‘You better stop, look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown…’
— 19th Nervous Breakdown, the Rolling Stones
When I was a kid, I don’t recall anyone around me described as suffering from a mental illness. But I do recall plenty of discussion about little old ladies at my Grandmother’s church or my aunt having a “nervous breakdown.”
I didn’t know what it was, but I assumed it was awful.
Fast forward 60 years or so. Now I realize that my aunt or those little old ladies from the church actually suffered from some form of mental illness.
It’s just that back in those days there was such a stigma about mental illness that no one would ever admit it. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disease or even Schizophrenia were topics that were never discussed in polite company.
Here’s how the Mayo Clinic describes a ‘nervous breakdown:’
‘The term “nervous breakdown” is sometimes used by people to describe a stressful situation in which they’re temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It’s commonly understood to occur when life’s demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming. The term was frequently used in the past to cover a variety of mental disorders, but it’s no longer used by mental health professionals today.’
Today, my eyes are open.
Every family — mine included — likely has first hand experience with some form of mental illness. I long ago decided that it’s my job to support my loved ones who suffer from mental illness, try to get them professional help and not make rash judgments or punish them for what’s out of their control.
I say all of that because today was the annual NAMI Walks Your Way event down at the Myriad Gardens. It went off without a hitch amid unseasonably cool weather but with no rain to hamper the program or the walkers.
The important thing about the NAMI Walks event is that it is designed not only to raise money to support the efforts of NAMI Oklahoma — the National Alliance on Mental Illness — but to help end the stigma of mental illness.
When one out of every five people in our society endures their own personal battle with mental illness, It’s important that we be upfront about the illness and support those afflicted in tangible ways.
It’s more than a nervous breakdown, even if we didn’t know what to call it back in 1962.
Thank you, NAMI, for shining a light.
(Full disclosure: my wife, Paula, is employed by NAMI Oklahoma, which introduced me to the NAMI Walks Your Way event and its purpose)