Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mental Health and You

My daughter Linea and I just presented at the International Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities in Honolulu, Hawaii. Yes, I know. Someone has to do it! Although it was certainly different weather from what we experienced at the Wisconsin State conference in January (!) when we presented there was a well-recognized familiarity in our exchange with the audience and our contacts after presenting. NAMI (National Institute on Mental Illness) tells us that one in every four families deals with mental illness and one in seventeen people live with a serious illness including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

So it isn't surprising when we hear from people in our audience about their own struggles with mental illness. These people are almost always professionals, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and counselors. Yet they share their fears of divulging their stories, let alone their needs, to their colleagues and employers. They send emails and notes telling us that they are so glad we are brave enough to talk about "it". They tell us they have kept silent for years for fear of misunderstanding or rejection because of their illness. If our audience of professionals that work in the field of education and mental health are afraid to share their story how much more difficult is it for someone that may not understand their own illness or have people around them that don't even know what a diagnosis or treatment plan might mean? It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of fear and hopeless- and helpless-ness. We have a long way to go, don't we?

Invisible City (Jordan Swain)

No comments: