Blogging Against Stigma: John Forbes Nash
Welcome to the final post in my two-week series, Blogging Against Stigma. Someday, with a cumulative effort across society, people may stop dying from things like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Towards this end, this post is dedicated to John Forbes Nash (1928–2015), an American mathematician, whose work has provided insight into the factors that govern chance and decision-making inside complex systems found in everyday life. While Nash went on to be the only person to date who has been awarded both the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and the Abel Prize, he is far from the only human being to have had his life ravaged by schizophrenia. Nash's struggle with mental illness is being shared as a means of combating the one remaining factor that continues to haunt our approach to mental health as much today as it did throughout Nash's lifetime - stigma.
It's important to note that Nash's lived experience bridges into our current reality. Nash's son became incapacitated by the same illness that impacted so much of Nash's professional and personal life. When the couples local mental health system was facing budget cuts following the 2008 recession, Alicia Nash worried for the well being of their son. She is quoted in one article referring to their son, "When I am gone, will Johnny be living in the street?" This is a fear of many caretakers who have loved ones with mental illness. It shouldn't be a rational fear, but it is. These state-funded programs protect citizens with the most persistent and severe forms of these illnesses from multiple (often traumatic) hospitalizations, homelessness, and isolation. They are the difference between the treatment Nash received throughout the 1960's and 70's and the options that exist for his son today. In the spirit of John and Alicia Nash, we have to continue to speak out against the misconceptions that cause these programs to be the first cut from funding when times get tough.