Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where's My Casserole?

Someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, in the hospital from a car accident, or recovering from a stroke often hears the words from others echoing in their heads as they try to find normalcy in their lives. "If there is anything we can do, please let us know" are words that are often familiar to the sufferer and their family. Casseroles come flying in the door of the household in great multitude so that energy can be focused on healing rather then the stress of what to prepare for the family. Many times food piles up so much so that some of it goes in the freezer so that it is easy to just take out a prepared meal if energy is lacking one day. Offers of drives to and from appointments, to get groceries, or run errands are often left as voice mail messages. Encouraging words in the form of cards pour in the mailbox from people who care. Others step up to help as much as possible even when it comes to childcare while the person gets back to wellness. Some friends and family may even come from distant places to be near to assist in any way possible. These things help the sufferer and their family to feel hopeful as people show their genuine compassion and support. This truly echos out community and sacrifice for the hurting.

What about people who are diagnosed with a mental illness and their loved ones? Mental illness does not just affect the suffer but also the families are also affected. It is a debilitating illness just as much as some physical illness and is no different in actuality. Truth be told, when someone has a mental illness it affects them in physical ways as well, making it even harder to function. It is like they are bound in chains so to speak and unable to see the beauty behind it. Speaking from experience, I find it at times so debilitating it causes me to have little to no energy and thus causing me to spend an unfathomable amount of time in bed. Some struggling are unable to care for the family properly or even get things done that are needed around the house because they use maladaptive behavior to cope with the internal battle they are fighting. Others are not able to go to their jobs because they cannot focus due to the negative voices in their heads and are in turn at risk of being fired for not showing up. There are heart breaking stories of people at risk of losing their children as they are told they are not caring for them properly because of the fight within. What echos in the heads of the family and the sufferer you ask? "Stop being so lazy", "If only you would pull your socks up", "Stop looking for attention", " You can choose other ways to cope", "Its all in your head- just think positive!"... Imagine if these words were said to someone with cancer. Most would view that as unacceptable to someone with a physical illness so why does it seem okay to say this to someone who is struggling with mental health issues? "If there is anything I can do..." is scarcely heard from people who know someone is struggling with a mental illness. They are treated at times like an untouchable, with leprosy or have some contagious disease. The family gets little to no support- whether the suffer is a youth living at home, a single person on their own, or someone who is married with children.

Photo Credit: T.Wilband
If the suffer chooses the path to tragically die by suicide, it is almost like people ignore the fact of how the person died and sweep it under the mat. They may or may not show support to the family who are directly affected by the loss.  In my opinion someone dieing by suicide is one of the most tragic ways to lose a loved one as commonly suicide is preventable. The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Sometimes it is a long road to recovery- being hard to access proper services or see any way out of it other then death. Falling in the pit of depression and able to see the light at the end of the tunnel is hard to understand unless you have been there or supported someone who has been in there. There is not enough support or awareness out there for the one experiencing mental illness and their families or to the general public for that matter- hence why myself as well as other organizations such as Partners for Mental Health have a mandate to bring awareness to these things and to help reduce the stigma that continues to surface regarding mental health and mental illness.

Whispers are still heard when others talk about people who suffer with a mental illness, beating around the bush asking questions instead of coming out and asking "How is your medication working since being diagnosed with major depression". Many times people will avoid asking and perhaps change the subject when the topic of mental illness seems to be coming into conversation. They are unsure on how to talk about mental illness- like it is foreign and alien to society. However it seems that no one will bat an eye when they ask "How is your radiation treatments going since being diagnosed with cancer?", or "How is physical therapy coming to help you regain strength in your limbs since your stroke or car accident?". Why is so common to talk about physical illness like the weather however talking about mental illness seems to continue like a taboo topic? It is not the early 1900's where there was just as much stigma to mental illness as there was to cancer. People were ashamed then to talk about cancer however that did not make it not real. Why has cancer become acceptable to talk about where as mental illness is still often hid in the shadows?

So next time you hear someone that is trying hard and barely staying afloat and affected by mental illness, ask yourself "Where is their casserole?"

No comments:

Post a Comment