- Refrain from using works like loony, wacko or crazy. We can try not to define them by their diagnosis. We can refrain from using the word schizophrenic. ‘He/she has schizophrenia,’ sounds so much better. It’s known as ‘person first language,’ which helps to reduce the stigma associated with these labels
- We can all learn facts about mental health and share them with others, especially if we hear something that is untrue.
- I would like us all to treat people suffering from a mental illness with respect and dignity, the way I would like to be treated.
- I would like to see an end to discrimination against people suffering from a mental illness especially in the workplace. People with physical disabilites and individuals suffering from a mental illness are protected under federal and state laws.
- Please help restore dignity to these people and allow them to walk with their heads held high and live with us in our communities. I need help here as I cannot do this alone. I promised David that I would fight for his rights and those of all people suffering from a mental illness. H E L P !
What is death?
What does it symbolize?
Is it the soul entering another body
or simply another illusion?
I will never know
but I conclude that death
is a crime.
A poem written by my son toward the end of his life.
Another myth: There is no hope for a person suffering from a mental illness. Our son was medication resistant, but this is not common.
I never learned how to use a computer. My husband brought one home, arranged it on my desk next to a printer and then went back to work. He omitted to show me how to connect it or even turn it on. In those days, Q-Text was the program I had on my ‘machine.’ Whenever someone came to visit, my first question was not; “How are you?” but “Do you use Q-Text?” If the reply was in the affirmative, I would ask a few questions and gain another drop of knowledge which I jotted down in my notebook by hand – not on the computer! Time passed and I took the plunge and started using Windows. No, I did not find it easier. At my advanced age, it was easier to use what I already knew but that was the rage, so I joined in. I know that people shied away from me, knowing that i would pick their brains about computers while others were chatting and laughing, but it paid off and the day arrived when I managed to write my first short story on my computer, not by hand, and, I even found where I had saved it!
Today I am a grandmother of five, have been blogging for one year and am amazed at the number of people following my blog. But, I can spend hours fighting with my laptop. My grandchildren are impressed that I use a laptop and a smartphone. While preparing this blog, it took me over an hour to get the facebook picture above onto my laptop and then in the right spot.
Actually, I have become addicted to all this hitech stuff and when I visited the Silicon Valley recently, I asked someone to drive me past the large hi-tech companies and then I climbed out of the car to take a picture of facebook’s address; 1601 Willow Road using my iPhone. Sounds rather infantile, doesn’t it, but I had to do it and believe it or not, there was a steady stream of people doing exactly what I had done – taking pictures of the same thing. I use facebook in order to keep in contact with my grandchildren but have learned never to write on their walls, rather, to use the message part of face book. I order and download books on my kindle and love it. As the weeks go by, I improve a bit, so, all you oldies out there, don’t say you cannot use a computer or a kindle. I think that it’s easier than cooking and baking.
Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. There are studies showing that most people suffering from mental illnesses do get better but there are degrees. For some, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life. For others, recovery implies the reduction of symptoms. Where my son was concerned, I noticed that the moment he gave up hope, he was unable to progress at all. I believe that hope plays an integral role in any person’s recovery.
One of the myths is: when someone develops a mental illness he/she will never recover.
Parents of children who have committed suicide are left with all the shards of troubled lives. A twenty-year-old jumped to his death from a multi-storey building hours after his mother had dropped him at the psychiatric hospital where he was being treated. No one saw him leave. She thought he was being taken care of. She tells her story with apparent composure, but it’s clear that after 18 months she’s struggling with her grief, blaming herself and is very angry.
I met a father whose twenty-seven-year-old daughter suffered from schizophrenia and took her life. But, he is determinded to move on. He believes that when you are in the hole of grief, you must stop digging or you might beome suicidal yourself. His unwillingness to dwell on the past seems to be the right approach as it’s served him well. The mother of the young man described above, used counselors as she believed it was the only way for her.
Having experienced a suicide in my family, I dare not judge because I know that every person has to cope the way they feel is best for them. Maybe deep thinkers have more trouble with this. Not being in this category and being a doer rather than a thinker, I felt that the best way for me was to move on, to keep busy and find interesting things to do. Of course it was a very long process but I proved that it could be done. In fact, my whole family shared in this process and although no one in my family came away unscathed, we managed to get on with our lives. We will always remember our son, David and I try to think of him the way he was when he was healthy and happy, riding the waves on his surfboard.
I was told that all people suffering from a mental illness are violent which is not true as the vast majority of people with a mental condition are no more violent than anyone else. You might even know someone who has this condition without being aware of it. Mental illnesses are surprisingly common and unlike us, they do not discriminate. They can actually affect anyone. Nearly every family has a neighbor, a friend or an acquaintance who suffers from some kind of mental illness or another.
I remember an instance when my son was in a psychiatric hospital and I felt that some of the staff members were not only guilty of discrimination but had no idea of the meaning of the word empathy. My son was very ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia which is a serious illness, and I felt that the professional psychiatric workers should have been more understanding. On one occasion when David’s doctor was particularly hurtful, I turned around to him and said;
“Doctor, I have done a lot of reading on the subject of mental illness and wish I had studied it. But there is one thing that I found in every book or article on the subject; people in every single walk of life can be affected by a mental illness, irrespective of color, profession or social standing and one day, it might even strike your family.”
I didn’t feel good saying this but you must realize how very upset I had been. The psychiatrist had been anything but empathetic.
I wonder whether psychiatric professionals learn at medical school to keep their distance from the patient’s family. Maybe they have their hearts removed to stop them feeling like the rest of us. I would like to suggest that when dealing with a young man as sick as David was, that they remember how they might feel if this happened to them. A kind word can only be of help to all concerned.
- Is it possible to learn the facts before stigmatizing someone?
- Before we label a person, shouldn’t we examine their contents first?
- Every mental illness has a human face. Confront the myths causing the silence. Just one lesson on mental illness in a classroom could make a huge difference to the lives of young people who’ve been thrown tragically off course by a depression, a bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder O.C.D. or a panic disorder.
- These are all no fault disorders. It’s no one’s fault.
- Let’s teach people that Biology, and not a character flaw causes mental illness. These illnesses are treatable and the earlier they are taken care of, the better. There are warning signs.
Engulfed by an overwhelming fatigue, I fell into a soporific sleep. Something woke me. I lifted my head groggily and glanced at my bedside clock. It was 2 a.m. The whole house seemed to be vibrating. A storm perhaps? A volcano? No, no, it was loud music. My stomach knotted and I fumbled my way downstairs to find my son swaying to the music with an imaginary partner to Pink Floyd’s Fearless.The volume was on high and in spite of the cold weather, my son’s feet were bare and moved imperceptibly on the stone floor. His lips were moving too. I approached the diskplayer in order to turn down the volume but he placed himself in front of it daring me to stop the music. I wasn’t sure what to do. Fortunately my husband came downstairs and turned it off. Problem solved. My son looked at him in a strange way, then lay down in the middle of the room, shut his eyes, and fell asleep.
Wearily, we returned to bed, but, not to sleep. I knew that sleep would evade me for a long time. This was just one incident in a long line …
I had the feeling that people with mental illness were treated a bit like lepers in a leper colony. Why do most people shy away from those who are different from themselves? David broke the silence with the shuffling of his feet as he paced up and down, up and down, or the repetitive tap, tap, tap of his restless fingers that drummed on the windowpanes. His clothing littered the floor of his bedroom, and newspapers, yellowed with age slithered from their dusty piles.
I had been a happy person before schizophrenia knocked on our front door but now, all that happiness had become for me, was a word in my dictionary. I was engulfed by an overwhelming fatigue which I welcomed like rain after a humid day. It was David’s birthday. I prepared his favorite dishes and goodies and we sat down to eat lunch. As we were almost done, David slowly and deliberately emptied his cola onto the table cloth. i watched the liquid drain ou of his glass and drip from the cloth onto the floor. I acted as if this were a natural occurrence in the life of a twenty-two-year-old and filled his glass again. He spilt some food onto his tee-shirt and gurgled as he drank. My appetite disappeared. He got up and sank awkwardly into his favorite, dog-smelling armchair, cast mistrustful glances at us and tapped the floor with his bare feet, all the while staring angrily at the carefully wrapped gifts we had chosen as birthday gifts.
Did my son feel ever a teeny bit happy on his birthday? I realized that happiness had become nothing more than a word in the dictionary as far as I was concerned.
“I don’t need gifts,” he said angrily. “All I need is my health.”