“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
This has been a battle cry of educators everywhere. And, as a society, we recognize the costs of ignorance by socioeconomic factors. In general, people with less education do not earn as much as people with education. This affects housing, community development, lifestyle, and crime.
Well, this is also true of the issues surrounding stigma and mental illness. According to Wikipedia (clearest definition I found), “Social stigma is disapproval of a person based on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.” In World War 2, Japanese Americans were stigmatized. During the 1950’s, Russian Americans were stigmatized. Throughout history, groups of people have been stigmatized including gypsies, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Gays, Blacks, and the list goes on. In medical treatment, the list has included individuals with developmental disabilities, missing limbs, deformities, diabetes type 2, cancer, mental illness. Eventually, many of these groups were able to move from social stigma to social acceptance through campaigns aimed at education and solutions.
Grow a Strong Family has determined that its mission is to educate and support families uprooted by mental illness. Through our comprehensive multimedia approach to education and support, it is an effective antidote to the ignorance that represents itself as stigma. We offer families solutions in the form of information, strategies, resources, and ongoing support. This enables families to advocate more effectively for their loved ones and demand appropriate change in attitude and treatment options.
In our current culture, once an individual is determined to be an adult, around 18 years of age, the family is summarily dismissed from the care and treatment of their loved one. The irony is that the onset of most mental illnesses is in the transition age years, between 14 and 30 years of age, with the more serious illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the earlier end of the spectrum. We expect these individuals to make decisions about their care with their brains that are not working properly. Consider, if you will, allowing someone with a dementia or a traumatic brain injury to make their own decisions regarding their care. The brain that is used to discriminate is not able to. We would no sooner let a loved one with a dementia manage their own medications and environment due to safety concerns than we would a toddler. This is what we do to individuals with mental illnesses. Worse, we exclude their family members from information and options due to the misused Hippa Laws (may that be changed very soon).
Untreated and under-treated mental illness leads to instability. Instability looks like verbal and physical abuse, violence, homelessness, substance use, prison, and other undesirable outcomes. The solution lies in supervised living environments, assisted outpatient treatment, mandated medical compliance, and family involvement. Research consistently shows that when families are involved as team members with service providers who know how to treat the seriously mentally ill, the outcomes are significantly better than without family involvement.
Grow a Strong Family encourages better outcomes through our comprehensive menu of online resources, available whenever, however, and wherever families need them. We understand the crucial role that families play with regards to caring for loved ones with serious mental illnesses. Every family has someone who is unwell; support them. Learn. Educate yourself. Then, you can offer them the social support they need!