Sara Speaks: 5 Common Delusions About Mental Illness

A Message from the Writer
I’ve been involved with ShelterCare, as a consumer, for eleven-plus years. I’m a past president of ShelterCare’s Consumer Council, and the founder of Voices Consumer Newsletter, which I started three years ago with help from former employee – and current Eugene mayor – Lucy Vinis. I love photographing nature! – Saraswati Amrita Patel

1. Mental illness only happens to weak, stupid people.

Not at all. The most comprehensive study attempted to date, on the subject of creativity and intelligence among the mentally ill, was carried out in Sweden. The results were published 10/16/2012 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. Researchers used 40 years worth of data from Sweden’s health registry, looking at the anonymous records of almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives. They found certain mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia, ADHD, anxiety disorders, anorexia, autism to some extent and, in particular, bipolar disorder. Studies show that these mental illnesses are more common among artists and scientists; from dancers and photographers, to researchers and authors. These figures seem to confirm the link that people with higher IQs are more at-risk for developing mental illness. History bears this out. In more recent times, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse (5 Grammy Awards in 2008), were all admittedly bipolar. All incredibly talented musicians who redefined their genres and, unfortunately,  also self-destructed at age 27. 

2. You’re either mentally healthy or you’re mentally ill.

Presidents make good examples because, appearances aside, they aren’t always exemplary humans. All acclaimed Christians and Masons (about one-third of Presidents have been Masons), over a fourth of our Presidents were – at one point – slave owners. Physical punishment was a given. It was Jefferson who wrote, “…all men are created equal..,” and had a Vice President that got away with murder. He collected 617 slaves, after inheriting 16,000 acres. His lack of respect extended to women, too. One 3/4 white captive, Sally Hemings – the half-sister of late wife Martha – became his mistress at age 14. Together they produced five children. In 2017, the remains of what was probably once Sally’s 14’x13’ room were “found” adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom; complete with fireplace, and evidence of a stove. A restroom had been installed over it. He lived lavishly, and died in debt, selling most of his library to the government, thereby forming the Library of Congress. DNA testing proved a match for descendants of both families.

3. The mentally ill are morally suspect, if not dangerous.

Youngest President, Theodore Roosevelt, was probably bipolar. Woodrow Wilson said he was “The most dangerous man of the age.” Mark Twain described him as “clearly insane.” He created a press room at the White House and occasionally talked to correspondents while he shaved. He wrote 40 books, reading a book a day – even as President. Those who knew him would mention his gravitation towards reckless behavior. For example, an expedition in the Amazon, where three people died, and the disastrous Philippine War. His White House had numerous dogs, rabbits, horses, snakes, flying squirrels, chickens, bears, a lion, a zebra, and a pet rat. He reserved 200 million acres of land for national forests and wildlife refuges. Roosevelt once gave a speech and was shot by would-be assassin John Schrank. He revealed a bloody shirt and his notes with a bullet hole. He then proceeded to speak for 90 minutes before before going to the hospital. The bullet, lodged near his ribs, would remain with him for the rest of his life.

4. Depression is a character flaw.

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” Written by Abraham Lincoln to his first law partner. Depression was a constant in Lincoln’s life. He never overcame it or ever rose above it. It possibly made him more empathetic; the visionary, and realist, our country needed. You now know that half of Mt. Rushmore was mentally ill.

Mental illness is one thing. Combined with questionable ethics, the results can be devastating. On 10/2/1963, J.F.K. had ordered a phased, complete withdrawal of our 17,000 troops from Vietnam. By 1968, the U.S. had 548,000 troops there, and 30,000 casualties. Of Lyndon B. Johnson (L.B.J.), Bill Moyers, L.B.J.’s Press Secretary said: “It was a pronounced, prolonged depression. He would just go within himself, just disappear- morose, self-pitying, angry…he was a tormented man.” A recluse, he died five years later.

5. Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of willpower.

Americans went from 54 cigarettes, per person, in 1900, to consuming 4,345 in 1963 (550,000,000,000 cigs). Nearly all adults smoked by then. The F.D.A. acted in 2009.

With depression can come drinking. Martin Van Buren was a heavy drinker. Franklin Pierce was rumored to have injured a woman, while driving drunk, in a carriage accident. He died of cirrhosis of the liver. Ulysses S. Grant allegedly fell off his horse drunk during a military parade. JFK suffered from Addison’s disease, migraines, G.I. disorders, as well as severe back pain. His medical records reveal that he took codeine, Demerol and methadone for pain; Ritalin as a stimulant; Meprobamate and Librium for anxiety, and barbiturates for sleep. Kennedy took Stelazine, an anti-psychotic, also used for severe anxiety. He knew Max “Dr. Feel Good” Jacobson, who was known for injecting the elite – of Hollywood, especially – with methamphetamine. What was he thinking in 1961? Invading Cuba? Nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey? All gone by 4/1963, in a deal done, during the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Afterthoughts from the Writer 
 Besides my stand on slavery being constitutional at one time, I touched on religion, sex, insanity, substance abuse, and a near apocalypse. In short: something to offend just about everyone! If it was hard on three of these men, know that I’ve battled abuse, mental illness, and addiction. We’re all human. It’s possible that the climate issue, through a global effort, can put our species’ population in check, at least, and makes friends out of enemies. In the meantime Mt. Rushmore gives me hope! – Sara



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