In the 1800’s, at a time when “the insane” were kept in jails and almshouses, they were horrifically mistreated. Social reformer, Dorothea Dix, did much to change this. While touring such places throughout the U.S., she drew the government’s attention to “the state of the insane persons confined within this Commonwealth. In cages, closets, stalls, and pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!” (Voice for the Mad, by David Gollaher)

Nothing was thought of it. At least not by those who had incarcerated them. After all, they believed that the “insane,” the “lunatics” don’t feel pain the way we do. Why concern ourselves with them? Most of those on the outside accepted that the poor living with mental illness belonged in jail where they could be kept under control.

Thank God, the language has changed. There is now a much more politically correct way to refer to us who live with mental health issues.

Dorothea Dix went on to help change laws and build 32 hospitals, specifically for the humane treatment of people with mental illness. She did great things, but is today almost forgotten.

Attitudes haven’t changed all that much. We, the individuals living with mental health issues are, even now, not thought to feel pain in the way “normal” people do. We are hurt in many ways—ways that are thought to be okay by the average person “because it’s always been that way. So why change things now?”

Too often, we are treated inhumanely. Shunned, treated as inferior, excluded from participation in community, not believed when we tell authorities about mistreatment, neglected by our children.

It is as though we are thought not to deserve the love others have.

Put yourself in our shoes and consider the pain caused when you’re treated as a person who is not as real a person as others are. We feel pain in ways you can’t imagine. It can reach excruciating proportions. And yet, we’re as human as any other.