Sunday, October 13, 2013

World Mental Health Day Posts

I'm just copying all my posts from World Mental Health Day last week into one place so I can find them if I ever want to.  And if you haven't read what I had to say, you're welcome to read some or all of it now too.

Today, 10/10, is the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Day. I'll probably have a lot more to say about this as the day progresses here in the Eastern US, but for the moment let me just posit a brief PSA:
It's not okay to be using the terms "crazy" or "mentally ill" as a negative epithet when you're referring to someone who has committed evil (murder, rape, battery, anything); or when talking about politicians whose platforms you oppose; or in any case where you're staking out morality. Mental illness is as physiological as heart disease or multiple sclerosis; it is caused by endocrine and neurologic changes in the human body. It's as pervasive in its effects and as devastating as other diseases can be. It does not itself affect the morality, righteousness, or rights of the person who suffers from it anymore than those diseases do.
No more stigma, no more hiding. When a family member is hospitalized following a heart attack, we let everyone know and ask everyone for help. When a family member is hospitalized due to mental illness, we hide it and tell people who ask explicitly about their state that it's private. Mental illness is not a failing and it shouldn't be a secret. We don't whisper, "cancer" anymore or say someone has, "c." We take pride in fighting colon cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure. We've reached the twenty first century. It's time to stop hiding mental illness, start fighting it openly, build our teams, ask for help. No more whispering and shame.
How can you be a friend and how can you help a friend suffering mental illness? It's a great question. First, be willing to listen, without judging. No one is choosing to be depressed, to be manic, to be schizophrenic, any more than anyone is choosing to have diabetes, breast cancer, or Parkinson's disease.

Second, do not suggest some supplement, dietary change, activity, or anything else that you heard can help, unless you have clinical evidence that it's efficacious--in which case, you can suggest the friend discuss the idea with his or her clinician. Do not under any circumstances propose the friend immediately add a regimen of your suggested substance and especially not with the suggestion that if only he or she would take the drug/herb/supplement, he or she would be cured. Believe me, if someone had a sure-fire cure or even a known chemical which was fully assistive for any mental illness, that would win a Nobel prize. Meanwhile, just listen, talk, listen some more, without thinking that you are going to cure; the listening is a way to help heal.

More to come a little later, but I think this is plenty of my babble for the moment.
How you can really help a friend who is experiencing mental illness themselves or has a family member suffering, Part 2:

Offer to help in a specific way. Don't ask, "How can I help you?" It's well-meaning, it's genuine, but it's asking someone who is already suffering and overwhelmed (or possibly not experiencing reality in a rational, practical way) to explore answers or problem-solve. Say, "I'm going to the grocery store and I'm willing to pick up a big shopping. Give me a list or else I'm just going to get you a bunch of standard household groceries like eggs, milk, and bread. [Now more and more groceries offer a service of pre-gathering and bagging online orders, and they can be pre-paid online in advance too]" Or, "I'm going to go ahead and drive your car-pools this week, unless there's a reason I can't." Or, "Let me take the kids tomorrow and the next afternoon from 2-5 pm." Or, "I'm arranging to have our leaves raked and bagged this week; my guys charge $30, can I tell them you'd like them to do your yard too?" Or any variation depending on your lifestyle; these are examples from my life and that of my friend cohort, and we're mostly parents of school-aged children living in suburbia. Rural life, single life, any other variation on demographics and you'll have other areas.
It doesn't have to involve spending money. There are plenty of other things that you can do. Offer to come over for one hour to start a load of laundry and make sure it gets put in the dryer. Maybe you can't stay to fold it and put it away, that would be a lot, but in one hour you could just make sure it got washed and dried and there'd be clean clothes for the kids. Ask if they need dry cleaning taken in or picked up. There are an infinite number of ways you can help, but you're most likely to actually be able to act if you take the initiative and make specific proposals.
How you can help someone with mental illness, Part 3, courtesy of theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)'

"If someone you know online is showing any of these warning signs, it is important that you post a message encouraging them to call the Lifeline. Learn how to help someone online here."

Last one for tonight, but here's how to help a friend who themselves is experiencing mental illness or who has a loved one with a mental illness, Part 4:

Be aware of the extreme costs that can come with treating mental illness. Yes, I'm talking about the money, as well as the time, energy, and effort. Hospitalizations, even with insurance covering its part, can cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Some new anti-psychotics, even after insurance paying their shares, can cost hundreds of dollars a month for the patient--every single month. If that's the drug that treats the condition best, there's not much choice but to come up with that hundreds of dollars each and every month. Hospitals will allow you to set up a payment plan, but when there are repeated hospitalizations and the bill just gets more huge each time, it's demoralizing just to think of the money owed. Therapy and MD visits may be covered by insurance, but there will be at least a copay; and $25/week for therapy copays means $100 out of the budget every single month just for that, IF it's covered at all. If it's not, if there are no in-plan suitable providers that can be found (which is a very common occurrence) then it can be $50-150/week for necessary therapy. Out-of-plan psychiatrists likewise generally charge $150/office visit.

And don't forget the time and energy costs. I had times when I was leaving my boss voice mails at 4:00 AM on my way home from hospitals where one of my immediate family members had been admitted, times when I had to go visit someone at a hospital a good distance away every day or every other day. I once tried to use a community board set up expressly to help families in medical/family crises to get help through the school community, and asked if it was possible for someone to find a ride to a birthday party that weekend for my little daughter so that I could be at the hospital with a loved one but my 4 year old could have as normal a time as possible. I didn't hear back from them for over three weeks, when one of the board administrators told me they had forgotten to check whether anyone had put in requests! Meanwhile, I had made that much more of an effort (along with my husband who was working even harder) to manage everyone's needs without the family suffering. It was demoralizing to feel I had finally opened up and asked for help, something I'm not at all good at, and then had been entirely ignored not deliberately but just out of lack of awareness of how critical these things can be for a family at some times. I've had nights where I never did manage to get to sleep; my husband has had far, far too many nights where he had to steal an hour or two to manage rest.

I'll stop the excessive commentary now. If you've read or even just glossed over all this that I've had to say, I really appreciate it. I hope some of what I've said makes sense. Maybe it'll help us, help you, help others, I don't know. I just felt I had to say it.

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