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Whose to Blame

Whose to blame for my mental illness? Is it me, is you?... I presented a NAMI In Our Own Voice program for another Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) class yesterday. After the presentation, one of the class participants came to me and told me he felt responsible for my mental health. He worked at my old college and felt like he or someone from the institution should have been there for me when the symptoms of Schizophrenia seemed to have got the best of me. While I attended that school, I did not have insight into my mental health. In fact, I did not even know what a mental illness was!

Even when the symptoms of Schizophrenia tormented me, I did not know it was beyond my control. Many times, I prayed and meditated for peace of mind and for the angels to protect me as I go to my destination. I was very religious and had delusions that I was prophet of God. I prayed for protection because I felt like I was fighting a spiritual battle everyday. In other words, spiritual welfare between me and the world.

Back then in school, I felt emotionally exhausted, and I also felt like a victim because I thought professors and peers were gossiping about me. I was extremely paranoid. Paranoia is another symptom of Schizophrenia in my experience with the illness. Eventually, I began to hate my school, because I did not feel like I can connect with my peers anymore. I also isolated from family because I did not think that would understand my concerns.

Despite my frustration and lack of understanding as to what was happening to me, I never blamed anyone or myself for that matter for my mental illness when I did become aware of my diagnosis. If anything I just wanted to strive for my old life- college, family life, and independence.

Should we blame community, family, friends, and ourselves for mental illness? What about the good Samaritan idea. If we see someone who looks disoriented or distant should it be up to us to check on them and seek resources and support for them?

I remember while I was going through an episode before I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, I was hearing voices and wondering about aimlessly. I called family and friends on the phone at a gas station, but the voices continued to infringe on my livelihood. While outside a stranger confronted me. He gave me a ride to a nearby mall at my request and then called the police because I seemed disoriented and confused. When the police confronted me they did not understand what was going on so they called my family and sent me home. Thinking about that incident, I think the man was acting as a good Samaritan. I am glad that he called the police because I would not have known how to return home, because my symptoms were so bad. However, I wish that police officer was trained to distinguish someone with a mental health concern, it may have prevented or helped in my crisis stage.

If we all acted as good Samaritans can we make a difference in someone's recovery from mental health?.... I do not believe that we, or I should, blame others for my mental illness because there is no known cause for the diagnosis and it does not have anything to do with my character. A common misconception about the illness is that it is caused by dysfunctional families or poor parenting- this is NOT true. Schizophrenia is brain disease and its causes are unknown. However, genetics and environmental factors do play a role in the onset of the illness.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


Jen Daisybee said…
I don't blame anyone for my illness, because it is a biological brain disorder that is not caused by anothre person's actions.

I do wish that my family had tried harder to intervene and get help for me so that I did not spend so many years psychotic and wandering aimlessly and often homeless or living in a motel. I would hvae liked to have gotten help earlier, but I know that there were times when my mom tried to get me help from the police, and they said there was nothing they could od because I did not appear to be a threat to myself or others.

I don't think my family knew how to help, and I am not sure they could have gotten me into a hospital more often than I was in them.

But I spent years living in a state where I didn't know anybody. And they never really tried to help me at all then. Which kind of makes me sad when I think about it. My dad still does not want to know anything about my illness and is ashamed of me because I have it.
Womanrise said…
The person with the mental illness is not to blame, ever. In some cases they say it is inherited. It is important for us to be conscientious of the behavior of our offspring, or of any family member be it a sister, wife, husband, or whoever. We should have a closeness and an awareness where we notice when something does not seem right. When we notice behavioral changes or severe mood swings, for example, it is our responsibility to have it checked out, professionally. Me Ashley's mom, and her sister, noticed changes and we tried to figure it out ourselves. We suggested Ashley research certain things online. We made suggestions of what we thought was going on, but we were wrong. We were not doctors. We did not have a clue that it would remotely be related to a mental illness. We did not have knowledge of anything relating to mental illnesses, except for the uneducated myths we so often hear.

Our family had family secrets like a lot of families. If I'd only known, I would have at least been aware of the possibilities of what my children might have been at risk with. Hush hush family secrets can sometimes be damaging. I learned never to diagnose your children and to leave that for doctors.

I am glad that Ashley was able to get the professional help she needed and to educate herself and others about some very very important experiences and times that she has overcome. I also know that support is essential to anyone with a mental illness. It should not be tackled alone. I also know that it is not a situation where blame can remotely be placed on the person with the mental illness. Love you babe, Mom
eyelift said…
This is your so painful and emotional story, Ashley. Really, I am impressed with your courage. You had struggled at that time. Definitely any one can motivate from your story.

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