stigma

Father and son: What he learnt about mental illness

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This post is a reblog. You can find the original post here

Helping someone with a mental illness is difficult.

When someone becomes physically sick, a family gathers around them. But mental disorders are not like physical ones and families — well, if you want to know how complicated relationships can be, consider a recent comment sent to me by a reader. She wrote that her family abandoned her because her parents were tired of having extra “drama” in their lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, I met a couple in Iowa who asked if I could help them find their son. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was homeless. Occasionally, he would telephone. While his mother was happy to know he was alive, he would always end their calls with hurtful rants.

My relationship with my son has not always been easy. Those of you who have read my book know I was forced to lie about him threatening me to get him taken into a hospital rather than put in jail. During a later break, I called the police and my son was shot twice with a Taser. These events can play havoc on father-son relationships.

So what have I learned?

1. Mental illnesses are serious business. You can’t take an aspirin and wake up in the morning healed. It took more than five years for my son to become stable. Parents and others need to realize there are no quick fixes. Hang in there — there will be many highs and lows on your journey.

2. Accept a new normal. Saying you want your child to go back to the way he was is counter-productive. You need to understand the person you love has a mental illness. Most people can and do recover. But this journey will change you both. There’s no going back to the past.

3. Learn to trust your own judgment. No one knows the person you love better than you. While there are amazing, devoted and really smart mental health professionals, they do not have to live with the person who is sick.

I’ve had people tell me I needed to get tough with Kevin when he was psychotic and not help him until he hit rock bottom. I remember wondering: What does that mean exactly? After all, he was arrested and shot with a Taser? Short of allowing him to go homeless — what’s left? Suicide?

Other times, I know my anxiety about pushing him too hard has led to me being an enabler.

I’ve turned to professionals for help numerous times and fortunately have gotten good advice. But I’ve also known some therapists who have no business advising anyone. One actually put Kevin in harm’s way because of a rushed diagnosis.

A counselor at the Miami-Dade County Jail told me his sister, who had schizophrenia, had seen more than a dozen doctors and literally hundreds of therapists during her 30-year struggle. Yet, the family was seen as part of the problem, ignored and often treated rudely. “But who was there when all of those others moved on?” he asked me rhetorically. “In the end, all my sister had was me.” You must be resilient. Trust your heart.

4. Educate yourself. Think of mental illness as a formable enemy and realize you need knowledge to prevent it from destroying your loved one’s life. Join a national mental health group, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health America.Learn about Crisis Intervention Team training and if law enforcement in your community has CIT officers you can call. Become knowledgable about medications and alternatives. Obtain the tools you need to help someone you love.

Two sources that have helped me are Dr. Xavier Amador’s book, “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Family-to-Family course. Another advantage of joining a mental health group is you meet others on the same road. Learn from them.

5. Realize mental illnesses impact your entire family. Siblings can be jealous of all the attention given to someone with a disorder. Encouraging them to learn about mental illness and including them in helping someone recover can ease those feelings.

6. Understand your own limitations. This is perhaps the most difficult lesson to learn. Sometimes, no matter what you do and how hard you try, you will not be successful. If your child had cancer and you couldn’t save them, would you blame yourself? A parent can’t always fix things. This doesn’t mean you give up, although some do.

7. Understand while you’re hurt because you love a person who is ill, that person is the one with the mental illness. What he/she is going through can be more horrific than what most of us will ever imagine. Learn to listen, treat them with respect, try to build trust and when possible, become a partner — make sure they are part of the solution and not seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.

So what’s the answer? There is no singular one. Every person is unique, every family is different, every mental break brings challenges. I’ve learned that for me, ultimately, I must have hope. I must believe recovery is possible. I must believe because without hope, I know recovery will never happen.

You have to believe a better day is coming tomorrow.

Mental health problems aren’t all in the brain

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This is a reblog from a guardian article about mental health.You find the original by following this link.

Brain being dissected
 ‘It seems to me that the decision of the BBC to portray mental health problems simply as brain disorders is a highly troubling one.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Written by: 

Aopen letter to the BBC written by a group of psychologists and other mental health professionals has attracted more than 1,000 signatures. The letter outlines concerns regarding the recent In the Mind season of programmes exploring mental health issues and, in particular, the almost total lack of any social perspective on mental health in the programmes. The psychologist, Richard Bentall also wrote about this in an excellent piece in the Guardian last week.

I share these concerns, though not because I believe that mental health problems have no biological basis, nor because I think environmental factors invariably play a role in mental ill health; I simply wouldn’t know. But because I do know from listening to the stories of dozens of fellow service users, that adverse life experience such as physical and sexual abuse, racism, bullying and neglect is depressingly common on a psychiatric ward, and understood by a great many patients to have played at least a significant role in the development of their problems. Moreover, it is striking how often problems with housing, for example, or the stress of being assessed for benefits (which are, ironically enough, supposed to support the most vulnerable) are understood by patients to be the trigger for a relapse.

In this context, it seems to me that the decision of the BBC to portray mental health problems simply as brain disorders is a highly troubling one. While some people do undoubtedly interpret their mental health in this way, there are many who do not, many indeed who would resist the attachment of any diagnostic label, who see their mental health difficulties as a natural, rational response to adverse experience. In failing to represent their perspective, the BBC has not only presented an extremely one-sided picture, it has broadcast a message to such individuals, and to society generally, that their experience doesn’t matter.

Of course, it would be rather convenient if it didn’t. It would be especially convenient for David Cameron. It would mean that when he talks about our need to “focus on mental health”, at the same time as bringing in benefit changes that have been found to have led to the suicide of at least one person and beenimplicated in the deaths of dozens of others, we might almost be able to take him seriously. It would mean that we wouldn’t have to worry about creating a more equal society. Mental health problems are repeatedly shown to be most prevalent in countries with the highest levels of financial and social inequality. What a relief to realise it doesn’t matter!

A purely biological view of mental ill health locates the problem firmly within the head of the individual, and as a society this is dangerous because it absolves us of the responsibility, the need, to examine ourselves. Imagine a lung cancer specialist who refuses to talk about the link between smoking and lung cancer. I’m sure the comparison is simplistic but I don’t believe it’s entirely inaccurate either. There is copious evidence to suggest that adverse events, especially in childhood, increase the likelihood of developing all sorts of mental health problems. Which is not to say that biology doesn’t play a part as well. But as a society there’s little we can do to tackle the causes of mental ill health on a biological level. Whereas, with adequate will and commitment, there is absolutely masses that could be done to create a mentally healthier environment for children and adults alike.

This is why mental health must be seen as an urgent political and social issue, as well as a biological and psychological one. And it’s not just a question of responding to the needs of people with mental health problems, though this is of course important, but of being prepared, as a society, to consider what we might do to reduce people’s risk of developing them in the first place. I’d like to see a programme on that.

8 Things People With Hidden Depression Do

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This post is from everyday health, you can find the original article here

Though public understanding of depression has improved somewhat over the years, we as a society still frequently misunderstand or overlook depression and its symptoms.hiddendepression

Because of the continuing stigma, we don’t always recognize when people in our lives are struggling with this illness. Worse, too many people go undiagnosed because of erroneous assumptions about how depression manifests and what to look for.

 

This results in a number of people who’s depression is hidden, either from others or from themselves. Especially when a person with depression is undiagnosed, they may develop ways of coping with their problems that conceals their illness from those around them or keeps the person from recognizing their symptoms for what they are.

We need to unlearn the assumption that suffering is always clearly visible to us, so that we can better understand and help those who struggle with illnesses that go unseen. Here are some signs that someone might have hidden depression.

1. They might not “look depressed”

Due to media and cultural stereotypes, most of us have assumptions about how someone behaves and looks if they’re struggling with depression. We imagine someone who rarely leaves their room, doesn’t dress themselves well, and constantly looks miserable, but people with depression do not all behave in the same way.

All people are, of course, different from each other, and the symptoms and coping abilities of people with depression also differ. Many are able to keep up a facade of good mental health to protect themselves, but they aren’t suffering any less simply because they can do this. Similarly, those who are unable to keep up such a facade are not “weaker” than those who can.

2. They may often seem exhausted or complain about always being tired

A prevalent side effect of depression is constant exhaustion. Not everyone with the disorder struggles with it, but it’s extremely common. For those who experience this symptom with their depression, it’s often one of the hardest side effects to cope with.

Also, if someone is living with an undiagnosed depression disorder, the cause of their exhaustion can be baffling. They can get plenty of sleep each night and still wake up every morning feeling like they only slept a few hours. Worse, they may blame themselves, believing it to be laziness or some other personal fault that’s causing their low energy levels.

This is also a symptom that’s difficult to conceal for those who have been diagnosed with depression but are attempting to keep it from their peers, as it often affects their workload and personal relationships.

3. They can be unusually irritable

A depressed person’s behavior might be interpreted as melancholy even if that’s not what they’re really feeling. Irritability is a frequently overlooked symptom of depression that is also very common. This should be understandable, since depression is a health problem you can’t “see” or strictly measure, making it hard to combat.

The constant work it takes to keep up all the necessary aspects of life while dealing with depression also drains the person, and leaves little room for patience or understanding.

If someone you know discovers they’re clinically depressed and shares this with you, you may initially be confused if their previous behavior didn’t fit the common misconception of the shy, silent depressed person. If they tend to have a short temper and are quick to annoy, that’s actually a side effect of depression.

4. They could have a tough time responding to affection and concern

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The main misconception about depression, which has been hinted at in the paragraphs above, is that it’s about “feeling” sad.

On the contrary, depression is mostly not feeling anything, or only partially and briefly experiencing emotions. It depends on the individual, but some people with depression report feeling almost “numb,” and the closest thing to an emotion they experience is a kind of sadness and/or irritation.

Because of this, appropriately responding to gestures or words of affection will be difficult for them, or they just don’t think about it any more.

They may even get irrationally irritated or annoyed with you over it, because it may simply be too difficult for their brains to process and respond to your loving gestures.

5. They might frequently turn down activities they used to love or would otherwise enjoy

Unless other explanations could equally be possible, an uncharacteristic lack of interest in activities over an extended period of time could be a sign that someone has depression. As mentioned above, depression is just as physically draining as it is mentally draining, which makes enjoying all the things you usually do difficult.

Previously-loved activities can even lose their appeal in general, because depression also commonly makes it difficult to enjoy or feel fulfilled by much at all. If you have no other way of explaining their decreasing interest, it could be a symptom of clinical depression.

6. They can develop abnormal eating habits

Abnormal eating habits mainly develop for two reasons: as a form of coping, or as a side effect of lack of self-care. Eating too little or too much is a common sign of depression. Overeating is often shamed the most, when food can be the one source of pleasure a depressed person is able to give themselves and thus causes them to eat excessively.

When a depressed person is eating too little, it’s often because their depression is affecting their appetite and making eating unappealing. It can also be a subconscious need to control something, since they cannot control their depression. If someone is undiagnosed or has not shared that they have depression, people will assume their eating habits are a personal fault and judge them for it, making the person feel worse.

7. They may start needing more from you

A depressed person legitimately can’t function like a mentally health person. There will be things they will no longer be able to do as much of, as often, or at all. Pestering or shaming them about it will only hurt, not help. If they’ve been keeping their depression private, it will be that much harder to deal with others getting irritated with them because they can’t perform at the level that’s expected of mentally healthy people.

This is why it’s always best to be understanding with those in your life, both work and personal. You don’t know if someone isn’t just slacking off, but is struggling with a real health problem.

8. They can have bad days, and “better” days

Depression can have its ups and downs. If someone has hidden or undiagnosed depression, they might seem like they get random mood swings, depending on if their depression is consistent or not. To you (and to them, if they are undiagnosed), the changes in mood seem without cause, but it’s simply how some people’s depression manifests.

If you know the person has depression, it’s possible to falsely believe they’re permanently better because of a few “good” days. While it’s always great if someone has a day that’s better than the one before it, you should always let them tell you what they’re ready to handle and when.

Assuming they’ve completely recovered and pushing them too quickly into things might overwhelm them and make them retreat into themselves again. Be supportive of your friends and family who have depression, but let them make the calls.

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The sound of unforgivable sinners. Lene Marlin and her suicide attempt

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Depression and suicide is still stigmatized in society. That is why honesty is so important. When people we look up to, tell their own stories, we realize that it`s more normal than we think to suffer. 

Lene Marlin is a famous artist from Norway. She wrote “unforgivable sinner” and it immediately became a hit.

What follows is her confession. Her forgivable sin. 

Lene Marlin reveals suicide attempt

2014-10-05 by Trey Spencer STAFF | 12 Comments

On a post on her Facebook page, Norwegian artist Lene Marlin posted a lengthy story of her emotional state, an attempted suicide and coming out the other side:

I didn’t want to live any longer

Everything seemed perfect from the outside. That just made it worse, Lene Marlin writes

I had decided that I would never speak of this publicly. Not because I am ashamed. I am not. But because I just wanted to be done with it all. As the years have passed I’ve come to realize that I will never be completely done with it. It is a part of who I am. I live with it each and every day and will carry it with me for the rest of my life. So I might as well say it out loud:

I tried to end my own life.

I couldn’t handle the pressure.

It’s strange, isn’t it, how you can go from living life for yourself, to suddenly realizing you are living it for everyone else; their expectations and their dreams. How easily one is lost in the demands of others. How easily one takes to living other people’s lives. Now I see it all the time, kids struggling. Even older people; imagine still feeling the pressure after all those years. What kind of hope is left us then?

A different kind of pressure

I wish I could tell you that the pressure lets off, as you grow older. The one thing I can say is that it changes. You simply have more choices. I decided that I was the only one that could make myself happy. This process included making some choices that seemed very strange to people close to me, but I have no regrets. Because even while living this hectic dream-life I knew I had to put a stop to it.

I let it go too far

Because I at that time lacked both the strength and the ability to listen to myself instead of others, years passed before I was fully healed. This is my only regret. It has, however, made me live my life in a different way. For better or for worse, I discovered at an early age how I didn’t want to live my life, and that is something for which I am thankful. Others take much longer to see this and might end up never having lived the life they really want.

Went home during recess

I still have bad dreams about high school; that they call me up telling me I need to come back, do it all over again. I felt like I didn’t fit in. Like I was weird and different from everyone else. Every time we had free time, even in the middle of the day, I would go home: Play the guitar for as long as I could and run back when I had to. That’s where I found the strength I needed. I kept thinking that if I just got through those three years everything would be all right. And it was. Sometimes you just have to hold on for a little while longer.

Sometime during my twenties I found myself lying on a cold kitchen floor weak from crying my eyes out. I don’t know how many hours had passed, but I found one can actually run out of tears. That your body can only take so much. I was completely worn out; but I had come to peace with the fact that this was to be my last night. I felt surprisingly cold and detached as I wrote notes to people I cared about. I did really want to end my life that night. When my eyes closed I felt at peace. I awoke several hours later, confused and in terrible pain. Ironically I didn’t have the strength to try again; I was too weak to even die.

The importance of being heard

Not being heard is painful. It can take a good while to finally say the words that are needed, but when you do, it is important that those around really listen and take you seriously. Failing that, it is so much easier to just crawl back into your shell, sure that your heavy thoughts are yours to live with alone. That kind of loneliness is the worst.

End it all? You? You’ve lived everyone’s biggest dream. You travel the world; you make lots of money, win awards, what can possibly be bothering you? They told me I was ungrateful. The incredible pressure, the expectations, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain you know

One time I ended up in the ER and was told I had been very lucky. I didn’t feel lucky. I had wanted to die, yet there I was. That night I found myself in the back of a dismal room listening to a girl on the other side of a curtain. She was talking about why she did it, and I remember her talking about the boy who had left her and how she had thought it would be them forever and now she didn’t have a reason to live. Or something like that; I was drifting in and out of sleep and can recall only fragments. No boy had put me in that bed, but I recognized the pain in her voice as my own.

We are who we become. Sometimes the road ahead is long and hard, especially when you are in your teens, when everything hurts and it is hard to believe it will ever end. You just don’t believe it will! I see it myself today with people I know who are struggling. It is hard just trying to get them to believe that life does get better. In those instances I use my own experiences; I can tell them that I know what it’s like to feel so tired and small that there seems to be no hope left. When they imagine that as they are sitting across from who I am today, that’s when I see that they understand what I am saying.

Hang in there!

You can’t change the past, but you can change how you live with it. I sometimes get flashbacks of what’s gone before. Often times I have forgotten all about it, so when the images appear it can be a lot to take in. My whole body reacts, as if it remembers what my mind has forgotten. That’s when I panic, I feel trapped and out of breath and need some time before I can tell myself that it’s all behind me. Once that happens my body settles down, but it’s a terrible feeling while it’s going on.

There is so much more contained in a tear than one might imagine. I have been seen crying on TV, which was something I never planned to do, it happened when songs and conversations took me back there. That experience was both painful and good at the same time because what I felt the most was the feeling of having weathered it and come through on the other side. A heavy thought for someone who didn’t expect to live past 30.

Those tears don’t make me feel ashamed, I know I should have cried them a long time ago.

So if you’re not in a good place when you’re reading this and can’t imagine life getting any better, please hang on for just a little longer and hear this; it will all be worth it!

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