Judged by Mental Illness

Three or four times in my life, my mental illness has resulted in other people questioning my trustworthiness with children.

I have always loved kids. I have spent most of my life working with kids in some fashion or another. When I was a teenager, I volunteered in the nursery at my church. When I went to college, I worked at a daycare and then became a nanny. I worked as a nanny for most of the next ten years. During that time I also worked at a training center for students with learning disabilities.

I am good with kids. Mostly, they think I’m fun and parents have always loved me. I have never and would never do anything to hurt a child. Having a mental illness does not pre-dispose me towards hurting anyone but myself.

In fact, studies show that a person with mental illness is no more likely to commit a violent crime than a person without mental illness.

Of course, there are mental illness’s where this is not the case. Some mental illnesses make people anti-social, violent, or even homicidal. But these cases are rare. For the most part, people with mental illness are only a danger to themselves and only very rarely put other people in danger as a result. In fact, studies show that a person with mental illness is no more likely to commit a violent crime than a person without mental illness.

So what gives? Why is it that even people who know me pretty well or very well think I’m a danger to their children?

Crimes committed by people with mental illness are over-publicized. The stories about a person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder hurting someone get stuck in people’s heads. The media circus creates a myth that people with mental illness are dangerous.

One in Five

Did you know that One in Five American adults experienced a mental health issue in 2014? Count your friends and family and divide by five. Statistically, that is how many people you know that have had a mental health challenge. Did you know? Probably not. Because the majority of people with mental health problems live productive, active, “normal” lives. They don’t talk about their mental health and very few, if any, people in their life know about it.

If that is all true (and it is), how can it be that people with mental illnesses aren’t trustworthy? People with mental illness cook your food, clean your house, take care of your babies, deliver your mail, cut your hair, teach your children, fly your planes, and serve you in all manner of things.

My name is Terryn Rutford and I am bipolar. I have been a danger to myself, but I have NEVER been a danger to others. And it is beyond hurtful to have had my family and friends question that.

If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, I urge you to get informed. Head on over to MentalHealth.gov or the National Alliance for Mental Illness for more information about mental illness and mental health.



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