Treating mental illness, disparities and help

Catherine Zeta-Jones likely identifies herself in many ways: wife, mother, actress....and bipolar. It is being reported that she has "proactively" checked herself into a mental hospital for treatment of her illness.

Hurray for her! Not only for being proactive about her health care, but for letting the world know. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, it is not under one's control and it requires the person who has it to be part of their own treatment and stability. Good for her!

Now, Catherine (can I call you Catherine) has an advantage that many sufferers of mental illness do not have: money. She can afford the best of private care. Again, good for her. She and her husband have worked hard for their money, and if I were in her very fabulous shoes, I'd do the very same - seek out the best treatment available.

But most mentally ill people in this country don't have that luxury. Our mental health system is still a disastrously difficult mess to navigate. If you happen to be mentally ill and have any type of cognitive impairment, you will find yourself out of luck. You practically have to have a Master's degree and 40 hours a week to get the help you need. And that's wrong.

Mental illness is as common in this country as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Yet it still suffers stigma and can go untreated for years due to misunderstanding on both doctors and patients parts. There are places with great mental health systems, but it's not enough - not yet.

Thank you, Catherine, for letting people know that you have bipolar disorder, that you are taking care of yourself, and that those with mental illness can be happy, productive, (gorgeous?) and healthy people. Now, let's push for the rest of the country to catch up.

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