I have learned that mental illness is just that, an illness that is in the mind. Someone who has heart disease has an illness that has affected their heart. Someone who has liver disease has an illness that has affected their liver. Someone who has hearing loss has a problem that has affected their hearing. Someone who has cancer has a problem that is affecting the cells in their body. It is the same thing with mental illness. Someone who suffers from it has an illness that is affecting their brain.
The brain is an organ in the body just like any other organ in the body. Sometimes there are things that we do that can have a negative impact on a certain organ in our body. For instance, someone who smokes is going to have negative impact on their lungs. Someone who drinks too much alcohol will have a negative impact on their liver. Someone who overeats and does not exercise will likely place a negative impact on their heart. However, there are just as many things that happen in our body that are from genetics, or from impacts that we had no control over, or from impacts that we did not realize. For example, I know of a woman who died recently from asbestosis. She never worked around the substance. She was a stay-at-home wife and mother. What caused her to get this disease? Whenever she did the laundry she would first shake out her husband's clothes. He was the one who worked in the shipyard with asbestos. The fibers were in the fabric of the clothes he wore home from work. For many years these tiny fibers flew off of his clothes and into her lungs. She never realized the negative impact it had until it was too late.
Many illnesses that affect organs are genetic such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and color-blindness. Research has also found that mental illness is also genetic. It is known that manic-depressive disorder is hereditary and so is schizophrenia. Every year more and more is learned about genetic disorders. As more studying is done, it will become more apparent that almost all mental illness can be linked genetically and are hereditary.
As I mentioned before, there are illnesses that affect certain parts of the body that can be traced back to impact we impossed upon them because of choices that we made. I know that there are mental illnesses that truly are not illnesses, instead, they are caused by the individual being too wrapped up in themselves. I have met people who said they were suffering with depression, but they were only focused on themselves and wanted others to pay more attention. I hope that some day we will be able to have blood tests that will prove whether someone actually has a mental illness. But, for now, I will give them all the benefit of the doubt and not judge them.
Thus, I have learned and fully believe that mental illness is an illness of the brain. It is an organ in this frail human body that is just as susceptible to getting "sick" as any other organ we possess. Next time I will write about my own personal experiences with mental illness.