Tag Archives: speak out

Self imposed stigma

If you are not well, tell yourself that you must get help. Not next week or next month, but tomorrow. If you are suffering from an illness, the  most difficult words to say are I need help. And if the illness is a mental illness, it’s that much harder to deal with.

When your computer breaks down, you don’t hesitate to call a technical whiz to help out, now do you? And when your faucet leaks, you call a plumber, so …? Why then is it so problematic to make an appointment to visit a therapist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Could it be due to a mistaken belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness? We are in the year 2013 and people from all walks of life seek therapy nowadays.

I think that much of this supposed stigma lies in our own thoughts and beliefs about the issue at hand. If I think that I am seeking therapy because I am weak, then I will probably believe that others have the same view.

When my son needed the help of therapists, I was aware of the stigma but after attending two support groups, I no longer allowed it to happen and do you know what? My life changed drastically. Yes – for the better. Try it.

no more stigma

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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

 

No, he was not cured.

The first time my son was released from a psychiatric hospital after a psychotic attack, a nurse handed him a packet of pills reminding him how important it was to keep taking them even when he felt a bit better. She also told him that he needed to return to the hospital for a check up in a month’s time.

He was 24 years old at the time and had spent many months in that hospital. He’d been in the closed ward for all that time too. As we walked out into the sunshine, I wondered whether he was cured.

During the drive home, I sat next to my husband while David sat behind his Dad, staring obsessively at the people in the cars next to ours whenever we stopped at a red light, saying; “They’re making signs at me.” As we reached home he said; “When I went into the hospital, I didn’t feel well. Today, I feel really ill.”

Our world rotated. No, my son was not cured. I knew that if I wanted some quality of life, I’d have to learn that life was not about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain. My husband and I drank coffee in silence then I turned to  him, “Now what?” He hugged me impulsively and said; “We’ll think of something. We always do.”

Diagnosis? Paranoid schizophrenia

“My sister and I lived through difficult times when our brother received the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. We listened to him say things that did not make any sense to us at all. The police came to our house on more than one occasion. Our brother visited a psychologist and then a psychiatrist. After a long time – almost a year, our father persuaded him to check himself into a psychiatric hospital. Dad said he would get better there. The psychiatrist felt that he needed intensive treatment. His paranoia made him believe that we were all against him when we were actually doing our best to help.”

“My sister and I felt so guilty. Why him and not us? Our brother with the lovely sense of humor who loved surfing, was in the closed ward of a psychiatric hospital. He posed a danger to himself and maybe to others. He took piles of prescribed medication. But, he got worse and it was hard to live with him; hard to bring friends home so we spent more time out of our house with friends.’

“Someone told my sister and I that the best thing we could do for our brother was to have a good life of our own. We did not understand the wisdom of those words at the time, but much later, realized how sensible that advice had been. We had to remind ourselves that we did not cause his illness.”

“We were angry. He shouted at our friends when he was home and even insulted them. we were afraid of him. He ruined some of our things. He smashed the glass of a couple of pictures and threw a bottle of red wine at the television set. We knew that it was the schizophrenia that made him do and say the things he did. He would never have hurt us this way when he was well.”

“We learned from our parents to take one day at a time. After all they were having a harder time coping than we were. We learned not to argue with our brother as it didn’t help. And our Dad taught us how important it was to use humor.”

TED – Elyn Saks on her personal experience with schizophrenia

Elyn Saks comes out with the story of her schizophrenia and If every person with a mental illness could do what she has done, there would be NO MORE STIGMA.   I have never seen anything like this and I applaud her courage.

Thank you, Elyn. 

To see this clip, please click on the link below.

http://www.ted.com/talks/elyn_saks_seeing_mental_illness.html

For those who are reading my blog for the first time

For many years, my husband and I attended a support group for parents who had children suffering from a mental illness. After some time, I started one in our town together with a friend and 22 people came regularly. My husband and I were the only two people from our town who attended – due to the stigma. The residents did not want to be seen entering a building carrying the sign of the Mental Health Association.

By talking about mental illness, many people out there email me or call to talk. Why? They all say that they need to speak to someone who has been there and who talks freely about the subject.

I tell my story in the hope that others might be more understanding of mental illness, which I prefer to call a brain illness.

I tell my story to make it  more difficult for others to close their eyes and their hearts to the mental illness around them.

I tell my story to gain empathy for the people out there who are suffering so much.

I tell my story in order to convince anyone suffering from a mental illness that with the correct treatment, they can improve their quality of life.

I tell my story to gain support for them. If they have the backing of the community, they have the chance of a life with purpose and love, something that we all strive for.

If we speak out freely and tell our stories, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe in and even act on our behalf.