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If we see a colleague with a fever, we say “go home and rest.” Why can’t we treat mental illness with the same understanding?
Today, I want to revisit the story David told in his last post. Someone he knew collapsed, became addicted to crystal meth and ended up homeless. We all wonder after such a story – could this have been prevented? Overall, it is difficult to provide a single answer and there is no one person to blame but I hope that after reading the list below, you will feel like you can help (even if it is only in a small way).
Get rid of the stigma
Mental health still seems to be the elephant in the room. We do not know how to react to it as a concept and we definitely don’t know how to handle people that suffer from mental health issues.
We are “the crazy ones”, we are “damaged.” When I returned to work, I couldn’t help but observe that some of my old colleagues (and good friends!) did not know how to behave around me. I remember one colleague in particular scanning me all the time, as if he expected me to have a spontaneous meltdown any moment.
Academic life can be extremely stressful and alarming rates of depression and burnout have been identified in recent years. It is time we learned how to deal with them in a more professional manner. If we see a colleague with a fever, we say “go home and rest.”
Why can’t we treat mental illness with the same understanding? If given proper care and time to rest, the person will be able to recover (or at least acquire methods to cope with it). Either way, most of us will be able to return to the workforce and (if we still want them) to our old jobs.
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