A Quote From Candice's Parents

A quest for an understanding of mental illness as deep as the roots of an oak tree; and a desire to develop connections as strong as it's branches.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I chose to write about the topic of mental illness stigma for this weeks post. The one year anniversary of my daughter's onset of mental illness is quickly approaching this August. For me, the onset of the disease and the diagnosis itself is still as painful for me today, as it was the first time I heard her diagnosis. In one year we have made very little progress toward recovery and stabilization. I feel very uncertain about her ability to function independently. It is painful for me to consider, if she continues on her current path, the hope of her fulfilling any dreams are non-existent. It hurts to see that sometimes flat expression she has on her face or the inability to sometimes express emotion. It is painful for me that we are unable to do most of the mother, daughter activities in the same manner as we once did or even look forward to new ones. What is even more painful for me than most of the above mentioned, is when I see her treated in a different manner. As the mother of a daughter, who in the past, always held her own in social situations, it is extremely challenging to see such a drastic change in her. In the past year, I have seen the number of friends begin to drop off. On two separate occasions while she was visiting with her friends, she had moments of internal stimulation in their presence, and they were completely disturbed by the episodes. Immediately succeeding both of the incidents she was told they no longer wanted to remain friends. I have even been told by family members they were afraid of her or even appalled by her illness. Very seldom do friends or even family ever consider, that nearly all of her actions are disease driven. It is very challenging to see or hear the actions of others, as she is avoided, ignored, or out right disregarded as someone less than human. I am aware that it is human nature to fear what we don't understand. The perpetual dilemma that enables societys' mindset towards the mentally ill is two-fold. First, the fears and anxiety of the public are fed by the entertainment industry through movies and television. How many times have we seen the portrayal of the mentally ill, institutionalized, in a frigid and isolated place? We hold images of steel, locked doors, and patients meandering around hospital wards with a forlorn look on their face. How many movies can you recall that replicates the common perception of the mentally ill? Sybil, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fatal Attraction, Girl, Interrupted, just to name a few. Very seldom do you see the mentally ill characterized, as an integrated part of a normal, loving family. Is there any wonder why we would shun individuals with mental illness? With time, the right medical treatment, and professional intervention, they can return to wellness, while making a meaningful contribution to society. Would you suddenly avoid your favorite florist, stock broker, chef or lawyer, if you found out they were treated for cancer or hepatitis? Of course not, that is absurd, right? So, why would mental illness be different? It is a treatable illness. This kind of false ideology ensconces us with yet another myth, there must be something wrong with the family also. Give the caretaker some credit, as they engage in issues on every level from, legal, medical, educational, and financial, as the individual who is at bat, fighting for a shred of a normal life within the family structure.Well, when are we going to change societies' perception of individuals striving to heal and rebound from the stigma of mental illness, while trying to live a purposeful life? We live in the age of the millennium, isn't it about time we start treating mental illness as a disease, and the mentally ill as human beings with feelings? Wouldn't you want the same for your loved one or even yourself? Herein lies the second part of the mental illness dilemma, education and awareness. We have public service ads and education campaigns for heart disease, cancer, and muscular dystrophy, but when it comes to dealing with mental illness, that is a taboo subject. It also seems to command an element of humor, but to the families living with the effects of the debilitating condition, it is no laughing matter. When is the last time we shared a laugh over a co-workers' battle with cancer? It is time the health care industry ban together and facilitate an all-out education and awareness campaign and stop sweeping this crippling epidemic under the rug. We need an out right reform. We need mental illness reform on a multitude of levels, beginning with the legal platform and extending out to the medical system. The public needs to be educated to the fact that, people suffering from conditions with the likes of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, bulimia, and depression, ect., are battling an ongoing disease that they are attempting to gain control of. Who among us is suggesting we inform the mentally ill to snap out of it? Additionally, shall we propose that we will not frequent any business establishment, if they contend to profess their medical condition. Well, that is the exact message you are sending man, who is just trying to support his family, when you do not hire him based on his medical background. Likewise, with the teenager you shunned, whom you found out was bipolar or schizophrenic. Are you really encouraging any of them to be open about their illness and seek help? Not if they fear any repercussion. Who among you is qualified to be the judge? We are ready to be advocates for many other diseases, but not mental illness. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world", now is the time for mankind to make the change! Stop the stigma, get educated.

P.S. I would like to acknowledge and extend a special thank you to Elizabeth, Shauna, Megan, Earic and Ivan, who all have remained loyal friends and supported Candice through her healing and recovery.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how so true, and so hard.

    In the UK, we are trying to make a difference through the Time to Change campaign - see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo2ie5eJ0ag&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Etime%2Dto%2Dchange%2Eorg%2Euk%2Fhome%2F&feature=player_embedded

    There was also a great TV ad http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/what-were-doing/our-campaign/about-campaign/tv-ad

    Research shows that in order to challenge the powerful beliefs held by the general public we must combine local community initiatives, awareness raising and targeted training with legal enforcement of people’s rights.

    There are a lot of myths surrounding mental illness. And because of the myths it can feel like friends (or 'former' friends) don't know enough to be able to help. But they don't need to be an expert on mental health to be a friend. It's often the everyday things that make a difference.

    Sometimes people feel uncomfortable with mental health problems and are frightened, as they don't know what to do. But doing nothing, or avoiding the issue can make things worse.

    People with mental health problems can and do get back on their feet and lead fulfilling lives. This is even more likely with the help of our friends.

    Some useful comments on doing this at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaign/help-someone-you-know

    It will be a long haul - but hey, those of us with mental illness are here for the long term.


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I trust if you are reading this blog you or someone you know is living with mental illness. It is a very important and integral part of healing to work together with medical professionals on a treatment plan and to take the prescribed medication. It is the opinion of some individuals that success can be found in alternative treatments, i.e. hypnosis or acupuncture, however it is only advisable if integrated with traditional westernized medicine. With today's rising health cost and the state of the economy, receiving adequate health care can be a challenge. Additionally, individuals with mental with mental illness can find it difficult to maintain employment thus making health care difficult or impossible. Below I have included a list of resources for free or discounted medication. I hope you find these resources helpful and wish you all the best of luck on your path to healing and wellness.

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If you have any information that might be helpful to some who is sharing the same challenge, please post a comment to this blog.

Trusted resources on mental illness:


About NAMI: Support, Education, Advocacy, and Research
From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
For three decades, NAMI has established itself as the most formidable grassroots mental health advocacy organization in the country. Dedication, steadfast commitment and unceasing belief in NAMI's mission by grassroots advocates have produced profound changes. NAMI's greatest strength is the dedication of our grassroots leaders and members. We are the families, friends and individuals that serve to strengthen communities across the country.


About NIMH
NIMH Vision
NIMH envisions a world in which mental illnesses are prevented and cured.
NIMH Mission
The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.
For the Institute to continue fulfilling this vital public health mission, it must foster innovative thinking and ensure that a full array of novel scientific perspectives are used to further discovery in the evolving science of brain, behavior, and experience. In this way, breakthroughs in science can become breakthroughs for all people with mental illnesses.

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The purpose of this blog is muti-faceted. It serves to share and express our emotions. To inform and to educate, and to be educated. Also, to fund our daughters' care, be it medical or basic. We are paid by our advertisers as you take the time to read their very important messages. Additionally, you are enabling us to provide quality care while continuing to keep her living in the safety of her home, as her physician works to find the right balance with her treatment. We graciously thank you for helping us achieve our goal.