Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
November 18, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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November 18, 1990

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PAGE 8 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC NOVEMBER 18, 1990 By Betsy McNeil Mitchell loved nature. He spent a lot of time outdoors and could easily rec- ognize birds from a great dis- tance. Always an excellent stu- dent, he began to have trouble concentrating during his sophomore year in college. Mitchell's Betsy McNeil grades dropped sharply. He ex- perienced periods of anxiety and rest- lessness. Withdrawing from his friends and an active social life, the once-gre- garious student preferred to spend time alone in iis dorm room. During a weekend visit, Mitchell's parents were alarmed by their son's lack of energy and deteriorating personal hygiene. Mitchell's speech was markedly changed and he could not complete a sentence. The words did not fit to- gether. When Mitchell described the voices" he often heard coming from inside his head, his parents feared their son was on drugs. Mitchell was a stranger, no longer the son they knew. Five years later Mitchell lives with his parents, his only friends. A victim of one of the most frightening and dis- abling mental illnesses, Mitchell has schizophrenia. Two years after Reba's 75th birthday, her husband of more than 50 years died. Shortly thereafter, her son Carl was killed in an automobile accident. Since then, Reba has quit her job as a volunteer at the library. Her knitting basket remains untouched and her flower garden, once a source of pride, has been taken over by weeds. Reba is sometimes confused or for- getful, and appears satisfied to sit in her rocking chair staring into space for hours on end. Her children are con- cerned that their once alert and active mother has become senile. Reba isn't senile; instead, she has a disorder which affects nearly ten mil- lion other Americans. Reba suffers from major depression. The names have been changed but the scenario is all too common. Today, mental illness represents the number one health problem in the U.S. Some studies estimate that approxi- mately one-third of all Americans suf- fer from some sort of emotional distur- bance. One out of every 100 persons in the U.S. will be diagnosed with schizo- phrenia during his or her lifetime. Depression of varying severity will affect more than 20 million Americans, and severe anxieties are even more com- mort. A spokesperson for the National In- stitute of Mental Health says a recent report indicates serious mental disor- ders are far more likely to strike ado- lescents and teen-agers than experts previously thought. This year alone, one out of every four families in America will be affected by mental illness. '4 What is Mental Illness? The line between mental health and mental illness is imprecise and con- stantly shifting. Thoughts or behavior which are normal for some are consid- ered odd or perhaps shocking in oth- ers. Throughout life, humans are con- stantly bombarded by sensations and feelings, not only from the environment but also from our own bodies. How we react to such impressions determines the way we establish a rela- tionship with our surroundings, how we keep in touch with reality. This process of adaptation is carried out without e conscious thought. The healthy mind reacts automati- cally, selecting features of the envi n- meat which it finds meaningful. That's why a young child will oftentimes bound into the street after a ball. He must be taught the consequences of his action before he can recognize the danger associated with traffic. Mental illness is a term used for a group of disorders which causes severe It is still uncertain whether or not the causes of mental illness are organic, although it is known that organic prob- lems can create disorders involving the mind. Some experts maintain that the functioning of the brain's neurotrans- mitters is involved in a biochemical disorder. However, sometimes nerve processes break down or perform ab- normally because of injury to or de- generation of nerve tissues. A majority of mental illnesses stem from unknown causes. Some experts believe that mental illness is a result of the environment. Biologically oriented scientists disagree. They believe mental illness is inherited. At this time, there is no effective prevention or cure for mental illness. However, an expanding range of treatment, medications and therapy is available which oftentimes can help to reduce the symptoms of the disease or disorders. When Something Is Wrong Mental illness affects not only the person, but also family, friends, neigh- bors and co-workers. Each of these people has an impact on the individual with the illness. The more love, under- ...... ' standing and support given to the cmalaons, or I m depressed, or I person suffering from mental illness, having suicidal thoughts.' Someti I "i the more productive he can become to they tend not to view it as their pro | himself and others, lem. They think their families put the] However, just as an individual seeks in the hospital or the police piCke [ help from a physician for a physical them up for no reason." "l condition, so too a person with mental A majority of psychiatric patientS'el ceive scheduled treatment on a voMr[ tary basis, but, some are committed tI John /ms the illness, he do so by court order. Patients har [ /sn't the illness, different emotions concerning psy i [ ' trists. Some view the doctor as a ;' disturbances in the process of percep- illness needs help from a health-care who can help them, while others tion and reaction, both of which are provider for the mentally ill. Psychia- perience disdain, disgust or downrig l ~on ~.n~b. t~al ~ m aloo hopa arh a ~.a~~1 and emotional life of the individual, ize in treating behavior problems for These disorders result in substantially which medicine cannot identify a purely Patient care diminished capacity for coping with the physical cause. They differ from neu- As a psychiatrist and clinical dire ordinary demands of daily living, rologists, who treat disturbances that are of a community support progrP i Laura Tyler, Administrative Director known to result from physical injuries Jones plays a two-fold role in paritY] of Community Support Service at Ozark or disease of the brain and nervous care. Guidance Center system. In addition to diagnosing and m Sprmgdale, Depending on the severity of his dis- scribing medications, Jones coordha i . says people not order, a mentally ill person oftentimes patient treatment with the peer-0q directly involvedcannot understand or recognize their ented support program or with a c#! with mental need of formal diagnosis or treatment, manager. health sometimes Dr. Edwin Jones, a psychiatrist and Caretakers generally want to be #[ associate the term Clinical Director for the Ozark Guid- formed of the prognosis and progr [ mental illness dace Community of their loved ones. However, s i| with mental re- Support Pro- ! patients prefer that their visits witll#t tardation, gram in psychiatrist be kept confidential, utJl ,I "This is a Springdale, says given prior permission by the patief ] most patients Illl psychiatrist is prohibited by law Laura Tyler .......... r- r tion that many usually have an releasing patient information to any '[ people have, she says. qVlental retar- idea that some- / except a legal guardian. 0/[ dation and mental illness are not one th/ng is wrong. Lack of knowledge and a feak ! and the same. To be diagnosed as "A lot of times mental illness sometimes cause curt having a mental illness such as schizo- their perception among lay persons. Very often, pe l phrenia, a person must exhibit a may be dis- view the mentally ill as a danger!i| ..... i: ram socmty. ,! thought disorder and a decline in torteu, jones Dr. Edwin Jones "In general, a patient's thoughtS [ functioning, and these symptoms must says. I'hey come very scary, very fearful, Jones says,li | persist over time." in and say, 'I have an illness with hallu- i