Wow, the past month has really been a struggle. About two weeks before Christmas, a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. She was loved by so many and left behind her husband, a 14-year-old son and an autistic 12-year-old son. And then, tragically, I just learned that a friend of mine lost her 15-year-old daughter to suicide.
As many understand, mental illness is a serious brain disease which can also be terminal. But there is still so much stigma, shame and misinformation associated with it, and discussion about it is too often in hushed, negative tones.
My friend’s death really took a toll on me over the holidays and I’m now fighting some really depressive dark thoughts about my friend, her daughter and her surviving family. Having suffered from major depression where I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to the light, my heart breaks for the pain my friend’s daughter was facing that made her feel like there was no way out. I’m sick for my friend and her family and the serious struggle and toll this will take on them. Quite honestly, this is probably every parent’s worst nightmare and one Jeff and I have worried about with Chloe for years.
Some serious information needs to be shared about mental illness:
- Mental illness is a brain disease and people cannot control it. Just like diabetes or any other life-threatening illnesses, mental illness often needs to be treated with medication and therapy.
- Mental illness impacts all walks of life – tall, short; men, women; wealthy, poor; Americans, Canadians, French, Asian, Russian…
- Difficult transitions often trigger worsening symptoms of a mentally ill person. With my friend’s death, I really struggled with depression. My brain felt like a fragile egg about to crack at any time and my body couldn’t get enough sleep. It took me weeks to recover and feel like myself again.
- Partners and caregivers of mentally ill people need to have patience and compassion. It’s not easy for them and like any other life-threatening disease, there are unexpected complications and it is often an unpredictable life.
There is help and there is hope. First and foremost, always take talk about suicide seriously. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and open 24/7: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, talk to someone who you trust – a friend, partner, clergy member. If you’re a youth, tell a teacher, parent or adult you trust.
Finally, life is truly fragile. In a blink of an eye, we could lose everything – family, friends, and truly what’s important in life. It’s time to reflect what’s really important.