A Woman's Voice

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ “Dear Abby” ~ March 24, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

Over the last few weeks, I have posted several articles dealing with depression.  I have openly admitted that I have suffered from this, often times, debilitating condition and was hospitalized years ago when I was at my worst. I explained in an earlier post that I hid my depression as much as possible. I have felt for many years now, that the reaction to mental illness by family and friends is very different from the reaction to physical illnesses but I think things have changed. It took me years to be comfortable enough to “come clean” in sharing my story. On Saturday, March  19, 2011 in The Arizona Republic newspaper on page E5, this letter was written to Dear Abby.  I would love for you to read it and let me know what you think.

Dear Abby:

When people have a serious illness, their friends and family usually send “get well” messages and flowers to the hospital. Unfortunately, it isn’t the custom to send supportive greetings and gifts to those who are dealing with psychiatric illnesses. These people deserve all the attention and good wishes that other patients receive. Please let it be known that psychiatric illnesses are treatable and recovery is possible. Support in all forms is essential in all patients’ progress toward recovering from serious illness of any kind.  – Kathy in Universal City, Texas 

Dear Kathy:

You make a good point. The reason some people may be hesitant to acknowledge someone else’s mental illness may be the stigma that is still attached to these kinds of problems. For that reason, there may be a reluctance on the part of the patient’s family to reveal there is a problem so serious that their family member must be hospitalized. But you are absolutely right. When people are ill, they need to know they are cared about. A card with warm good wishes is a step in the right direction.


I know that many people today are much more open and educated when it comes to dealing with any form of mental illness. However, this letter was just printed in the newspaper last Saturday. The word “stigma” was used to describe mental illness. What I would really like to know is if you think there is still a “stigma” to mental illness and if so why. Even if you aren’t comfortable with leaving a comment, perhaps you might just ask yourself this question. Many of us have suffered in silence. If it isn’t you, you probably know someone who still might be. Have we come as far as I would like to believe or am I deluding myself? What do you think?


11 Responses to 'THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ “Dear Abby” ~ March 24, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte'

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  1. Desiray said,

    I love the article sis you already know my story about this and I am happy to see you was so comfortable in having it posted. It really is a serious problem and one can over come it, it takes time and most of all Jesus. But many do suffer in silence because of the way the world view them as crazies when in fact being depressed has nothing to do with being crazy.

    • Thank you Desiray,
      I very much appreciate your honesty and openess about your own previous depression. It is a very serious illness that can be overcome but you are so right…it does take “time and most of all Jesus”. I know that many people still suffer in silence which is why I want to be more open about my own bouts with depression. It is a very difficult condition to bear in silence and without the support of family and friends, it makes it even more difficult because of the isolation. I pray and wish it wasn’t so and hopefully one day it won’t be. If more and more of us admit what we’re dealing with, perhaps others will open up and get the support and prayers that they need. Therefore, the “stigma” of mental illness will continue to lessen over time. Blessings sis!

  2. Rita said,

    My daughter was diagnosed with mental illness more than 15 years ago. part of the problem at that time was diagnosing which type of mental illness she suffered and finding the right medication to treat her. During that time, she behaved as a fund person, really was over the top. One day she phoned and said Mom I need help, I can’t continue. Over the years, there were several suicide attempts and it was interesting the number of people who wouldn’t acknowledge her problem. The visits at the hospital were from her husband, sisters, Mom and some very good friends. Even her Dad refused to acknowledge that she had a problem (his words). He thought she was “acting.” Stigma is a good description as to how people react. When she had cancer, the reaction was so different; likewise later when she had open heart surgery. She once commented to me – don’t they realize mental illness is as serious as cancer and heart? Under the long time care of her doctor and medication, things are improving, but there are times when she has a relapse. Over time in the business world I am surprised at the number of men I have meet who suffer depression in silence. They believe any public acknowledgement would hurt their positions in society.
    I think in Canada, Margaret Trudeau is a very good example of someone who struggled, was treatly badly by the public and press; but is now a spokesperson for mental illness. Too often she was ignored, with nasty comments spoken behind her back. We need more people like her willing to stand up and say I suffer from mental illness, but it can be treated.
    I feel for everyone who has undergone the isolation, stigma and lack of feeling of self-worth that this illness causes. We need to realizer people don’t make it happen to themselves. It very often is a chemical imbalance and improper diagnose by doctors or worst, improper treatment.
    Dolores, I am proud of you for being able to speak out on this very important issue.

  3. raisethegaze said,

    Undoubtedly there are many people who still bear a stigmatizing attitude towards mental illness, some of whom may even direct that towards certain sufferers they encounter. That is sad
    However, I’m sure that there are many other people who do not have that negative attitude or mindset, and yet fail to encourage and show acts of kindness, because they don’t understand the sufferer’s needs …
    They don’t want to offend, or are afraid that their words or attempts at kindness may offend and “set [the individual] off,” and result in rejection.
    My wife and I have experienced this during our years of pastoral ministry. However, we learned through repeated exposure and experience to look and care beyond the episode of the moment.
    Thank you for this important series.

    • Peter,
      I thank you once again for following my blog so diligently and for leaving comments on a regular basis. I truly appreciate it. Your input and insights have added a great deal to many of the articles. I know that you and May have many years experience in dealing with all kinds of situations and problems so when you share your thoughts, they carry a lot of weight. Tomorrow, I will continue by posting a response I received on this subject earlier in today. Next week, if it’s okay with you, I would like to bring your comments over on to the main blog and further add to them. Blessings to you and May!

  4. Stephanie said,

    Thanks for posting this. I do think that people are too quiet when they know that someone is struggling with mental illness. While I know that this is a very different situation, I suffered a miscarriage a few months ago, and I’ve learned just how “hush-hush” this medically and emotionally traumatizing condition is. After going through that, I made a promise to myself to always acknowledge pregnancy loss in others with flowers or a card if they confide in me. This post made me realize that perhaps I should do the same with mental illness if a friend or colleague confides in me. Thank you!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      I am sorry to hear that you suffered a miscarriage a few months ago. My daughter experienced one a few years ago and I know the devastation and sorrow that comes with this kind of loss. We, as parents and her siblings, also shared in this great loss and I understand the emotional trauma involved. I don’t know why some situations like miscarriages and mental illness are harder to address. It makes it doubly hard to embrace our situation because we may feel very alone when in reality we need prayers, support, and encouragement just like those who experience other losses and physical illnesses. By being more aware as you have so aptly pointed out, perhaps in the future if we all made a little more effort to reach out in compassion, this world would be a better place. Thank you Stephanie!

  5. Susan Earl said,

    I think there are still many people afraid to address this issue, even though many people suffer from bouts of what used to be termed “the blues”. Depression is a disease that is as serious as cancer or heart disease as it can also take a loved one away from you.
    There are so many different forms of mental illness that it is hard to address this issue in full because the disease itself differs so greatly from person to person. I can’t speak from a medical standpoint only from personal experience, so please don’t take what I’ve said as literal fact. It is my belief that people don’t want to acknowledge there is a potential problem and often wait to seek help because of the “stigma” attached to the disease. Unfortunately because of this, when a person does finally admit their illness exists, others tend to shy away.
    Thanks for posting this…it gets a lot of people thinking, and if we all express our thoughts and concerns maybe it will make a difference in someone’s life one day.

    • Thanks Susan for your comments and insights on this very serious illness. You are the second person to say that “depression is as serious as cancer or heart disease as it can also take a loved one away from you”. You are very right. Mental illness can also have many forms and different severities like you mentioned. Often times, the patient may not seek the medical help they need until the condition is out of hand. This series of posts is meant to have a better look at the “stigma” of mental illness and how much we’ve evolved in a positive direction through awareness and education. Striving to get people to express thoughts and concerns is a good way to accomplish this. Blessings.

  6. Delores, I am thrilled to have discovered your blog from your listing on TheBlogFarm. I read through many pages, Followed, and even grabbed your button and now display it on my blog.

    As a woman who has faced mental health issues, and now a mom with a teen with mental illness that no one is taking seriously, I resonated with not only your writing on the subject, but also with your reader’s comments. I know that statistics say that people don’t ask for help until a mental health issue is out of hand; however, from experience I am guessing that most often, that person (or their parent(s)) has asked for help over and over without anyone taking them seriously.

    I look forward to more great posts!


    • RJ…I am equally thrilled that you have found my site. I am honored that you are now following my blog and have read through many of my previous posts.
      I totally understand what it is like to face mental health issues. I also know how tough it is to get help for your teen. I realize it can be an illness that may not be taken seriously until it gets out of hand. That is the saddest part because the best recovery rate has to do with early diagnosis. I pray that the medical professionals will take the symptoms as seriously as those who are in need and cry out for help in one way or another. The sufferer may not always recognize they’re own symptoms but someone close by oftentimes does. Thanks so much for sharing your views. Blessings

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