are a lot of hurting people.

Many of them have a mental illness. Many of them do not have a diagnosis.

But they all deal with the pain.

Some of my closest and most cherished loved ones have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

You feel powerless to help.

You realize that people close to you are suffering and there is nothing you can do to relieve them of this pain.

It is one of the most crushing things that I have to endure.

Let me give you some thoughts on mental illness:

1. Mental Illness affects everyone.

We tend to think that if you don’t have a mental illness then you are fine. That you don’t have to live with the pain. That is a fallacy. I do not understand the struggle they experience. I can tell you of the pain of navigating through life when your loved one is the one suffering.

When your loved ones are in the thralls of their condition (we call it triggering) you are the one that has to help carry them through. You have to balance running the house, taking care of the kids, helping your loved one manage their condition, and maintain your employment.

When you are the caretaker you are the one who receives the brunt of their condition. Meaning, that when things are said and done it’s directed at you. I believe this is because they feel safe with you and hope that you won’t leave them after it is over. It STILL HURTS.

[bctt tweet=”Mental Illness affects everyone. ” username=”jim_Burgoon”]

2. It’s a disorder, not a decision.

Growing up in Philadelphia caused me to be a fighter. I believed that when someone came at you (Verbally or physically) you go back at them. Why? They did it on purpose to hurt you. To show dominance. To get back at you. So when someone came at me they were going to get it right back at them.

At the time, I had little experience with mental illness. I did not know anything about it. So I had to learn. I researched via the internet, asked questions, read books, and took classes. I became a student of mental illness.

You know what I learned? That their illness and the choices they make when they are triggering is not their fault. They didn’t decide to have this disorder. They didn’t want this disorder. They cannot control their outbursts. They cannot stop themselves in the midst of it.

The disorder and its effects are hurting them more than you realize.

Because they are cognizant of what they are doing, but they are powerless to stop it from happening. That is why it is a disorder and not a decision.

With therapy and medicines, they are able to manage it better, but the illness does not go away.

This one revelation has helped me be a man of Grace towards people who suffer from this.

3. The Stigma Remains.

Fear of the unknown is what causes the greatest pain. Why? We often run from the things we fear. We will isolate people. Isolation is often times the thing that pushes people over the edge.

Without another human being to hold onto the decision to commit suicide becomes easier.

What do you think of when you think of mental illness?

Most people, who think about mental illness, think of the 1% that are doing massive harm to others. They forget about the 99% that are sitting at home trying to hold it together. They forget about the ones fighting to making it through the night. The ones who are fighting not to hurt themselves. They are the forgotten. They are the ones who society isolates.

Mental Illness is nothing to fear.

[bctt tweet=”We must embrace people who have a mental illness.” username=”jim_Burgoon”]

The reality is that it is not going to be going away soon.

We will have to rise to the challenge and help people through it.

[bctt tweet=”I will rise to the challenge and help fight the stigma of mental illness. ” username=”jim_Burgoon”]

People who are suffering from a mental illness need a lot of support from us.

Will you rise to the challenge?

You will see a number of posts tackling this subject.

I plan on giving you stories and practical tools to help you navigate through this issue.

To start you off I want to give you a new E-Book I just created.

It’s Called: From The Heart

I surveyed people who suffer from mental illness and asked them 2 questions.

  1. What do you wish people would ask you?

2.  What do you wish you could ask people?

I compiled the hardest hitting 25 statements and questions.

If you are one of my subscribers than you received a copy in your email!

If you would like to get a copy click this link: Download my free E-Book!

Look for a future discussion on this tough topic!

I have 2 questions for you: How has mental illness affected you? What tools would you like to see created to help you navigate this topic?  Let me know in the comments below!!

About the Author Jim