Earlier today I listened to The Thinking Atheist’s latest podcast, which was on mental illness. It was a wonderful podcast, as usual, and brought up some points that I feel are worth discussing. JT Eberhard, Michaelyn Eberhard, Jeremiah Beene, and Dr. Darrel Ray were the guest speakers on the show.
I think one of the most important points made on the podcast was that mental illness isn’t rational. Someone with a mental illness can’t simply rationalize their way out of it. Trust me, I’ve tried. They talked about how sometimes skeptics can be too hard on people with mental illness because of their preference for all things rational. They don’t understand that it’s not possible for a mentally ill person to rationalize their way through it. I’ve said before: it’s not possible for people to be rational all of the time, but many people think it is possible and they hold people that they view as irrational to be beneath them. This is a problem because you don’t see your own biases, but it’s also a problem because you risk doing great psychological damage to another person. Yes, mental illness isn’t rational, but that doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t hold rationality in high regard and doesn’t fight hard to be as rational as possible. I have to be more aware of my irrationalities than most people because I have a mental illness. I can’t afford to ignore them.
For those of you out there who have never experienced mental illness, I feel that the above point can’t be expressed enough. Mental illness isn’t rational, so don’t tell someone with a mental illness to just rationalize their way out of it. It’s like telling someone to dig their way to China with a tea spoon. It won’t happen. If you know someone who needs help, walk them through it. Sometimes that’s the only way things will get dealt with. And don’t judge anyone to harshly because of their irrationality where their mental illness is concerned. It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to be mentally ill, and they have enough to deal with already.
I think JT Eberhard said it best: “It may be nothing to you, but it’s life or death to us.” Too many people with mental illness commit suicide. Too many do themselves physical harm. It’s easy enough to brush off their words when you know it’s irrational, but, at the end of the day, you aren’t the one who may go home and kill themself. The podcasters mentioned that people don’t kill themselves when they’re at their lowest. They don’t have the motivation. It’s when they are coming up that they kill themselves. When they seem to be getting better. This is a sad fact of mental illness.
I’ve never been in a position where killing myself seemed worth it, but I do know about the highs and the lows. It’s very true: when I’m at my lowest, I can’t do anything. I freeze because everything just seems too intense. I don’t feel capable of accomplishing anything, so I can’t even try. It’s not that I don’t want to try, it’s that I can’t. My brain won’t let me. But when I’m coming up, when I can act, but everything still feels too hard, That’s when I could see myself self-harming (were it ever to get that bad). This is very common with many different mental illnesses.
Here is the link to the podcast if anyone is interested: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/