Tag Archives: Give support

We fear what we fail to understand

People tend to fear what they do not understand. Very often, people with a mental illness as well as their families  experience self- stigma.

I would like to see a world without misinformation thrown out by a journalist, by a movie director, by someone speaking in anger, and maybe totally unaware of the impact of  a few words said in anger.

Stigma can lead to the avoidance of socializing; to finding employment, and can reduce a person’s access to housing, leads to low self-esteem, isolation and hopelessness. it can result in reduced insurance coverage for in-health services too. There are some general practitioners who are averse to treating a person with a mental illness. One of the most distressing issues is when a mental illnesses causes family and friends to turn their backs on the person who needs their support so badly.





Tips we received over the years

riding bikes 2The way most parents behave when there is mental illness in their family is to shut down their emotional life. I know that because I did it – but was told to resist it.

My inability to talk about my feelings at that time left me stuck and frozen. Then I learned how to speak out and it helped so much. Now, nobody can say much behind my back because it has all been said. Family relationships are cast in disarray due to the confusion around the ill relative. Our other children suffered  as they were emotionally enmeshed with their older sibling. Most other relatives did not know how to react. I believe that this is not unusual.

My children felt grief for what they had lost. They had been close to their brother, shared secrets, done things together and built a close relationship. It was hard for them to learn that mental illness, like other diseases, is a part of the varied fabric of life. They had to learn that mental illness was a biological brain disease and this took a long time to absorb. Invisible illnesses are always more difficult to handle than physical ones that everyone can see. There were people who asked them why ‘the psychologist or psychiatrist’ didn’t fix their brother’s problem. I

Strange behavior is a symptom of the disorder that can be embarrassing for a teenager to deal with. The needs of the mentally ill person do not necessarily come first and it is so important to set boundaries and explain that there are limits. This is not easy to do as parents often want to compensate by being extra good to their mentally ill child.

Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence the same as any other doctor or surgeon, so it is acceptable to change doctors.

I remember feeling a whole lot of emotions like fear, guilt, anger, grief, sadness and confusion. Attending a support group for parents with children with various mental illnessness was most helpful. They became our extended family and gave the much needed support  and advice.

When a child has a chronic illness

The hardest thing about my son’s schizophrenia was missing out on seeing him fulfill his aspirations and dreams, as well as ours. After he became ill, he heard voices, was extremely vulnerable, and lived with us for many years. Only after trying everything, his psychiatrist suggested that he live in a group home, but they would not accept him as he was not working. We suggested that he live with someone but he chose to live alone.

Slowly, but surely, he became a stranger, not even a shadow of his former self. Once, he was a surfer, an athlete, and could have been so many things. When he went into the hospital for the first time, my husband and I felt we had let him down but hoped that he would come out of there well. Instead, we stood by and watched him get sucked up into an abyss, another world. At the darkest point in our lives, I remember sitting on our bed with my husband. He was hugging me and I was crying uncontrollably and neither of us knew what to do, though my husband, sure that David would get better, kept repeating; “It will be okay, you’ll see. He will get well.”

We joined a support group as fighting battles on one’s own seldom works. And this group worked for us. Then we realized that we could not stop the schizophrenia so we tried to help our son improve his quality of life a bit, but even that didn’t work. However, we did learn many coping skills that helped us keep our heads above water.

John Glenn and his wife, Annie

John Glenn, the famous astronaut

John GlennFor half a century, the world has applauded John Glenn as the American hero who was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. But, for all these years, Glenn has had a hero of his own, someone who has displayed endless courage of a different kind – Annie Glenn. They have been married for 68 years and they are both over 90.

Glenn feels that the heroism he most cherishes is seldom cheered. It belongs to the person he has known longer than anyone else in the world, his wife Annie, born Annie Castor. She was bright, caring, talented and generous of spirit, but, she could talk only with the most excruciating difficulty which haunted her. Her stutter was so severe that it was categorized as an 85% disability. Most of the time, she could not manage to make words come out. When she had to recite a poem in elementary school she was laughed at.

She could not speak on the telephone nor have a regular conversation and … John Glenn loved her. Even as a boy he was sufficiently wise to understand that people who could not see past her stutter were missing out on getting to know a rare and wonderful girl. They married on April 6, 1943. As a military wife, she found that life as she and John had to move around the country could be quite hurtful. He wrote; “I can remember some very painful experiences, particularly the ridicule.”

A fine musician, Annie played the organ in church no matter which  community they lived in, because she loved it, and also as a way to make new friends. They had two children and he once wrote; “Can you imagine living in the modern world and being afraid to use a telephone? What if she needs to call a doctor for one of the children?”

On that February day in 1962 when the world held its breath and the Atlas rocket was about to propel him toward space, he repeated the same sentence he always did on leaving her; “I am just going to the corner store to buy some gum.” And in 1998, when, at the age of 77, he went back to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, he repeated it again. It was an understandably tense time for them.

Annie had attempted various treatments to cure her stutter but none had worked. In 1973, she found a doctor who ran an intensive program and the miracle she and John had waited for, arrived at last, the way miracles do. At the age of 53, she was able to talk fluidly and not in brief, anxiety-ridden agonizing bursts. John wrote: “I saw Annie’s perseverance and strength throughout the years and it made me admire her and love her even more.” He has heard roaring ovations in countries around the globe for his valor but his awe is reserved for Annie and what she has accomplished. “I don’t know whether I would have had her courage,” he often said. Her voice is so clear now, that she often gives public talks. If you ever find yourself at an event where the Glenn’s are appearing and you want to see someone brimming with pride and love, wait until Annie stands up to say a few words to the audience and take a look at the pride shining from her husband’s eyes. You may feel your own tears start to well up.

John glenn and annie

Mental Health Court saves a troubled talent from the street

From the Los Angeles Times. A talented young violinist’s descent into mental illness and crime is checked by generosity and the San Francisco’s Behavioral Health Court.

This amazing story is so heartwarming that I have decided to blog it. Please follow the link:





A model mental health professional has to:

Respect your patient and not sit in judgment.

Increase the well-being opportunities and happiness of your patient.

Have a good sense of humor.

Please reconsider keeping your professional distance and show him/her that you are human – a tiny bit of TLC won’t harm you know.

Please consider family and your patient’s good friends as team players.

It is so important to Inform your patient about any side-effects of his/her medication he/she might experience.

It will be very helpful if you make sure that your patient gets good dental care.

Help your patient fight bureaucracy as he/she is in a position of weakness at this stage.

Help fight the stigma accorded mental illness. There is a whole lot that you can do.

Last but not least, give your patient some hope. Nobody can live without hope.

You have no idea how different my life would have been if the mental health professionals I came into contact with had been more aware of the family’s feelings. I would hate anybody else to experience what my family did. Of course there are exceptions, but far too few.

This 11-year-old autistic girl, suddenly starts communicating …

This clip appeared on facebook. I have been blogging about the blame, shame, stigma and the discrimination accorded people who are even a little bit different from the rest of us and who have some kind of brain illness. Many people do not know how to talk to them, how to behave in their presence, or even whether to accept them in the workplace.

Well, Carly has defied logic even though she has a long way to go. Click on the link and keep a box of kleenex nearby.