Hidden not far at all beneath the tinsel and tapestry of joy that retailers and their ad companies ask us to gorge upon is the painful reality this “season” means to millions of individuals whose conscious awareness of emotional pain and loss is heightened at this time of year. For most of us in that boat it’s a time of year you just try and suck it up and get through. But for the millions of Americans and their families living with mental illness there is no emotional reprieve awaiting as the calendar page flips to January 1.
In June of this year, CNN reporter Wayne Drash was invited into the home of Stephanie Escamilla and her family to observe and understand the trials and tribulations of caring for a child with a mental illness. Her 14 year-old son Daniel (not his real name) has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder with psychosis. Their story – of the deep emotional pain that attends mental illness – is chronicled in Drash’s story, My Son is Mentally Ill So Listen Up, featured on CNN’s web site.
Stephanie’s invitation was her way of trying to bring greater awareness and understanding of the challenges and caregiving concerns that have a tremendous impact on the informal caregivers of the mentally ill. And it was also her way of drawing attention to the tragic reality we face in this country that way, way too often treating mental illness is entirely reactive.
I’m not going to add anything here that hasn’t already been better articulated by clinicians and mental health practitioners in terms of advocating for the same proactive approach to diagnosing and treating mental illness as has been given to heart disease or breast cancer, as examples. I just wanted to share this story with you and hope you will take the time to listen. I think it is tremendously important.