Posted: 05/09/2013 3:23 pm

May is Mental Health Month, and this year it is also the month when the first DSM since 1994 will be released. Naturally, much of the discussion revolving around mental health is currently focused on the DSM-5 -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition -- and its new additions, its flaws, and its improvements. The new manual is the result of an unprecedented approach of communal input, or the result of science that lacks validity, depending on whom you ask. Either way, the manual is garnering attention from academics and professionals in the psychology world and from the public at large, thanks to widespread coverage in the media in anticipation of its release. In my opinion, the scrutiny of this controversial new manual is drawing attention away from the more important aspect of mental disorders: the people who suffer from them.

Thanks to huge advances in the world of mental health over the past few decades -- really, leaps and bounds, if you consider that the Willowbrook State School debacle happened only 26 years ago -- in part due to the DSM, as well as huge increases in research and awareness, such as the kind encouraged byMental Health Month. However, despite the clearer understanding we now have of many psychological disorders and their causes, and despite the incredible advances in treatments and drugs, there remains an indelible stigma attached to those who are diagnosed with any number of disorders.
We've come a long way from the shameful era when mental health patients were shuttered away, herded off to "lunatic asylums" where they lived out their days in deplorable conditions unfit for animals, let alone humans. But that doesn't mean we've reached the quintessential paradigm, that idyllic world where mental health patients are considered no different from patients of physiological diseases and judged no differently than anyone who has an unasked-for illness. We still have ways to go. Mental Health Month is a start, but few other than those personally affected by mental health issues are even aware of the month's designation.