Giving a Voice to the Mentally Ill

By Annie Lane

March 21, 2020 4 min read

Dear Annie: I am new to your column, so I'm not sure what all you've shared with the public about mental illness. I'm hoping you will publish this letter because I feel that most people need to know more. It's often said that the more understanding one gains, the more compassion he/she can extend to others.

I have bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. I've had these mental conditions for many years. And in that space of time, I've encountered many people who know very little about mental illness in general. Not long ago, a friend of my mother was talking to her about different people, here in our community, and she referred to some of them as "weirdos," "flakey," "nuts," etc. I was offended and hurt that she would talk that way around me. She knows I'm mentally ill. Some people can be so insensitive. If more folks knew how dreadfully painful mental illness can be, they might have more compassion for one another.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people has a mental illness. You'd think that since it's so common people would feel more at ease talking about it.

Television and movies do very little to educate the public on this topic. The mentally ill are often portrayed as dangerous criminals. However, studies have shown that only a very small percentage of the mentally ill are dangerous. It's more likely that a mentally ill person will be the victim, and not the perpetrator, as they are so often taken advantage of and treated cruelly.

There are those who believe that mentally ill people are lazy, irresponsible, manipulative and without love. In my lifetime, I have encountered many people with mental conditions who are very loving, responsible and hardworking citizens.

Psychiatric facilities and private practices can be a beacon of light for individuals who are in the dark about how to help themselves. Psychiatrists, therapists and community support workers offer hope, but a lot of folks are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek it out. I believe that if more people would take a stand for the mentally ill, the number of people who seek help would increase considerably, and more people could find hope, happiness and fulfillment in their lives. Thank you for reading this. — Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: And thank you for writing this. You are spot on. It's unfortunate that mental illness seems to only be a topic of conversation in the wake of tragedies. I encourage readers to visit or call the NAMI helpline (800-950-NAMI) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday.

Dear Annie: I laughed from recognition when I read about the 64-year-old lady, "L.C.," wanting to find a date in her small town. Your suggestion was that she focus on her own growth, and, by doing so, she might meet a special man. I met my husband at Sunday school when we were 79 and 83. Where better to focus on growth? — Sunday School

Dear Sunday School: Thanks for reminding us that it's never too late to find true love.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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