Did you know that mental illness is actually sometimes called the "no casserole illness"? That's because when there's a physical illness in the family, family and friends come out of the woodwork and bring food. When there's mental illness, nobody shows up at the door with a casserole or a cake.
For my neighbors who lost their son, this is particularly profound. Their adult daughter (mother of their grandchildren) has cystic fibrosis. What a contrast in responses from others she had between the two. When her daughter has been hospitalized with exacerbations from CF, she can count on the kindness and support of family and friends. When her son was hospitalized for exacerbations of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, nobody wanted to hear about it or talk about it, much less offer support or relief of any kind.
I hope that as nurses, we always recognize that mental illness is illness. Period.