By Advocate and Family Member, Donna Winant
Mental disorders and/or structural abnormalities of the brain comprise a broad range of problems with different symptoms. However, they are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behavior and relationships with others. These conditions are referred to as Serious Mental Illness (SMI) within the system of governance and is a term frequently used in communications regarding mental illness.
One must not judge persons living with SMI. For example, in three separate cases one individual was diagnosed with a brain tumor, another was hit by a car while riding his bicycle as a youngster causing brain damage and yet another suffered a brain disorder via serious effects of Lyme disease. No one totally understands why someone suffers with SMI. Cited as probable or possible contributing factors are heredity and/or trauma. What we do know is that persons with SMI should never be judged but provided with informed and comprehensive treatment for a brain disease they did not choose.
In addition, one must not judge family members of persons with SMI. Caring family members can be thrust into unknown territory when their loved one becomes sick. Most are not mental health professionals yet they seek to help and learn all they can about SMI. They work to find proper resources when there are often insufficient resources to be had. They work to become educated in mental illness. They learn all they can but it is a process. Family members do all they can to assist their loved ones but when the system of healthcare is spotty or hard to obtain, they are left with limited solutions as to how to best assist their loved ones. Caring and loving family members are valiant in their ongoing efforts and should be applauded for working towards solutions against all odds.
What I am attempting to convey is that there should be no condemnation of those with SMI or of their families. What is needed for a just society are well-crafted public health policies to support those, who through no fault of their own, suffer with SMI and its devastating consequences on one’s health and well-being. What is also needed is understanding and compassion, not blame.
Advocate and Family Member