Glee made me truly smile last night. Though in the past, it has championed various issues, especially dealing with bullying and being an LGBT youth, it hadn’t really done anything that helped to shine a light on those with mental illness. Last night, instead of making the obsessive-compulsive guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury the butt of Sue Sylvester’s jokes, it had her finally stand up for herself and get some help.
I could understand Emma not wanting to change and not wanting to admit that she was suffering from OCD. (Of all of my mental health issues, it has always been the one that I have been most hesitant to confront in therapy.) When she said she didn’t want to change or take medicine because she was born that way, I loved that the psychiatrist compared her situation to keeping a diabetic from taking insulin. Unfortunately, there is such a stigma for receiving help with psychiatric conditions or taking medicines for those problems, and people often don’t realize that mental health can be as physical as illnesses that people would demand medical treatment for.
What was especially important about that particular scene is that the hestiance to seek treatment is a normal reaction for someone with OCD. Obsessions and compulsions can be triggered by stress, and one thing that can be extremely stressful for an OCD patient is the thought of ending the rituals that they view as necessary. So the thought of ending the cycle of obsessions & compulsions can cause the disease to get worse and worse until a person is absolutely forced to admit that they truly need help.
Because Glee reaches people en masse, I’m hopeful that this message of accepting mental health issues as legitimate issues and that seeking help is a good thing will help people to get a better understanding of the realities of mental illness. Maybe people will be less ignorant about the suffering that the mentally ill go through and will be more helpful towards a group of people that often receives extremely negative attention.