Thursday, April 28, 2016
One of my grandsons was in a classroom, for kids with difficulties, at the age of 5. Unsettled by separation anxiety, he would run out of the classroom, headed toward home. On one occasion, the school called the police.
Although, I’m glad they took measures to protect his safety, when I spoke with the officer, I learned he would be permanently in their data base. Meaning, if a call came through with his name, he would be tagged. As in . . . awe, we’ve seen this kid before, he must be trouble!
That situation could have defined him as a troublemaker, unruly, or rebellious—that is, if he and his parents continued to live in the county they were in.
I was livid. Now if that’s not stigma, I don’t know what is!
Some might want to close their eyes and wish, with all their heart, that crazy people (a term individuals like to use, who do not understand the dynamics of mental health issues) will go away, they won’t.
Turning a blind eye, to them, will not vanish them from the face of the planet or from our sight. We see individuals on the streets mumbling to themselves, standing next to the 7-Eleven door, begging and homeless. This is the picture we develop of those with mental health conditions.
Or better yet, we hear the news of someone who randomly shot people, and again this is how we perceive those who struggle with brain disorders.
We have to consider what it would feel like for us to be stigmatized by an illness of any kind. Oh, you're a diabetic? You’re a cancer patient?
Throughout history, it was easier to ignore people, by putting them in an asylum, then deal with the issues.
Classifying individuals with MI, all in one category, is sorely a case of mistaken identity.
The Prevalence of Mental Illness, according to NAMI.org, reports, 1 in 5 adults in the United States, will experience a mental illness in a given year. Also, 1 in 25 adults in America, will experience a serious mental health issue, which interferes with one or more of their life activities. They report that 1 in 5 youth, will experience a severe mental disorder during their life.
You can see, by the data above, mental health conditions are alive—maybe not well, but affecting the daily lives of thousands of people, including their families.
If 1 in 5 adults experience mental issues, in a given year, chances are we know someone. Or it could be we know them, but are unable to recognize they struggle with a mental condition. And this is because if they tell, they fear being stigmatized—labeled by their illness. Oh, there goes Bipolar Berry!
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness. The stigma of mental illness is real. People with mental illness can look like anyone: your mother, father, brother, sister, child, aunt, uncle, cousin, or grandchild. The families with loved one’s, with MI, can be your Leave it to Beaver family. MI is no respecter of ethnicity, or economics, or life status, or age.
Anyone, can develop MI, just as anyone can develop cancer, become a diabetic, or have heart disease.
43.8 million adults, live with mental disorders, be it major depression, clinical depression, bipolar, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, anxiety, OCD, and post traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
These individuals do not want to be defined by their illness, but as a person—with goals and aspirations. They want more than anything to feel normal (whatever normal is).
However, their normal is dictated by the need to cope with the symptoms and the changes brought on by the MI.
The brain, is an organ in the body that is as vulnerable to sickness as any other part of the body. Yet, we treat it differently. Why? Because MI affects people’s behavior.
Therefore, we see only the behavior and forget a medical condition is responsible for the changes in a person’s thoughts, moods, and actions.
Under the Social Stats of those with mental illness, according to NAMI.org:
• An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
• Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
• 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
Instead of developing quality and affordable mental health venues, our jails, juvenile justice systems, and streets, house them. Now, I’m not saying a person should not be responsible for their actions; however, I see this as a deficit in our States, cities, communities, and within families, to provide adequate care/support. And not only that but accessible care.
It’s a shame that some, who desire help, have to wait at the crack of dawn, in a line five to six hours to see a psychiatrist. Would we have the patience to do so? I know, I wouldn’t. Add the stress of “waiting” coupled with the mental illness—is going to create, irritation, frustration, and hopelessness.
Here are some suggestions:
• Educate yourself on the aspects of mental illness and know the facts.
• Learn how MI affects the brain and the person.
• Sign up for a NAMI family to family, a 12 week course, which is packed with insightful information.
• Join a support group, if you have a loved one with mental disorder.
• Share correct information with others when the topic arises.
• If you have a story, relate it to others, so they can understand.
• Spend sometime with Google. Look up “mental illness” and you will be surprised with the various web pages you will find and organizations that help.
• Support your local NAMI or other organizations that assist others.
• Become a trainer for NAMI or support group facilitator.
Above all, know, not every apple is bad, meaning people with MI are not looking to shoot or blow up the world. We must work together to fight the stigma of mental health issues.
This May, and the months to follow, let’s put into practice a heart of compassion and empathy for those and their families, who cope with mental health issues on a daily basis.
Provide encouragement. If you know a family going through a tough time, with MI, make a casserole, and tell them you’re there. We might not always understand, but we can always care by our actions. Random acts of kindness can reach deep into the heart of others and make a difficult situation, a little more bearable.
To find your local NAMI organization, visit NAMI.org.
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Monday, February 10, 2014
Brain illnesses have a stark reality to them. One common reality is “self-medicating” with street drugs. This can range from Meth, Heroine, Cannabis, and Alcohol. Cannabis is the least of these harmful chemicals. And some find cannabis to be helpful for their mood swings.
The other reality is some of these drugs will bring on the onset of mental illness.
When a loved one has a mental illness and uses drugs, this becomes what they call a “dual diagnosis.” The struggle is always what to treat first. Most health organizations won’t help the individual unless they are clean and sober, this leaves the brain disorder untreated.
Although I can understand this to some degree, as some medications react with the use of these types of drugs. However, the greater issue is the mental illness goes untreated.
I'll never forget when my son reached a point of wanting help from the community Mental Healthy Agency. The Intake Counselor asked if he had used Cannabis in the last week. He answered yes. To this she replied, "Then we can't help you." I was indeed furious as I knew the struggle he had in reaching out for help in the first place.
This opinion of cleaning up your act first is like treating only half the problem and ignoring the issues as a whole.
I’ve used this quote before in a post, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and it’s worth repeating:
NAMI in their article Dual Diagnosis and Integrated Treatment of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorder says, “Research has strongly indicated that to recover fully, a consumer with co-occurring disorder needs treatment for both problems—focusing on one does not ensure the other will go away.”
One useful organization I want to highlight is
Their sight has taken a lot of the guess work out of finding organizations who will help those struggling with all types of addictions throughout the United States.
On their web sight they stated, “AllTreatment is active within the addiction community. We work with universities, specialized non-profits, and mental health practitioners all around the United States.”
The birth of this organization is to work, “. . . together in an endeavor that helped businesses and consumers find each other more effectively by enabling businesses to more strategically position themselves on the internet.”
What a great resource this is. I want to encourage you to visit their website at http://www.alltreatment.com. Especially if you have a loved one with a dual diagnoses and are having trouble getting them the help they need.
Of course, we must remember our family member or friend has to want the help. All you can do is lovingly point them in the right direction and assure them you are on their side in the road to recovery. I used to say to my son, "Bi-polar is not your fault but it is your responsibility to get well."
People with mental illness need to know they have a support team. You have to decide what that looks like for you and what you can emotionally handle. It's not always easy to lead them, but it's not impossible.
You can also find AllTreatment on this blog under the section: Information is Just a Click Away.
Here is to being the best advocate and resource person you can be for your loved one.