A Woman's Voice


Comment on ~ “The “Stigma” of Mental Illness” ~ March 25, 2011

The following comment is an incredible response to my post yesterday on the “stigma” of mental illness. I felt very inspired to share it with all of you.

Dolores,
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 met 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 treated 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 realize that 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.

Thank you so much for sharing your daughter’s painful story. I truly appreciate this well thought-out and very personal comment.  I have read it over and over again and I must say that a deep sadness came over me, not only for your daughter but for you too as her mother. I can well imagine your sense of helplessness as you faced this illness and the many crisis situations that arose with your daughter. I personally have experienced the “stigma” and the isolation of mental illness and I know how painful it can be.  What so profoundly struck me was when your daughter said that  people don’t ” realize that mental illness is as serious as cancer or heart”.  

This statement holds such a powerful message and it carries even more weight because it comes from a person who has experienced all three illnesses. Rita, I am ever so grateful that you have taken the time to share this most powerful message with my readers and me.  I thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.

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4 Responses to 'Comment on ~ “The “Stigma” of Mental Illness” ~ March 25, 2011'

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  1. Sumanda said,

    After more than 14 years of symptoms, I finally couldn’t let my mother go untreated anymore. We had been trying to get her to go for voluntary treatment for years. I had her committed against her will and after a 6 month stay in a mental facility she is now staying with my brother who makes sure she takes her medication. She was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, but because it took so long for treatment to start, she will never be the same person she was. She lives in her own world now and is unable to communicate in any significant way with people.

    I would love to see the perception of general public change towards Schizophrenia. Most people believe that it gives the person suffering from it split personalities and that they hear voices and that they are all homicidal. Truth is Schizophrenia is characterized with “hallucinations” of all the senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste, but it also brakes down the persons ability to interact in social settings.

    My mother was smart enough to hide the worst of the symptoms from us for many years. If the “acceptability” of mental illness was better, she might not have tried hiding it.


    • Sumanda,
      I’m sorry to hear that it took so long for your mother to receive treatment for her mental illness. The fact that she was able to hide her illness for so long is a good indication of the “stigma” that she felt mental illness had so she opted to suffer in silence. I agree with you that “if the “acceptability” of mental illness was better, she might not have tried hiding it”. That comment in itself explains why people choose to suffer in silence. They do not want to add to the pain they are already experiencing by being further stigmatized. Hopefully, one day the perception of the general public will evolve to the point where those with mental illness do not feel the need to hide. Therefore, they can get the proper medical attention so that their condition is reversible. Thank you very much for sharing your mother’s story. I know that we have all been touched by mental illness one way or the other. In time, hopefully the compassion and understanding that this debilating illness deserves will be more widespread and less feared. Blessings!

  2. Kay Wielinski said,

    My heart reaches out to all of us who have experienced all too familiar experiences – hopefully we will all continue to reach out and speak out with our support and understanding.


    • Thanks for your comments Kay. I know that whether we have personally suffered from mental illness or if one of our loved ones has, the best thing we can do is reach out in a compassionate and supportive way. It is a very difficult illness to deal with alone. This only compounds an already painful situation. Blessings!


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