Monthly Archives: November 2011

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.

John Nash was only one of the people who suffered from mental illness …

All these people suffered at one time or another from some kind of mental illness. Of course there are so many more who will not talk about this subject due to the stigma:-

Isaac Newton, the most famous mathematician of the 17th century.

Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from bipolar disorder (once known as manic depressive illness)

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States.

Vincent Van Gogh, famous painter and artist.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain one of the three men to lead the world to the defeat of Hitler in WWll.

Virginia Woolf, the British novelist.

Jane Pauley, NBC newscaster, since the age of 25, talks candidly about her depression and bipolar illness.

Linda Hamilton, acress, has gone public with her diagnosis of bipolar-disorder, diagnosed at a young age.

Shawn Colvin, winner of two Grammy’s in music.

Judy Collins, singer and songwriter.

Dr. Kay Redfield Janison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, Balimore, MD.

William Styron, author, writes about his own depressiion in his book Darkness Visible.

John Nash, Nobel Prize Winner in mathematics has faced  a lifelong battle with schizophrenia. His struggle was documented in the book A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar which was later made into a movie of the same name.

Carrie Fisher, child of Hollywood stars, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

Lionel Aldridge, a football player for the Green Bcka Packers during the 1960″s.

Vivien Leigh, actress.

Brooke Shields, suffered from post partum depression.

A few more … Pat Conroy; author. Marlon Brando; actor. Sylvia Plath; poet and novelist. Michelangelo; artist, Charles Schultz, cartoonist.

I can coninue for a long time as the list is a long one.

Someday

I know that I am different. I don’t know why I can accept what others might not be able to, or won’t allow themselves to accept. But, someday, if only for a day, I want to walk in a field, or dance with someone special, play ball on a cool winter’s morning, or skp on a clear summer’s day. It’s  not possible now, but maybe someday?

For now, I have family and friends. People ask how I learned to accept my son’s handicap; never aware of why, simply aware that I can accept what others might not be able to; or won’t allow themselves to accept.

But someday, if only for one day, I would like to walk  in a field or dance with someone special, or skip on a clear summer’s day. It’s not possible now, but someday?

I will never lose hope. For now, I have my family and friends. I know that I am different; why do I accept myself this way?

A psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, we landed up in more than one psychiatric hospital in our desperate search for some kind of help. My son needed peace of mind, and we were prepared to do anything we could to help. We met all kinds of psychiatrists. Some were extremely dedicated, others less so; some empathetic, others not .One of them really shocked me. I stared at him when he walked into the ward. From his beautifully crafted boots, to his perfectly fitted designer jeans, he looked more like a horse’s dream of a rider than a psychiatrist.

He was the one who told me not to bring leather offcuts for my son and the other patients to use during occupational therapy and added; “It’s a socio-economic thing with you.” But, he failed to ask where I was getting the offcuts from. I actually discovered a leather factory off Herzl Street in Tel Aviv and was told that they threw  their offcuts into a barrel outside at the end of every working day, where it waited for the garbage collection truck to take it. I picked out the best pieces which were good for belts and other handiwork projects!

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Being admitted to a psychiatric hospital …

My son knew that he needed help this time. His meds were  not working, he was psychotic, and the voices in his head were louder than ever. While we were filling in the admittance papers, he turned to us and said;

“I guess I passed the admissions test, but, I wonder what type of test I will need to pass in order to get out of this place!”

I think my heart stopped beating. I could scarcely breathe, but managed to whisper:

“Let’s hope that therre won’t be a problem, but if there is, we can worry about it later.”

I hugged him.