Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

What do People Mean When They Refer to an "Elephant in the Living Room"?

A large, smelly, elephant in your living room would be difficult to ignore for long, much like a 400 pound canary. Each of these animals has been used to refer to an obvious problem or issue that everyone acknowledges but rarely discusses. An elephant in the living room is used figuratively to represent that a major issue is being avoided. Like a problem at work where as soon as you drive into the parking lot, there are McDonald's food wrappers, plastic water bottles, and other debris that crows are scavenging through, littered throughout the whole place, which is half the size of a football field. Everyone knows it's an issue, but no one feels like talking about it. Let’s just say that the over-all symptoms of "mental illnesses" was how we recognized and described the elephant.

Exposing the elephant may create more problems than it would solve if not approached carefully. Family members of an active alcoholic, for example, may find it easier emotionally to downplay the damage his or her behavior causes. But supposing the behavior was a "message." Suppose the message was of frustration was like the elephant in the room, could you ignore it?

Another reason for the denying the issue could be of personal guilt or shame. Guilt or shame, for example, of participating in littering. Parents and siblings of a morbidly obese child may choose to ignore the warning signs of overeating in order to protect the child's fragile sense of self-worth. The weight issue can easily become an "elephant in the living room," since confronting the child directly about his or her eating habits could open up other unresolved family issues. In connection to "mental illnesses," there has been a collection of people describing 'the elephant in the room' as a "problem." These people say that those noticing the "problem" are sick, mentally, for doing so. There’s also been a collection of other people writing down what’s being described. The collection of people describing the elephant are called psychiatric patients and the collection of people writing down what’s being described are called medical professionals and they are writing about the elephant in the room, and issues associated with mental health, down in a book called, "the DSM-V" manual of Mental Disorders.

Still, there are those who believe that the best way to get rid of the elephant in the living room is to find out what he wants and give it to him. Perhaps the elephant will choose to leave the house voluntarily once he receives the attention he craves. If people continue to leave a serious issue unresolved because of fear or the risk of social embarrassment, the figurative elephant will only grow larger. Regarding the growth of the elephant, here is statistical fact from the National Alliance on Mental Illness of the numbers of Americans affected by mental illness, the proverbial elephant. It states: “One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year and that one in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.”

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room, shall we? Let’s discuss the social ills of this planet. Medical professionals, let’s stop prescribing the medication of denial. Ordinary folks, let’s stop taking medication of denial, medicine that is created to help us cope with the social ills that is killing us very very slowly as if it’s social suicide. The elephant in the room is now sitting on my chest as well as yours. Its overbearing weight is causing us to die. What are we going to do about it? Can anything be done?

Many people don’t like the DSM manual. They claim it stereotypes unknown scientific medical and psychological conditions. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as the very evidence needed to help bring about change; evidence of experiences that cannot be denied.