THANK YOU GRANDCHILDREN
I would like to say thank you for accepting uncle Doug, and including him in our gatherings. Uncle Doug has a disease called schizophrenia. When you were small I’m sure you were not quite sure what to think about him. During the times he is having more hallucinations he can be a little different, he would probably say even odd. Then he would chuckle. It doesn’t matter to you. You still show him respect, and you respond to him when he talks with you.
MENTAL ILLNESS STIGMA
The last few years have seen improvements in the area of mental illness. However, even with these improvements, there continues to be a stigma associated with having a major diagnosis. It’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis, but once a person has one, how do they decide to share with friends or loved ones?
Often, loved ones will be aware of a problem due to the symptoms a person has been experiencing. How does a person decide to inform their friends? If they tell friends, will these friends be supportive? Will they understand the significance of getting a diagnosis? Will they need education regarding the illness?
HOW TO TELL LOVED ONES
I would like to encourage anyone receiving a major diagnosis to not label yourself in terms of only that diagnosis. When talking with others close to you, remind them your illness is only one aspect of who you are. Your thoughts and language can have an impact on your coping strategies as you heal or stabilize.
An important aspect of language is being person centered. Referring to yourself as schizophrenic instead of a person who has schizophrenia can limit you to the possibilities you may have for your future. The same can be said for bi-polar and even diabetes. You are more than your illness.
It also would be helpful for professionals to think about the language used with patients. A person who is having a problem with high blood sugars should not be referred to as diabetic. They are a person with diabetes.
When a person receives a major diagnosis it is often life changing. However, having the diagnosis does not change everything about that person, or who they are inside. Someone who develops a mental illness is still a son/daughter, a brother/sister, mother/father, or a friend. They may be an artist, a baker, a welder, a banker, or a homeless person on the street. They can still smile, they can still share laughter, they can still be kind, and they can still have hope.
So grandchildren I ask you to continue having understanding of people you meet who struggle with mental illness. Please remember it is only part of who they are. Remember uncle Doug.
For anyone who may be having a major illness, please be gentle with yourself. Please remember the illness is only part of who you are, not the totality of who you are. You will still be able to smile. You can still share laughter. You can still be kind. You can have hope.
http://www.nami.org National Alliance on Mental Illness
For anyone wanting to find out more about supporting loved ones who may have mental illness contact the above web site.