Mental Health – the last great taboo?

Over the past couple of nights I have watched two amazing explorations of mental illness, Stephen Fry’s ‘The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’ and the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’.  Both were fascinating!

Stephen Fry suffers from bi-polar disorder or manic depression as it is otherwise known as.  He spent some time meeting people who suffer from depression and manic depression to explore how it affects their lives.  Most striking was the difficulty in diagnosis and then the problems with treatment.  Many manic depressives like the milder episodes of mania.  They find them energising and creative.  Almost all of the sufferers Fry talked to said they would not have the disorder taken away if the had the choice!

A Beautiful Mind is the story of John Nash, a mathematical genius and paranoid schitzophrenic.  Nash believed he was working for the government on a highly secret code breaking assignment but was in fact delusional.  The film is a fabulous study of the trauma severe mental ilness causes on both the sufferer and those around them.

I guess my thought is that Mental Illness seems to be one of the last taboos.  Why are we so ashamed of this kind of illness?  I don’t get it.  Mental illness is pretty common.  It is much more widely understood so why the secrecy?