Letter: Senator's view on mental illness unfounded

Sen. Joni Ernst recently was quoted in the Fort Dodge Messenger stating her view that people suffering from mental illness are less resilient when compared to past generations.

This point of view is unfounded and dangerous. Fortunately, the stigma of mental illness is starting to fade and people are seeking treatment. I believe this, rather than a lack of resiliency, accounts for the increase in diagnoses of mental illness.

Many people are afraid to seek treatment because they feel resiliency is the answer or because seeking care indicates weakness.

My stepdad felt this way. He suffered from bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that was made following his first suicide attempt, nearly 20 years after his first episode of illness. As a tough old mechanic who served during the Vietnam War, he never wanted help. Society told him to choose happiness and that mental illness was a personal weakness. He saw himself as weak and believed he couldn’t be helped. Of course this is not true, and I was saddened to see Sen. Ernst perpetuate a similar point of view. He never sought the help and he died by suicide in 2010.

I urge Sen. Ernst to educate herself on mental illness. These brain diseases are often terminal; according to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 5 people diagnosed with bipolar disorder attempt to end their own lives. This and other mental illnesses would greatly benefit from increased federal funding and awareness. Sen. Ernst can help with both of these.

Chris Miller

Cedar Rapids

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