Bruce Reyes-Chow shares the tragic story of Jeremy Lum and the very real effects of a society that is still uneducated about mental illness. Jeremy Lum was one of hundreds of thousands of people that struggle to manage the illness of manic-depression.
It was while Jeremy was in an (manic) episode, that he was mistakenly arrested and jailed for public intoxication. Even after telling the officer at the jail he had bipolar disorder, was on medication and under the care of a doctor, he was left unseen by medical professionals, as required by law. He was released the next morning, without ID, without a phone call to family or friends or a safe means to get home. Tragically, Jeremy’s body was found days later in the river which runs behind the jail. He had drowned. Mental Health Awareness Month and the Justice for Jeremy Project.
I urge you to read more of Bruce’s post on Jeremy and the organization established in his name to educate people about mental illness.
In cases like these very smart people who live very normal lives have very real medical conditions. These are chemical imbalances in the brain that manifest in various behavior traits most people do not exhibit. The medication for these issues has made immense strides in the past 20 years so that if you are manic, depressed, or have other mood destabilizing conditions you can at least have some balance. The rest is a good program of managing life with sleep, structure, and talk therapy. Gone are the days of being sedated so that you would get out of people’s hair and shuffle along like a zombie.
Mental illness is as serious a matter as heart disease and certainly more common than the Swine Flu or its variants that we hear of far too often. Too many people go untreated and undiagnosed, their lives are a mess, they don’t understand why, they become addicted to drugs and alcohol to numb the mental anguish they feel every hour of every day, and are highly likely to hurt themselves or others.
You see mentally ill people in the office, the construction site, the football game, church, and under bridges or riding subway cars into the wee hours of the winter morning to keep warm. They are artists, engineers, leaders, followers, scientists, actors, and athletes. But they have real medical conditions that require medical attention like a clogged artery or a broken arm. Not to treat these issues has a high likelihood of ending in death. These are just facts. Acting on these facts is another issue.
As Dr. Francis Mondimore says, “Relapse prevention is suicide prevention.” To prevent relapse means to take certain simple steps like regular visits with a psychiatrist and not missing a dose of medication. Getting good sleep and talk therapy also play pivotal roles. Four simple steps will save a lot of lives if the public can learn more about what is really going on in the minds and lives of the mentally ill.
Organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) exist to advocate for the mentally ill and educate the public to reduce stigma towards mental illness. Start there to learn more today!