Thursday, April 19, 2007

From the families of the mentally ill

OK, you should see my In-Box. I am getting letters from the families of mentally ill people, describing their frustration and heartache at not being able to get meaningful treatment for their loved ones. I am posting some of these. Please, please, if you know anyone in this situation, send them to this blog. Use this as an opportunity to get the word out that the laws and policies need to change, for the good of the mentally ill themselves, their families, and the safety of society as a whole.
Here is a sampling of my mail:

Thank you so much. I am one of those parents from the other side with a brilliant but mentally ill daughter and we are struggling with sending her to college at all. I hear everyone talk about stricter measures to keep everyone safe from the crazy people. And I agree with them. But it is also my baby they are talking about. It is enough to seriously break you apart. My home is a 24 hour mental institution. It is difficult every day. Thank you for saying out loud what no one wants to think about at all, and wish would just go away. Its not going away.

Dear Ms. Morse,
I appreciated your article because while the talking heads can call this event evil it won't address the real issue of mental illness which is the evil that needs to be confronted.

My mother is schizophrenic, and at the age of 83 she has experienced numerous episodes in which she has been committed to a mental hospital until she was deemed fit to return to society. We were fortunate that her illness is a nonviolent form. Over the years the medicines available to treat all forms of psychological problems have improved in quality and quantity. While this is a blessing, society at large can not grasp the ongoing nature (and shame) of this illness, just as you noted in your article. No amount of medication ever "heals" the illness. Constant supervision is a family's only ally, and even then keeping a person suffering from psychosis on their medication is often a matter of sleight of hand, or trickery, at least from my and my family's experience. Simply put, when the person has "recovered" they believe they no longer need the medication and often refuse to take it.

Dear Ms Morse:
I could almost cry after reading your cogent and moving description today , of what the family members of the mentally ill face year after year, somehow always living in the fear that the proverbial other shoe will drop as it has so many times in years past.

My only sibling is mentally ill having been diagnosed around 17 with paranoid schizophrenia … there is a lucid or almost other worldly aspect to the mentally ill at times with their observations and ability to push buttons in those closest to them. I certainly feel exhausted of late after another rough period with my sister and several brief hospitalizations. And it does not get easier with our parents now in early 80’s. I have advocated, attended sessions with family and sister, kept track of meds, suggested structure via a weekly therapist out of my pocket. All to seemingly no avail…the calm periods seem to be shorter and shorter.

What I do know after decades of heart ache, anger and frustration is that there does not seem to be any easy or ready answer to such tragic lives or worse the outcome such as in Virginia. Certainly though better rehab treatments and day programs can be developed? Sigh… I just don’t know really what to say, except how profoundly sad I feel for the deaths of innocent people, the family of the insane young man and perhaps most of all the tears that come when I think of my sister as a small “healthy” vibrant girl (was it ever so? or is this my memory comforting me?) ;and the same calm demeanor of the shooter at Virginia tech before extreme isolation, depression and self loathing claimed his heart and mind in later years. In the case of the Virginia tragedy it does appear that people reached out in the class room and in 2005 for an evaluation, clearly long term hospitalization may be the only answer for some patients.

People have reached out to my sister as well, she always pushes them away… The only tools that I have seen as helping the mentally ill are: staying on proper meds, talk therapy and structure day to day of some kind. The act of coming out of isolation is crucial to those that suffer with the disease and those that care for the mentally ill especially family members. Without such tool all else is darkness and tragedy

This is a teachable moment. We need to get on the radio talk shows and discuss this. Your stories need to be told. If you know anyone else in this situation who can testisfy about life with the mentally ill, please send them to this site. Let's see if we can't use this teachable moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am the mother from the first comment. I agree that this could be a teaching moment- in my experience though, it is a lesson that is just to difficult for most people to bear. Our daughter is autistic, and she is nearly universally shunned. This hurts her, and makes her illness worse than it has to be. The really terrible part, is that with some understanding by society as a whole, many mentally ill people could be prevented from breaking like this young man did. It would take the impossible: people would have to look at these young people and reach out to them with love, not expecting to receive any in return. Any civilization can be judged solely by how they treat the most vulnerable among them. Right now, our society has chosen to do nothing, and hope the mentally ill would just disappear. The families need support. They get none. Doctors won't touch autism with a ten foot pole. Teachers think it is a discipline problem on the parents part. Relatives are embarrassed and stop inviting you to anything. You know what the worst part is? Generally the mentally ill person also blames the parents. Heaven help us, because no one else is going to.
KS form Ohio