I always liked to write and to journal. During the last part of high school and early college my teachers and professors complimented me on my writing. I had the same English Literature teacher my junior and senior year of high school- Mrs. Parker. I really liked her because she challenged me, and she liked me too because I was a good student academically, and was more mature compared to my peers. Sometimes I would share my problems with her and she would listen and provide feedback.
She sponsored an activity I created during black history month, a trivial game for students to participate in and to win prizes. I came up with brief summaries of famous African American people who made an impact on society and randomly followed up with questions about the individual during the month of February so that my peers could answer the questions by going to Mrs. Parker and receive a prize. This information was provided during morning announcements. So this was my relationship with Mrs. Parker.
Despite my ability to articulate thoughts and understandings of the literature I read, I remember one time my writing wasn't up to par and Mrs. Parker let me know it. One day, Mrs. Parker asked me to stay after class to discuss my essay. She started off my telling me she was going to give me a "B" on my paper, because she liked me, but couldn't because I did not show understanding of the story. She explained to me what the author's message was through the main character. By her honesty and accurate grading of my paper- giving me a "D"- she helped me understand the material and let me know I was not going to get off easy because we were "friends." She had high expectations of me which I appreciated.
Moving along to the topic of mental health related concerns, despite knowing that a loved one has mental illness, I've heard from some family members that their relative would not take their loved one who is struggling with mental illness to the hospital because they loved them and did not want to leave them in that environment. The loved one may even know that they have a mental illness but are not ready or willing to move forward in recovery, with the encouragement of their family, to get seek professional assistance, because of many factors for example: fear, lack of understanding, shame, guilt, and not wanting to acknowledge that the problem will never fix itself.
Is this helping my peer or enabling them to stay out of the hospital and to struggle?
Because of my harsh "wake up call" of going to jail and being forced into treatment by a judge, I do not sympathize with family members who hide or deny mental illness. I am in favor of mandated treatment compliance, because it saved my life! I was catatonic and not moving my body, or speaking and eating, while my body and mind were deteriorating day by day without getting proper treatment, which I denied while somewhat functioning.
I understand court ordered medication compliance is not for everyone, including those who do not want to take medication. I am an advocate for whatever form of treatment works for the individual including alternatives such as art therapy, music therapy, talk therapy, exercise, herbs, etc. However, I agree that a judge should intervene in the circumstance of an individual who may potentially harm themselves, or others, and commit repeated criminal offenses while not in the right state of mind.
I think a combination of stigma and lack of understanding from family members hurt my peers more so than help them whenever they are denied from some form of professional treatment. A lot of people do not understand how places like psychiatric hospitals and clubhouses support recovery. They may hear of an isolated incidence in the news and believe that all treatment facilities are bad, or worse, get their education from Hollywood. The movies often depict the poor quality of treatment from staff members that happened a long time ago, but do not tell the truth and state that these old ways of treating and caring for people in the mental health system has changed.
It bothers me when peers struggle with extreme anxiety or paranoia, heavy and dark depression, hearing criticizing voices nonstop, and relentless rituals and obsessions, and mania that has harsh consequences; and other symptoms of mental illness without relief. I am sure the family member does not want them to suffer either, but allow it because of their ignorance, lack of acceptance, and not wanting to ruin their reputation or "good name," and this ultimately happens because of the power of stigma. I do not like it when family members enable loved ones living with mental illness to not get the treatment they need.
I do not want to imply that most family members are caught up in their appearance or other stigmas and do not seek assistance for their loved one, because that is far from the truth! It was at my family's request for the judge to force medicate me, and I never had any bad feelings toward my family for wanting to help me get well again and to seek legal assistance.
In fact, I also hear of a lot of families that go to the police as a last resort. And this concerns me too, however, the bottom line is they need help for their loved one and are seeking it by any means, which is commendable. However, some of my peers feel betrayed by family for getting police involved and they have a right to feel this way, even though I do not agree with it.
I have a few questions for you and I encourage anonymity if this is too personal, but you still want to share your story:
If you are a family member: How do you feel about families that do not take their loved one into treatment?- were there any factors or reasons I did not cover that you want to elaborate on? Have you ever had to get a judge or police involved with your loved one to get them into treatment?
If you are someone living with a mental illness: Have you ever had a run-in with the legal system by the hand of your family so that they can get you into treatment? How did this make you feel?
To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, NAMI, Choices in Recovery, or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada)?