Today I was walking and a guy started coming toward me and talking at me like we were in the middle of a conversation. He was looking at me familiarly, but I didn’t know him. It took me a second to realize he was speaking mostly gibberish with a few understandable words interspersed. I did what most of us probably do, and said something like “yeah, that’s right” and kept walking away from him. He likely had schizophrenia. I feel bad for my reaction.
Why was I afraid to engage with him? Because he was “crazy”? Because it would “waste” my time to talk to him when he wasn’t making much sense?
The thing is, he looked really friendly, and I didn’t give him a chance. I wonder if he had that human feeling most of us have, where if you’re talking to someone and they just walk away, you feel hurt. I bet if I’d at least listened, maybe we could have found some common ground. Maybe not.
In any case, I have mental health issues, too. A lot of us do. Mine are nothing severe anymore, but once upon a time... *
A recent federal study suggests about 1 in 5 (20%), or roughly 42 million American adults suffer from some mental illness every year. A lot of doctors think that number is significantly higher.
But there’s a stigma—one that prevents me from wanting to talk to a person with schizophrenia, and *one that prevents a person with say, depression or anxiety, from wanting to admit it and talk to others about it, and get help.
So today I donated to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF), which works to help people like that guy I passed by. As funding for things like the NIH is cut, we will need more private individuals to step up and continue this research. There are other mental health charities here, but BBRF awards scientific grants to those working to make discoveries in understanding the causes and improving the treatments of mental disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, and bipolar, attention-deficit hyperactivity, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. They've awarded $310 million to more than 3,700 scientists in the past 25 years.