I was diagnosed with a mental illness last year. A mild mood disorder called dysthymia. I wondered how will people see me now that I’ve gone public with dysthymia? Will they think I’m crazy? That I need to be institutionalized? Or maybe that I’m a criminal? None of the above is true, so how is it that I can I have a mental disorder?

Read the following statements below and note how many you believe are true about mental disorders and the people who suffer from them.
1. People with mental disorders should be locked up in institutions
2. Severe mental disorders are incurable
3. People with mental illnesses are violent and dangerous
4. With time, it will go away by itself
5. Mental illness is a form of mental retardation
6. Stress causes mental illness
7. Mental illness is contagious
8. “Poor parenting” causes mental illness
9. Young people and children do not suffer from mental illnesses
10. Mentally ill people can work low-level jobs but cannot handle really important or responsible positions.
11. People with mental illnesses are lazy and can get rid of it if they want to
12. Only old people suffer from depression
13. Only “weak” people suffer from mental illness
14. Severe mental disorders are incurable
15. A person with mental illness can never be normal

All of the above statements are false. Surprised? If so, your perception of mental illness is outdated.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 25 percent of the United States population suffers from a mental illness. Many receive treatment that makes them feel and act better than before. They could be your classmates, co-workers, neighbors and even your relatives. That doesn’t make them violent, crazy or needing to be cared for in a facility. And it doesn’t mean they cannot contribute to society, community affairs, education or any other field you can think of.

Even famous people suffer from mental illness. People we all admire. We read their books, watch their movies and listen to their music. Here a few you might be interested in.

Bipolar I and /or II

Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame
Patty Duke-actress, entertainer, writer
Catherine Zeta-Jones- actress and wife of actor Michael Douglas
Mel Gibson-actor of Lethal Weapon fame
Margot Kidder of superman fame (also suffers from Paranoia)

Paranoid Schizophrenia

John Nash, economic and mathematical genius and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Movie “A Beautiful Mind” was made about his life

Alcoholism and Bulimia

Elton John, singer
Craig Ferguson-comedian and late night show host


Michael Phelps, diagnosed at age 9 , Olympic gold medalist swimmer

Mood Disorders including depression

Drew Carey, actor, comedian, game show host
Boris Yeltsin- former minister of New Zealand
Mike Wallace – commentator and journalist


Howie Mandel-comedian Billionaire
Howard Hughes-known for contributions to aviation, movies

Body Dismorphic Disorder

Michael Jackson, singer, musician

All of the people mentioned above have or had a mental illness. And all of them have made tremendous contributions to their work, community and friends and families. Many are just down right brilliant. Even Mozart and Beethoven and David Beckham,(soccer player) suffered from various types of mental disorders.

All of us who suffer from some form of mental disorder are human beings with feelings, emotions, thoughts and individual personalities. All of us deserve the same rights as those without mental illnesses. And believe it or not, you might be able to learn something from us.

Societies perception, as a whole, of the mentally ill, needs to change. Not all of us are locked up, confined to a bed or wheelchair or have drool running down our chin. Please treat anybody with a mental disorder with respect and admiration. Yes, admiration. For we are learning, growing and trying to understand what makes us the way we are. Maybe one day, someone with a mental illness just might cure the very disorder they suffer from.

Author's Bio: 

Robyn Wheeler is the author of Born Mad, a true life account of unknowingly suffering from a mental disorder and how it affected her life.