I want people to speak about Mental Health. There is too much stigma and shame attached to mental illness and mental health.
If I could get people to do one thing, I would get them to speak up about mental illness. This comes from a very personal place. I grew up with a mother who had a severe mental illness. Her behavior could vacillate from very normal and appropriate to outright bizarre.
Let me give you a couple of examples of bizarre. These are only a couple examples of pretty consistent,constant behavior during her bad times. During one of my first two years of high school there was a parent’s night where the parents go to all your classes and the teachers talked about their curriculum. My parents went and during the time when my French teacher was talking, my mom stared at the ceiling. Stared at the ceiling and sung her ABC’s loudly because she had a thing about listening to gossip. In her mind the teacher was gossiping so my mom had to show whoever that she wouldn’t listen so she was disruptive. This is bizarre.
Let me give you another example. At one of my band concerts my mom passed notes to the person behind her that said things like “I know you why you are here.” She was sure most of the people around her were trying to trick her and cause her trouble. This is bizarre.
No one talked about it.
Outside of our family no one mentioned my mom’s actions to me. Maybe (read maybe as definitely) they talked about how weird she was behind her back but that isn’t necessarily helpful.
As a child, I knew that something wasn’t right. I even knew my mom was in emotional pain most of the time. This means as a child I really questioned most adult’s intellect because couldn’t they see something was wrong. I believe my mom and in turn my family suffered for far longer than necessary because of shame and stigma attached to Mental Illness. I know there are millions of others that suffer similarly.
Maybe if my parents or family had any idea about mental illness, the services out there, and the medication available or even had a name for what was going on, some of their pain would have been alleviated. Her family was amazing in that they accepted her for who she was but they also had no idea how to help the situation. Maybe if people spoke up there would be less stigma. Shame and stigma come from things being hidden and being buried like something is so wrong it can’t see the light of day.
Mental Health is important. Taking care of your mental health, wherever you are on the continuum, is not shameful. My mom eventually received help after many years and found the right mix of medication. She always struggled with mental illness but it stopped being what defined her. She was a whole person who happened to have a mental illness. I hope other families are able to speak up and not suffer in silence.
Speak up and tell your stories.