Destigmatizing Mental Health Care | editorial staff
In general, I do not react to negative reviews of my colleagues or of myself. But in the last few months I have been thinking about a letter to the editorial staff that criticized me (and most of my colleagues). While I appreciate and take to heart the feedback it contained, some of the feedback contained a major underlying issue that more than bothered me.
To be clear, this LTE attacked me because I tore up in the meeting (out of gratitude for a colleague’s support), “giggled” in discomfort, and over-apologized in a situation where I was being degraded and said it was clear that I wasn’t mentally fit to hold an office. (I don’t think the author is a psychologist).
What was the underlying issue that upset me so much? The letter itself apparently stigmatized those suffering from a mental disorder. While I will not respond to negative reviews, I will come in defense of our community.
All my life my family has been invested in the mental health of this community. My father served this community first in our hospital’s psychiatric center, then in his own private practice as a psychiatrist until he retired. Even after that, he worked back and forth as the director of the Winchester Mental Hospital. I remember my father coming home from his office exhausted as a child and feeling the weight of our community on his shoulders. He couldn’t share his patients’ stories, but I hear them in the ward every day. I hear gratitude for his work. I hear how he helped people in difficult (short) times. I hear from some who have seen him for decades and miss him as their caretaker.
Realizing the need to support caregivers for adults with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders, my mother, a nurse, was the co-director of the Trinity Day Care Center for decades. She was a caregiver herself and saw the toll this took on the health – mental and physical – of the caregiver. The Trinity Day Care Center serves this community to this day and is badly needed to provide a little rest for those who look after their families.
Suffice it to say that my parents gave me a deep understanding of the importance of my (and my family’s) mental health.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my journey to mental health care with all of you … so those in trouble know that they are not alone.
This letter to the editor inspired me to share, not because of his criticism of me, but because it stigmatized the search for mental health care for everyone. Whether or not it was meant to, it negates the difficult work my father and mother did in this community. And I’m here to defend that.
And this letter is not alone. We hear and see it every day. The stigma of mental health. When we ridicule someone for being “crazy” or say that they must be “mentally ill” because of their political beliefs (be it left or right), we are flooded with rhetoric that ridicules mental illness.
If you are reading this and considering seeking help with any problems you are faced with, please know that you have an ally in me.
I was chosen to serve my community, to strengthen and uplift each and every one of you, and sometimes that means sharing my personal experiences.