Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why are flowers, sympathy and suport denied to people with a mental illness?

Mental illnesses are like any other; heart disease, diabetes, asthma. Yet the tradition of bring flowers, giving sympathy and support that is provided to those with a physical illness, is denied to those with a mental illness.

Are mental illnesses incurable and lifelong?

When treated appropriately and early, many people recover fully. A mental illness is like many physical illnesses that require ongoing treatment; like diabetes and heart disease, but which can be managed so that the individual can participate in everyday life.

Some people have only one episode and recover completely but for our son, it recurred throughout his life and required ongoing treatment.

Are people born with a mental illness?

We understood that the causes are unclear. Stress, bereavement, a breakdown of a relationship or unemployment, can be the trigger.

Many individuals would prefer to explain away a mental illness as a ‘nervous breakdown,’ than being branded as mentally ill.

I love the word wellness. I wish we could use the term ; mental wellness.

If a relationship has to be a secret, get out of it.

Celebrities can help bring mental illness out into the open. More of them are speaking out about their experiences, among them Nobel prizewinning economist John Forbes Nash, actress Patty Duke, Brooke Shields and Tipper Gore.

If you suffer from a mental illness, you can decide who to tell and how much to disclose. Being open about your condition may be a risk but besides gaining support, you will unburden yourself from carrying a heavy secret. But it  should not be a secret at all.  If a relationship or something that is bothering you has to be a secret, get out of the relationship and unburden yourself of the ‘secret’ and you will feel easier. It will also be one small step toward bringing mental illness out into the open.

Monitor the media, join a support group and you  might not be one of the typical relatives of a mentally ill person – whose families are usually in chaos. The parents are searching frantically for answers that can’t be found. Hope turns to  despair and there are many families that are destroyed no matter how hard they try to survive.

Our family was chaotic when our son was ill and I found little to laugh about, but once, in the middle of the night, I thought back to a trip to London my husband and I had taken and the following incident made me laugh till I cried.

I was crossing the Tower Bridge in London and failed to hear the warning signal as a plane or a helicopter flew overhead at that inopportune moment. The bridge started opening. while I was halfway across. I grabbed the railing and held on tightly as it went up into the air. As the bridge rose to its full height, shocked motorists got out of their cars and informed the bridge attendant what was happening. He lowered the span after several minutes and as I came down with it, I fell on my face and bruised my forehead and nose. I was released after treatment at the nearest hospital.

Whenever I thought of that incident, I laughed.

If you have cancer, do we call you cancerous?

If someone has cancer, we don’t refer to them as being cancerous. We say; “He is suffering from cancer.” So, when someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, why say; “He is schizophrenic?” I say, “he has schizophrenia. “This way, the individual remains a person and not an illness.

At the hospital one day, I overheard one of the patients ask; “Do you know what a zoo is? A place for animals to study the habits of human beings.”

Someone asked me: “Do you know the definition of a psychiatrist? ”

“A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.”

This same patient told my husband; “Never have more children than car windows.”

David’s tightrope was breaking …

Our family story is unique but universal as every tale of paranoid schizophrenia resonates with every other one.

At first, I was terrified to tell our story, our  nightmare ; to expose my family to public judgment and scrutiny. But, only when I started speaking out, did I begin to help start the process of demystifying mental illness, as well as trying to  break the terrible stigma.

I received e-mails; many mails; many said that our stories were similar, but they were unable to speak out. They kept all the fear and anxiety inside of them, causing even more upset. There were some  mails of compassion and consolation.

David’s tightrope was swaying. How could he stop it from breaking? The meds were not working. Medication resistant was what we heard. How come if there are so many different tablets?

David told us; “At night, I hear the strident sound of feet marching down the long corridor, then someone ordering the guy in the next bed to get up and go upstairs with him to begin his shock therapy session. I was terrified. Would I be next?”

My son often had the glazed look of someone in the midst of a nightmare.

When David was discharged from a psychiatric hospital, and he was in many, he was discharged to nowhere.

I often saw him lying in a fetal position on his bed. There were times when I felt that I was running a de facto private psychiatric clinic. I’d become an expert on the latest research on rehabilitation – no cures, but an individual can lead a regular life; can work too if his doctors find the right medication. We were still searching, searching, searching …

Schizophrenia had become like an addiction. I thought about it nearly all the time, rehashed it, and it was always in my mind. When I went out, I tried so hard to talk about anything but my son’s illness and about what transpired in our house. That didn’t work either.

Parents like these !

Medication without cause

Parents threw me out.

For a long time

I haven’t slept at home.

For three and a half years

I haven’t dated.

I haven’t been to a party.

My social life doesn’t exist.

I’m a good salesman.

                                                  Written by David

I can’t imagine what it’s like for you …

When my son, David suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, I seldom knew what to say to him. But, over a period of time, I developed a different kind of vocabulary from the one I usually used.

I told him: “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. I simply cannot imagine how hard it must be.”

“I have empathy for what you are going through.”

“I am always here for you. I want you to know that.”

“You are  not alone in this. I care.”

“There is no way that I can fully understand what you are feeling, but I want you to know that I feel for you.”

“I’m sorry you are in so much pain. I feel for you.”

“Would you like to talk about it? Let me hug you.”

“Dad and I will never leave you. You know that.”

“You’re not along in this.”

“When it’s all over, I will still be here, and so will you.”

“I love you David.”

I met a man in a psychiatric hospital …

When visiting my son in the hospital one day, I met a man who was refreshing, to say the least. Every time I visited, he was sitting on the same bench and had a crowd of people around him. He drew people to him even though what he said was not particularly significant. I came to the following conclusion about him.

There are three stages in that man’s life. He believes in Santa Claus. He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. He is Santa.

Anxiety? Depression? Eating disorders? Drug/alcohol abuse?

Chances are that you might know someone who suffers from a mental health problem. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, dementia and schizophrenia can affect anyone from any walk of life and cause more suffering than many physical health problems.

These people receive the following; fear, hostility, disapproval rather than compassion, support and understanding. Such reactions not only cause them to feel isolated and unhappy but may prevent them from obtaining effective treatment. Today, these conditions can be treated and are as likely to respond favorabley to medical treatment as physical illnesses do. They are confronted by stigma and discrimination on public transport, out shopping or in the doctor’s waiting room. wherever stigma exists, these negative attitudes must be banished.

Media portrayal of peiple with mental health problems is often unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. Forgive me if I have said this before but I see examples of this almost every day.  The media play a central role in shaping the general public’s opinions on major social issues. If only they could avoid prejudicial references to a person’s race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, as well as to any physical, mental illness or disability, it would be helpful.

Critical or derogatory attitudes can be damaging to a person with a brain illness. Once that person has been identified as being different, it’s hard for him to be accepted, no matter how hard he/she tries. He finds it difficult to shake off the stigma and as a result, loses confidence in himself. In time, he might come to believe that he is not a worthy citizen as he does not find his niche in society.

Let’s stop ignoring the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill among us … please

Many people are sure that mentally ill people are dangerous. If they don’t take their meds regularly and are having a psychotic attack, they need to be under supervision, but most of the time, they are gentle, loving people – many of them nicer than you or me.

At least 3% of the babies born in Israel, enter this world with developmental difficulties. In some sectors of our population the numbers are higher.

Two thirds of people questioned on the subject of mental illness and disabilities said that they had been exposed to individuals with these difficulties. Seventy percent believe that the cause is genetic; although in reality, only 20-30% of those disabilities are genetic in nature. Seventy-five percent of those asked believed that with proper treatment, those individuals could contribute to their communites.

Many felt that handicapped people should be cared for at home, while the rest felt that institutions were better suited to them. Many Ultra-Orthodox people I spoke to insisted that home care was better but I discovered that in reality, they tend to seek an arrangement outside of their own homes. I discovered that this tendency was due to the stigma attached to someone with any kind of disability in this sector of our population. Someone suffering from a mental illness or a developmental disability will the spoil the chances of a successful marriage match for their other marriageable aged children.

In the Arab Sector, only forty-two percent believe that a special needs child should be cared for at home. But, in reality, most of athese children do grow up at home.

Some sixty percent of those with mental disabilities have been abused at home or in the community at some point in their lives.

Seventy-four percent of people interviewed supported the establishment of a hostel for these individuals in their neighborhood, but only fifty-one percent were willing to allow the establishment of this kind of building in their own street.

Over eighty percent of the respondents believe that expectant mothers should undergo testing to prevent them from giving birth to a child with a disability, while the Ultra-Orthodox community believe that when a disabled child is born, every effort should be made to save his/her life.

Our educators should make every effort to reduce the public’s anxiety with regard to their children learning and/or playing with a developmentally disabled child. These children need someone to protect their rights too.

I found a wonderful program in the United States, called Breaking the Silence; a detailed program, ready to be introduced into schools, that addresses this very problem. In the USA it is working well. I hope in time that our Ministry of Education will consider it more carefully that they did the first time that my friend and I tried to do so.