Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday’s Child – Mental Awareness

Above the first set of falls at Crescent Falls.

Not all mental illnesses are created equal.

from Oct. 04/07

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada Sept. 30 –0ct. 06. The point of it is to make people aware of the issue and to dispel as much of the stigma of it as possible.
Good, laudable goals.
There are degrees of mental illness. From mild depression and other mild disorders where the sufferer can function in society, to severe disorders
Persons who are severely disturbed cannot function in society. Perhaps some can, I can't speak for everyone, but I can say from personal experience that certainly some of them, such as my sister, can't.
Our dad said my sister “had a health problem.” Fair enough. I can’t argue with that.
But it goes beyond a simple health problem because it’s mental, not physical.Call it what it is.
The difference is in a physical health problem we can generally trust what the sufferer is telling us. That’s not always the case in mental illness. It’s difficult separating reality from a mentally ill person’s perceived reality.
I simply cannot trust anything my sister says. Perhaps what she tells me is true. Perhaps it’s created from her tortured mental state. It could be her truth, but maybe she knows it’s a lie. It is not possible for me to tell.
I’m all for dispelling the stigma of mental illness. Not talking about will not make it go away. Frankly, it adds to the problems suffered by mentally ill people and their families.They already feel alone and believe no one will understand them or what they’re going through. How can anyone hope to understand it if no one’s talking about it?
We should talk about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Mental illness is no one’s fault and the silly idea that it is has to go.
The sufferer has not failed as a human being. His or her family has not fallen down on the job. That notion has got to go.
You can be in the home of a mentally ill person and not catch it. Mental disorders are not contagious.
And let’s lose that idea that it’s a lack of discipline. Specific to my sister, I do believe that if our parents had said no to her and not let her get away with screeching and stomping and scratching me and hitting me and making a scene all the time, then it would have had some impact. However, it would not have made a grand difference.
She would still be insane and she’d still be calling me at new and full moons with all manner of interesting ideas.
She has worsened. The night before the September full moon she called to accuse me of having her followed. She told me about people breaking into her apartment and putting angel dust into her drinks and that I was behind it. I believe she is incapable of reason, because even as she believes I’m orchestrating it she steadfastly refuses to tell me where she lives.
She told me that she neither wants my help nor wants me as her next of kin. I don’t know if she’s officially disowned me yet, or if she’ll even remember that she wanted to do so.
As I said earlier, I’m all for getting rid of the stigma of mental illness. It’s not serving anyone.
The first step is talking about it. That’s what I’m doing.


Missicat said...

Wow. It's a tough thing to deal with - my grandmother was claiming the interbet was stealing her money and the FBI had her phone tapped. It's so sad.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks, Missicat. Yes, it sure is.

Reb said...

I think by the time Dawn's illness was recognized as such, her bad habits were too ingrained. If she had been disciplined more in her formative years it could well have made a difference in how she is now. Would it have been a change for the better, or the worse is something we can never know.

Great photo Leah.

Leah J. Utas said...

Good point, Reb. I'm too close to the idea to entertain the possibility that discipline could have made her worse. Maybe this way was for the best.
Glad you like the pic.

the Bag Lady said...

Sheesh, I could have sworn I commented here this morning. Must be old age....especially because now I don't remember what I was going to say, but I'm positive it was pithy and intelligent...
Reb, you do have a good point. We'll never know how different things could have been.

Leah J. Utas said...

I'm sure it was, dfBag Lady.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

I think that you raise a really important point. Mental illness needs to be discussed and all mental illnesses come in varying degrees. You willingly provide us with the information of the hardships of having a mentally ill family member, and that casts a much wider net on the answer to who is affected by mental illness.

I was once at a meeting to discuss siting a group home for the mentally ill and a lot of area residents were very opposed. A local clergyman got up and said that one in five Americans suffer from mental illness, so if there is no illness in your house, look to the house next door.

I suspect the ratio is about the same in Canada.


Leah J. Utas said...

dfTerrie- That's a very smart clergyman. I'm sure the remark got people thinking and I suspect it brought thoughts no one wanted.

Frank Baron said...

I've worked with (what were termed at the time) as "disturbed" teenagers. All of them acted out, mostly violently.

Many members of my family and several friends worked with emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, (is there a difference?) and intellectually handicapped folks. Many came to visit and stay with us over holidays.

The hired hands who worked and lived on my grandparents' farm were recruited from the local (as it was termed at the time) "asylum."

And I spent decades living with someone who has mental health issues.

So, all in all, I think I know from crazy - at least some forms of it. And you're right, it's still much too shrouded in shame, but columns like yours will help. Good on ya.

Leah J. Utas said...

Frank, it loks like you do know from crazy. Good for you for working with the disturbed people.
Most people turn and run.
I appreciate the support.