Sunday, January 5, 2014

When It's Not Physical Illness...

On New Year's Day, I found out that my neighbor's 29-year-old son overdosed on his own prescription medications and died on December 26th. He suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  My heart breaks for our neighbors, they were devoted to helping their son handle these horrible diseases and I'm so sorry they have to go through this. 

I found out about our neighbor's tragedy while standing in the street talking to another neighbor.  All three of us parent children with mental illness. 

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.

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