My sister was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and OCD when she was twelve years old; illnesses that began when she was nine years old as a result of a leotard (and subsequent comments from her class-mates) she had to wear during a school-play. Following her diagnosis she was hospitalized for many years and – despite periods of relative normality – she continues to suffer from her illnesses to this day. She is currently homeless, somewhere in the UK, battling for the treatment and support she deserves.
In addition to this, both my parents have battled their own mental health demons and numerous relatives I’m too young to have met had their issues to deal with, including a Great Aunt who spent most of her life in a psychiatric institution as a result of (if memory serves) post natal depression.
Then there is my ‘other family’ – my tribe – that is made up of all the bloggers I religiously follow and the wonderful people who frequent Free Voices Speak Out and the other support groups I attend; all of whom battle their own mental health issues on a day-to-day basis; all of whom understand only too well the pain that mental illness can cause to someones life.
But even though all of my family’s lives have been affected by mental health, none of us have rested on our laurels.
During the mid-1990s my parents established MH Carers; a local charity for the carers of people with Mental Health issues. This involved fortnightly meetings, inspirational speakers, day trips, evening excursions and monthly newsletters; all to ease the burden of those whose lives had been affected by the mental health of people they cared for. This charity ran – funded by grants and donations – until late last year, having helped thousands of people affected by mental illness.
In spite of her illness, my sister has written of her struggles with mental health, whilst my tribe frequently speak publicly of their battles in an effort to raise awareness of what people with mental health problems have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve long been immensely proud of my family’s continual efforts to raise awareness of mental illness and their attempts to help others affected by it. It’s all too easy to withdraw into our own worlds when it comes to mental health, but my family (be it by blood or by tribe) understand all too well that talking about mental illness is the only way we can normalise it and in turn, eliminate the grotesque stigma attached to it.
- CAMH marks Mental Illness Awareness Week (camhblog.com)
- The Stigma of Mental Illness (candyspring83.wordpress.com)
- The Awful Stigma of Mental Illness (forfreepsychology.wordpress.com)