Over the last few weeks, within a five-mile radius from where I live and work, there were three families in crisis. A 48-year-old mother of two struggling with schizophrenia went missing. Once a highly social, engaging woman with two Master’s degrees in English literature who wrote beautiful poetry in Tamil, today, she can barely function. A 41-year old mother of two struggling with schizoaffective disorder was hospitalized due to her deteriorating health – she had lost 65 pounds in a few months and was haunted by hallucinations – once a vibrant woman who had plenty of friends, an MBA, and a career, today she spends her time talking to the imaginary demons in her head. And, a 24-year-old young man, struggling with depression, shot and killed himself.
As debilitating as the diseases affecting each of these people are, it is the stigma surrounding mental illness that had sentenced them into lives of shame, secrecy, and needless suffering. Unfortunately, the resultant social isolation had prevented them from seeking life-saving treatment and support. Fortunately, our community volunteers are doing an incredible job of reaching out to these families and helping them on their road to recovery and wellness.
As a mother and mental health advocate, the struggles of these families break my heart and strengthen my resolve to empower them to overcome barriers to recovery and achieve wellness. And, I salute their courage in teaching us yet again, that while medications, therapy, and hospitalizations can help, a community heals. Like all of us, what people struggling with mental health issues need most to recover is love, and a deep sense of connection at home, at work, and in the community.
Dear friend, it is time we break the silence surrounding mental illness and start the conversation about mental health. It is time we come together to create communities of understanding, compassion, and inclusion. If not for us, we have to do it for our children’s sake.
Wishing you wellness,
Gayathri Ramprasad, MBA, CPS