[Nfbc-info] Stigma of mental illness still exists, ,

nancy Lynn seabreeze.stl at gmail.com
Tue May 29 06:44:30 UTC 2018

There was nothing brave about sharing this for me. I don't personally have 
mental health issues. I just got this article from a friend and thought it 
was worth sharing. Last time I checked, I was perfectly fine.

Nancy Lynn seabreeze.stl at gmail.com
-----Original Message----- 
From: Lauren Merryfield via NFBC-Info
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2018 11:00 PM
To: 'NFB of California List'
Cc: Lauren Merryfield
Subject: Re: [Nfbc-info] Stigma of mental illness still exists, ,

I think it was brave for you to share this on this blindness-related list. 
The fact is, many blind people are not "only blind." They have any number of 
other situations/conditions they are dealing with and sometimes they try to 
hide them and that gets them into more trouble than not dealing with 

Blind seniors are a vulnerable group especially because other 
situations/conditions/issues are highly likely to join blindness as 
something they deal with.

We say the NFB is a family. If we do not want it to be a dysfunctional 
family, then we deal with what our brothers and sisters are in fact dealing 
with. Then they don't have to hide other issues. Then they don't have to 
even in some cases, leave the NFB for fear of no longer belonging now that 
they are not "only blind."

I interact with quite a number of blind people who are off of the radar, so 
to speak; people who most of us NFB people don't know at all or very well. 
Many of them have other issues.

So when we say a list is only about blindness, we're disqualifying probably 
most of the people who are currently on the list and those who want to be on 
this list. I can tell you there are people who back off out of fear of lack 
of acceptance. And some of them do have mental health issues. If they could 
be as out-in-the-open about mental health issues as they are about 
blindness, then their lives would be more balanced and they would be getting 
the proper help they need so that they could live the lives they want!
Lauren Merryfield, MSW, even though the certification lapsed
Jesus follower:that one won't lapse
Blessings in Jesus’ name!
"This is my command--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or 
discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9
My evangelism blog is at ask in jesus name . org Visit us at catlines . com 
with our store coming soon.  (remove the spaces.) Advice from my cats:”Meow 
when you feel like it.”

-----Original Message-----
From: NFBC-Info <nfbc-info-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of nancy Lynn via 
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2018 11:57 AM
To: mcb chat <chat at moblind.org>; nfbmo list <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>; NFBC List 
<nfbc-info at nfbnet.org>; Seniors <NFBNJ-Seniors at nfbnet.org>
Cc: nancy Lynn <seabreeze.stl at gmail.com>
Subject: [Nfbc-info] Stigma of mental illness still exists, ,

You might wonder what this has to do with blindness. I’m sure we have people 
among us for whom this is relevant.
Stigma of mental illness still exists, and it costs lives. Thirteen years 
ago, I wrote an obituary for my older sister, who at age 70 committed 
suicide. It was a long article, for I somehow had to make some sense of the 
bright, funny woman becoming obsessed with taking her own life. It was the 
fourth time that year she had attempted to end her life, to escape the shame 
she felt about her mental illness, to leave the swirling mania that left her 
exhausted and in fear that people would know what she had done and where she 
had been during the hospitalizations. More than an attempt to accept what 
had seemed inevitable for more than 40 years, despite medication, therapy, 
hospitalizations and a supportive family, that article sought to do what we 
are still trying to do: Make people aware of the damage that the stigma of 
mental illness does to those suffering from a chronic mental illness or 
situational depression. As is so often the case, my sister's bipolar illness 
manifested during adolescence. To my parents' credit, they did what few 
parents did in the late 1940s; they sought psychiatric help for their 
daughter. She had productive adolescent years: developed close friendships, 
won a scholarship to a good college and then a fellowship to study for a 
master's degree. She was the only teenager in the history of the Charlotte 
Opera Society to be a paid member of the company. She was pretty, smart and 
funny. And she was suffering from a mental illness that went undiagnosed 
until the mid-1970s. It was only in retrospect that we knew she had suffered 
from bipolar disorder those many years ago and that it had not been properly 
diagnosed and treated. She was many things: a talented vocalist, scholar, 
gardener, counselor and good friend. She was also a woman whose bipolar 
illness she tried to hide while being terrified people would guess the 
truth. She was courageous in her effort to function fully in a world that 
does not understand how to deal with mental illness within the context of 
normal social interactions. Finally, she could no longer sustain the tension 
of presenting to the world a face of normalcy while fighting the illness 
that sucked out enormous energy and spawned the excesses of mania only to 
resolve itself in obsession with suicide. We talked often of the obsession, 
and I was her partner in trying to find the right therapist, medications and 
structure that could manage the illness and banish the obsession, a process 
that exhausted us both over the years. The question we must all ask is why 
we make people afraid to acknowledge their depression, anxiety, chronic 
mental illness. We do not require that people hide their cancer, though 
there was a time when it, too, was considered an illness not to be 
discussed, as though the devil himself had planted it. The fear of exposure 
exacerbates the anxiety of dealing with mental illness, and in many 
instances results in isolation or suicide. What if someone could say without 
fear of stigma, I have bipolar disorder just as he could say I have 
diabetes? That is the point we must reach if we are to be truly supportive 
of people. I am not certain things have changed very much in the ensuing 
years; we talk about mental illness openly and quote statistics that 
acknowledge the number of people it directly affects and the increase in the 
number of people suffering from anxiety and depression and the increase in 
drug abuse and suicide, but are we asking the right questions? What is real 
awareness? It must go beyond recognition of the problem to acknowledge the 
conditions we are creating in our own communities that contribute to that 
increase in mental illness and suicide, of drug abuse we discuss. Statistics 
tell us only that we have a problem. How is our individual and collective 
behavior impacting the increase in mental illness? How do we learn how to 
stay mentally healthy ourselves and help others stay mentally healthy? It is 
not enough to be aware; we must be involved and create personal 
relationships, institutional relationships that actively support mental 
health. This month that is coming to a close is Mental Health Awareness 
Month; the Talbot County Council issued a proclamation acknowledging the 
importance of removing the stigma of mental illness and the importance of 
providing adequate education and treatment of mental illness. As the 
president of the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of the 
Eastern Shore, I was grateful for their action, and I urge more training of 
parents, teachers, clergy, employers and others in how to recognize the 
signs of mental health problems and how to respond to them. We must also 
have the courage to realize that sometimes there is nothing we can do to 
change another person's journey. We must acknowledge that sometimes we have 
to come to terms, as I did, with the fact that the only peace my much loved 
sister would ever find was in God's love. But if we are more accepting of 
people whose perceptions are different, whose brains are wired a different 
way, there will be less isolation, fewer escapes into drugs or death. 
Carolyn Ewing is president of the Board of Directors of the Mental Health 
Association of the Eastern Shore.

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