I so appreciate people like Kay Redfield Jameson and Elen Saks for having the courage and the leverage in their life and position in order to share about their success, mental illness, and stigma they have overcome. I think that society’s attitude has changed even in the last 5 years. I have read case law on a slander law suit even for calling someone ‘bipolar’ when this was their diagnosis by a doctor, because it was used to refer to them as though that is all of who they were. Many people who have mental illness are also very skilled and successful in professional jobs but even if they were not, the assumptions and defamation that people incur with labels may be slanderous and incriminating.
Though I love Brene Brown and what she has shared many people’s ‘vulnerabilities’ publicly pale in comparison to these two women- Dr. Jameson and Dr. Saks. We may feel extreme shame regarding issues that may not incur nearly the consequences of stigma and shame, or rather ‘discrimination’, that mental illnesses have across centuries. Some issues are more taboo. Brene says, “They have to earn the right to hear our story.” Conversely, these women paid out for skeptics and critics to benefit from hearing their stories backed up with their credentials. I am certain there were some worthy friends who earned the right to hear their stories and saw them through. When statistics show nearly one in five people suffer with mental illness we must know we all have family members and friends also suffering in silence. Clearly society is not ready for many people to share about the mental illness they have suffered and even overcome, publicly. I love what Dr. Brown has to say about shame and vulnerability being the birth place of innovation and the man in the arena.
What can you do about this in Gainesville, FL this month?
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Gainesville, FL Annual Mental Illness Awareness Walk to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. NAMI Gainesville (National Allinance on Mental Illness) provides education, advocacy and support for family members and individuals dealing with a mental illness. All services offered are free. Help NAMI by showing support and donating funds if you can. T-Shirts to anyone donating at least $10
Dr. Kay Redfield Jameson lives with bi-polar illness. She has been a very successful psychologist and writer. She believes that the research shows and the truth of the matter is that there is a correlation between mood disorders and highly creative artwork. However, she says not to romanticize mental illness. Though many creatives and famous creative artists had mental illnesses that had an affect on their artwork, this did not come without its price. Byron and Van Gough, for example, wanted treatment for their illnesses. Many wanted to be treated and to get help, and some committed suicide at a young age. She makes the point that it is not a choice between being creative and taking medication.
Dr. Shelley Carson has a focus in her studies on psychopathology and creativity and teaches at Harvard. She says that most people who are creative do not have mental illness. She says people who have bi-polar and are creative are most creative right around the up and down from normal ranges of mood. She says the flight of ideas in mania and the feeling of ‘greater clarity’ may be part of what improves creativity in mental illness. She says anyone can become more creative by following the steps in her book. So you do not need to have mental illness to be creative.