Statistics show that one in five adults are affected by a mental health condition in a given year. 20 % of our population! I admit, I didn’t think about this much. It happened to someone else, another family – not mine.
From 1975 on, when Roy and I got married , my family appeared to be “normal.” By 2004, we had four adult children, all of them on their own. They worked or continued to study while Roy, my husband and I worked and enjoyed our jobs.
In late 2004, we became part of the statistic – 1 in 5 individuals affected, 1 in 4 families and the 1 in 100 individuals that deal with schizophrenia. I could not ignore it any longer. Over the course of a few months, I took a crash course in how to handle a loved one with a mental health condition.
I’m so grateful I found our local NAMI organization. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offered me a shoulder to lean on and the education to understand. As a result of their support, I was able to react to my situation with love and patience. I learned all I could by reading books on the subject and taking the Family to Family class. But that’s me. It’s how I roll. It’s how life has taught me to react.
Our story has a happy ending. Our child lived with us for four years and came to understand her illness. She worked hard to move into recovery and stay there. It’s been nine years since her first episode of psychosis. With the help of doctors, therapists, counselors, family and friends she fought against the symptoms and won. Today she works full-time, lives on her own and manages all her own affairs. She understands her need for medication, regular doctor appointments and a counselor she can trust.
To say I’m proud of my child is an understatement. We may be part of the statistic, but it doesn’t define her or our family. She isn’t schizophrenic, she has schizophrenia and she manages her illness.
As a result of my journey, I work now to bring awareness and hope to the families whose loved one suffers. I understand that when a child battles an illness, the family’s life changes forever, too. Now, I feel compelled to support other families who travel a similar path. I work to offer awareness to a wide-spread issue and also to bring hope that recovery is possible. I dream of a day when it happens for everyone. Until then, I plan to continue to involve others in a discussion about mental health conditions. It affects us all.
For information about free education about mental health conditions go to National Alliance on Mental Illness Programs.
To find publications about mental health conditions visit the National Institute of Mental Health.