Tag Archives: no more stigma

David’s Story

While my son was ill for 16 years, I kept scraps of paper where I jotted down all the crises we all experienced. Using all that information, I eventually wrote a book which I called ‘DAVID’S STORY’, even though his name was DORON. I have blogged for years about schizophrenia and the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Here is my last blog for this year.

DAVID’S STORY

This is the story of one family, the story of millions of families worldwide. My happy, busy, social son, changed. ‘A classic case of paranoid schizophrenia,’ the psychiatrist said. It took a long time before we learned that parents could not cause this illness; that we could not be blamed. We thought he would go into the hospital ill but exit healthy. Wrong. He tried psychotherapy, occupational therapy, dance therapy and group therapy yet he continued to be out of focus, angry, psychotic and paranoid and the army of psychiatric health workers and psychiatrists were unable to help him.

Our teenage daughters stopped bringing friends home. Fear crept in. We attended family therapy at the hospital, told them what transpired when he was home, yet, they sent him home for weekends. BUT, I noticed that in the hospital, the staff always walked behind him.

Meanwhile our daughters did without; without sufficient time from us, without vacations or extras as spare cash went into another prescription, another treatment, and for his psychiatrist’s fees. Our 13-year-old daughter summed it up. ‘IF David’s body were hurting, people would bring gifts and visit him in the hospital, but because it is his mind that is ill, they stayed away.

Our family remained together, took each day as it came, learned to find the positive things in life and even realized how lucky we were to have a father/husband who was so caring,  as well as parents who loved one another. Together, we forged new dreams.

 Our son could no longer bear the voices in his head and realized that he was never going to have peace of mind. All he had ever wanted was to hold down a decent job, have someone to love, and … peace of mind. So, he went to a place of beauty; a place suitable for the surfer he had been.

Our son’s name was Doron but when I wrote this book, I changed all our names and called him David.

In January 1996, three  months before his 34th birthday, we buried our son. On that dull winter’s day, the earth that had been dug out stood in a mound ready to be thrown back. For the last time I talked to my son, while in the cold, still air, I heard a thousand birds sing their songs of life.

All the people who loved my son said farewell, even those who had not coped with his schizophrenia but knew how to handle his death. So many friends, neighbors and acquaintances stood, shoulders touching, their breath mingling in the icy air into one great sigh for our loss. I whispered goodbye. So much left unsaid. I ached to see him on his surfboard There was a thud of earth, a marker – and he was gone. He didn’t even say goodbye. In a tumble of memories, I saw David’s superimposed on the painful image of his anguished expression.

I love you, David. Rest. 1962 – 1996.

David’s Story by Jill Sadowsky, can be bought as a kindle book on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

Is it shameful to have a mental health challenge?

logosIs it shameful to have a mental health challenge? I don’t think so. Mental illness isn’t a choice that we make for ourselves, is it? We all know that every day may not be a good day BUT, there is something good in every day IF we search for it.

There is a clear contrast between dealing with a physical injury as opposed to a psychological one. An acquaintance broke her leg, and even though it came with psychological distress, anxiety and some fear, there was no shame when telling others about it. No – not a single drop of shame. She knew that her co-workers and friends would comment and maybe warn her to be more careful  in  the future, but she was quite sure that nobody would tell her that her leg injury was her fault. She had a bad fracture and that’s all. She felt neither abnormal nor ashamed of having a broken leg. She did not feel inadequate nor did she feel that she had an inherent problem. She reveled  in the encouragement and positive support she received from people around her. They all showed care and concern in one way or another.

People simply identify with physical injuries more easily.

It’s harder to know what to say when mental illness is the problem.

Let’s stop the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination N O W.

                                                                                                        no more stigma 14

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power by Sara Jacobovici, my guest blogger today. Thanks so   much for your input, Sara.

The definition of stigma and the history of that definition is painful.

“A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

‘the stigma of mental disorder’

synonyms: shamedisgracedishonorhumiliation 

a archaic :  a scar left by a hot iron :  brand

b :  a mark of shame or discredit :  stain <bore the stigma of cowardice>

c :  an identifying mark or characteristic; specifically :  a specific diagnostic sign of a disease”

A more modern and politically correct definition is: A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people has about something.

It’s time to tell the Emperor he has no clothes! Stigma comes from fear; fear of the unknown and fear of the familiar. This paradox and ignorance feeds stigma. When we see someone else suffering, it is too familiar. This triggers fear of the unknown;” I can be that way too!” Fear is irrational and bypasses any of our higher brain functioning. So in other words, stigma exists as a result of an irrational fear.

Learning can empower us and weaken stigma. It is our responsibility to learn more about anything that we see manifest itself as suffering in our fellow human being. Just because we are also vulnerable to that suffering does not mean that distancing ourselves, isolating the individual(s) who are suffering and cutting ourselves off from that suffering, is the solution.  On the contrary, it just makes things worse.

How can we shift the tide of stigma?

  • Start with yourself first. Take an honest look at how you see and relate to others around you who are suffering from mental illness. Do you make assumptions, avoid them or their family members, rationalize your behavior?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable?
  • Listen to these behaviors and thoughts and ask yourself what are they trying to tell you?

What do you need to learn from this?  It is the person who is suffering from the mental illness. That person is not the mental illness.

The answers can be found through further questions, questions that will connect and engage you to others and in this way help move you in the right direction.

Take a friend or someone in your neighborhood that you know who has a family member with a mental health illness out for coffee. Find out from that person the truth about mental illness. Once you have the information you need, you can begin to make choices. No one is asking you to fund research or lobby the government (although these may be ways you choose to contribute and participate), but one small change in your attitude can yield big results in decreasing the stigma that exists.

  • When you are in a group and someone begins to talk ignorantly about mental illness, quietly and respectfully point out the facts versus the myths.
  • Go back for that second cup of coffee and bring a new friend with you.
  • Volunteer at a community event for mental health awareness.

Remember knowledge is powerful, ignorance is destructive.  Be on the side of knowledge and watch how you can make a change.

 

 

People with mental illnesses should have the same rights as the rest of us

make a difference 9                 no more stigma 14

We should all advocate contact with people who have a mental illness.

We should make sure that they have the same rights as the rest of us.

We should make sure that they are not being discriminated against.

We should all aim to educate and train others to change discriminatory attitudes and behavior.

We should do this via television and radio.

We should organize public speaking engagements by people with hands on experience of mental illness.

We should report journalists for using discriminatory phrases.

We should make sure that new journalists are taught to follow the correct guidelines.

We must make people more aware of how common mental illness is so that they will be less judgmental.

People with a mental illness in the family need to feel lower levels of stigma and discrimination from both relatives and the public.

 

   

 

1000 blogs posted to date

no more stigma 5I posted my 1,000th blog on May 23, 2014 and even I was amazed at the amount of material I have included on these pages.

I have written two books, my work has been included in two Anthologies and I have had many articles and stories published. So you might ask why I began blogging. Well, while my son was ill with schizophrenia, my husband and I belonged to a support group but if we’d had blogs to read in those days, we would have gained even more useful information that could have helped us enormously. So, I decided to blog about mental illness, other brain illnesses and Alzheimer’s disease and hoped that in these pages, by speaking out frankly, somehow, I would manage to give others some empathy and even hope sometimes, encourage people to join me, and together, we might be able to lessen the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination accorded the brain illnesses. What surprised me most was how many people in countries all over the world started following my blog. Probably due to the sensitivity of the subject of mental illness, few people actually left comments, but, what they did do, was send me emails. And, I replied to every single one of them even though it is time consuming.

When my blog was born in November 2011, I had no idea of how much work it would entail to write a blog and keep it going. and, I had to learn how to post a new blog, how to save a draft and worst of all, how to get an image not only onto the screen where my blog was, but, I had to learn how to make that image show up and remain where I wanted it to be on that particular page. The result was that instead of going to bed at a reasonable time at night, I found myself fighting with my laptop till the early hours of the morning; sometimes with good results, but very often, the computer won the battle and I gave up tearfully. After all who could a blogging grandma call at that hour? Believe me, I was often tempted to wake B., my computer guru, but I knew that he would not have been impressed.

I felt as if I were doing a fairly good job, but every time a journalist related yet another incident of violence committed by an unstable person – the latest occurred on May 24, 2014 when a young person suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and living in the USA, went on a shooting spree.  In my humble opinion, unless the United States of America changes its gun laws, I cannot see a way out. I always thought that the safety of a country’s citizens was the priority of a government.   

 In America under the Brady Act, one cannot have a gun for personal or business use if a person:  

Has been convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year.

Is a fugitive from justice;

Is addicted to, or illegally using any controlled substance;

Has been ruled mentally defective by a court or is committed to a psychiatric institution;

Is an illegal alien living in the United States;

Has received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces;

Has renounced his/her U.S. citizenship.

Is subject to a restraining court order that involves his/her ‘intimate partner,’ that partner’s child, or children; has been convicted of domestic violence in any court.

 In spite of the above, I shall continue to blog about accepting a person with a mental illness the way we accept people with other illnesses. Maybe I am naive, but I firmly believe that even one voice can make a small difference. Please join me.

Time for change 1

S C H I Z O

Once again I find myself writing – a picture is far better than a thousand words, so here is a clip produced by the British Organization Bring Change to Mind that explains stigma far better than I could manage to do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21U4sa187GY

At the prom

prom 1I was invited to a Prom in my junior year by this Guy named James. He has Down Syndrome and nobody wanted to go with him. When he asked me, I said; ‘Of course,’ not thinking too much about it. I remember when his mom called crying and thanking me for agreeing to go with him. She even offered to pay for my dress, hair and make-up because she repeated that nobody else would have accepted his invitation. I told her that it was okay and that I was happy about it. I remember putting down the receiver and crying to my mom about how honored I was to actually be his date.

Prom night was kind of hard to actually enjoy at first because James was kind of all over the place, but then I remembered that this was HIS Senior prom, not mine and after that, I went along with whatever he wanted to do and I ended up having so much fun. Out of the four proms I attended during high school, this was actually where I had the most fun.

Thank you Alexandra. This is far better than any blog I could have written.

Living with mental illness in a more positive manner

3 in a band #2Trying to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness requires a change of societal views through education and increased awareness. When we talk about people by naming their illness first, as in he is a mentally ill person, we actually dehumanize that individual and reinforce the stigma.

So, what should a person with a mental illness do? What can they do? How should they behave?

Well, they can try to walk away from all the situations that upset them and try to ignore all that is bad for them.

They can learn to fill their lives with something creative, constructive and positive.

If they are sufficiently brave, they can learn how to share information with others that they feel they can trust. But this is very difficult to do.

They can work very hard at forming happy, rewarding, symbiotic relationships, either people in the same position as they are which is easier, or in another circle.

They can try to find hobbies that will bring them joy and an interest in life once again. I know someone who starting playing a musical instrument and eventually met other musicians with whom he formed a close relationship. He also provided himself with a time-consuming hobby that helped him pass the long hours after work. He was only able to concentrate on his work for four hours at a time so his days stretched endlessly until he discovered music. From that day one, his life changed for the better.

But it is not easy to learn how to cope with each new hurt and loss. Not everybody is caring and tactful, but there are surprises en route. One of the most difficult things to cope in today’s world is to be different. No matter what that difference is and no matter how large or small it may be. People in general are either uncomfortable or afraid to be with someone who does not fit into society easily.

It isn’t easy for for anyone to cope with old memories that are continually being raked up by family and friends but this is something else that they have to accomplish.

They have to learn how to adapt, evolve and find peace within themselves.

They need to find laughter and remember how to enjoy themselves once again, slowly at first, step by step.

They have to learn how to think positively and try to erase all thoughts of desperation and of harming themselves. One can live on various levels and although they might not manage to live the way they did before the diagnosis of mental illness was dropped on them, they can live balanced, happy  lives once again.

Their families have to give them all the support that they can. This is not easy. My family noticed that many husbands leave home, finding mental illness too hard to bear. These men left their wives and childdren with an unfair burden. Marriage vows state, In sickness and in health, so this applies not only to one’s attitude towards a spouse, but to a sick child too. These young people have more than enough to put up with so the last thing they need is a splintered family.

Are they entitled to the same health care?

Are they entitled to the same health care?

Too many people with mental illnesses have told me that they feel less entitled to health care than people suffering with diabetes, asthma or cancer, simply because the origin of their illness is in their brains. Insurance companies have been known to refuse to cover people with a mental illness at the same level as those with a physical illness.

I sincerely  hope that the next chapter in our civil rights movement will be to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.

Why I tell my story

end mental health discriminatiion

Someone asked me why I tell my story. That person also asked why I don’t give more information from the medical point of view. My reply, “I am neither a doctor, nor a psychiatrist so any information I give can only be presented from a mother’s point of view. There is no straight answer as life is neither black nor white.

  • I tell my story in the hope that others might understand.
  • I tell my story to make it more difficult for people to close their eyes and their hearts to all the mental illness around them.
  • I tell my story to gain empathy for all those people out there who are suffering from one kind of mental illness or another and to show them that they are not alone.
  • I tell my story to try and convince people suffering from a mental illness that with the correct treatment, their condition can be improved.
  • I tell my story to gain support for them. If they have the backing of their community and family, they have the chance of a life with a purpose surrounded by love.
  • If we all tell our stories, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe, and even act on our behalf.
  • No politician truly believes that he/she will gain extra votes by devoting more time to the issue of mental illness, but maybe … that time is now.
  • I tell my story: the story of one family, but it is also the story of millions of families living with a mentally ill relative anywhere from Africa to Alaska.
  • I tell my story in the hope that one day, there will be no stigma associated with mental illness.

stop the stigma