The Stigma Over Mental Health

Like many parents around the country, I have hugged my kids & cried over the news of the massacre in Connecticut.

As I scrolled through the countless posts for prayers & gun control popping up on twitter & Facebook with tears in my eyes, clutching my beer… I couldn’t help but notice the lack of posts regarding the importance of mental health care.

While I have always held strong feelings about gun control & believe assault weapons should never end up in civilians’ hands… this issue goes so much deeper than gun control.

What kind of person goes into an elementary classroom & starts killing innocent children? Someone obviously fighting something so deep inside of them, on some level the demon within them has taken over, and the shell of the person they once were can’t even comprehend what they are doing.

Someone who needed mental help long ago. Someone who may have benefitted from admitting himself into a mental health facility to — get this — get help.

Asking for help is hard… but why? A century ago, generations of families & neighbors lived & worked together, helped raise each other’s children… no need to ask for help, it was a given.

Cut to today… where expectations for perfection are a given.

Who the hell is perfect? Not me. But, like most people, I have a hard time admitting I need help. I want to do things myself. And… that gives me anxiety, then I can’t sleep, then I feel awful the next day, and the cycle goes on.

But if I talk about how I have to pop a klonopin every night to go to sleep… the stigma is that something is “wrong” with me.

No… something is wrong with people who live with debilitating issues that take over their souls. They internalize these deep-rooted feelings of pain, pressure & loneliness… until they burst.

While I believe people who commit these heinous crimes should be punished, I also believe they need major help.

Call it circumstance, call it a chemical imbalance, call it genetics, call it whatever you want, but there is a stigma surrounding mental health in this country. It’s not always available. It’s not cheap. And God forbid you mention you’re “getting help” to the wrong person… you may be judged &/or treated with kid-gloves.

We need to make mental health a priority and less of a stigma… NOW!

Why am I so passionate about this?

9 years ago… a mental health issue hit very close to home.

I couldn’t get ahold of the hubs all day. We both had cell phones back then, but texting wasn’t a thing yet. I didn’t think much of it. I knew he was working a ton of hours & was likely swamped.

I came home from work & tried calling the hubs again. Got dinner rolling, and as I finally felt like I accomplished something by getting the timer to work on the Christmas tree, the hubs walked into the house, looking panicked & white as a ghost.

I made a bad joke about him working too hard & needing a beer… and he immediately told me that he hadn’t gone into work at all, and had been driving around all day with a knife, contemplating suicide, down to a suicide note.

To this day, I can’t speak or write those words without a flood of emotions pouring over me. Especially now if I think too hard about it. How different my life would be if he followed through.

Our daughters would not exist.

The next few days after the suicide attempt are a blur. Not really knowing what to do next, we went on with our lives the next morning as if nothing happened. He didn’t want to tell anyone.

Until I did.

I could not focus at work. So I called my mother-in-law & cried to her over what happened. She called his boss, who immediately drove & checked him into Pine Rest, which is a mental health facility. I thank God for that man.

My father-in-law, an old-school, shake it off kinda guy came into town and wanted to throw money at the problem.

Sure, money was a part of the issue, but didn’t he see that this went beyond money? That his son was suffering? Didn’t he get the idea that he needed to change more than our budget? That mentally, he was unbalanced and needed ongoing medication & psychological help.

My FIL lived for another 18 months and I never heard him speak again about the hubs’ mental heath issues. In many ways, I felt a level of blame on me. And the weight of that burden is heavier than you may ever realize.

There are some of you reading this, close friends of ours, that may not know about this dark time.

Why is that? Why can’t we be open about the fact that none of us are perfect. Some of us struggle more than others. Maybe we wouldn’t open fire with an assault weapon in a school or theater, but what if the hubs went untreated for longer? What if he never told me about his attempted suicide and kept working himself to death in a job that was literally killing him?

Today, 9 years later, the hubs still struggles on occasion, but does not wait for things to get bad before he talks to me &/or a doctor. We both call each other out when we can tell we’re having a tough time… communication is huge.

Which is why I felt this need to compose this post today.

To communicate to you about the importance of mental health.

The importance of talking about needing help and to stop judging those who do.

This is a tough time of year for many of us struggling with anxiety, depression & beyond. Please take a moment to ask for help if you need it. And write your congress-people about making mental health a priority… and more accessible for all.

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12 Comments

  1. Posted December 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. The more we talk about things like this, the more people will realize that it is commonplace. So much has changed in the past 50 years in terms of technology and lifestyle. It’s crazy (no pun intended) that we can’t understand that our brains can’t always keep up.

    Thank you for writing this and thanks to your husband for letting you share it.

    • Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much, Fadra. And yes, the hubs had full editing privileges before I hit publish. With all of the events on Friday… the time was right to share.

  2. Posted December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Kelli, some of the first questions that came to my mind after hearing about this were ones pertaining to mental health. A friend of mine had posted on FB that we need to put as much emphasis on the treatment of mental health as we do cancer. Treatment and services to folks with mental health issues are getting more and more scarce. This person’s parents may have tried to get as much help for their son as they could find and/or afford. We don’t know. Then there is the possibility that what treatment he received didn’t work. We have so much more to learn about mental health. We haven’t even scratched the surface, and yet it’s still not talked about as much as it should be.

    • Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Exactly, Angie! It’s really sad that Mental Health isn’t as much as a priority as cancer… or even a broken bone! And yes, the treatments sometimes don’t work, they are SO expensive… and when they don’t work you feel worse, and the vicious cycle continues. It has to be an on-going process of check-ins with meds & doctors. The hubs still struggles, but is almost always conscious of it.

      Thanks for the support!!!

  3. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    What a private thing to share in hopes that others will get help. Thanks for putting your story out there. MH issues affect so many families and the importance of good mh is often pushed into a closet. Thanks for opening up.

  4. Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    omg. Thank you so much for sharing this. This post was so critical. So important. So much truth. I am so glad your husband did get the help he needed, and continues to do so – I feel you, and what you are saying. Mental health stigmas hurt so many. Sigh. SO so many. (hugs) to you for being so open and real and raw and sharing. It means a lot.

  5. Posted December 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh if only it was as easy to obtain mental health care as it is to obtain guns…if only all of us who know someone who has suffered from mental illness were able to admit it without shame, and if only we knew the warning signs when our kids, husbands, brothers…were in trouble.
    Well said! And thanks for your honesty!
    my Brother suffers from schizophrenia. When we found out we were told we would be lucky if he didn’t kill himself or get killed and that his life expectancy was VERY SHORT. That was almost 20 years ago. I can say for certain, these things DO NOT have to happen.

    • Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      It really is amazing what people *can* get their hands on, isn’t it? What a great way to put it. And you are right, these things do not have to happen, but we need to break the stigma and start speaking up… it’s NOT easy to do… but it is amazing how many of us struggle on such varying levels. None of us are immune to the obstacles life throws at us.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Kelli, if I was near you I would give you a very big hug for many reasons. The biggest reason is for bringing up this very important issue of mental health. Just as you have shared your very personal story (thank you for having the courage to do so), I can assure you that we all have our stories and while they may vary in nature, the common themes are: STIGMA, SHAME, IGNORANCE, LACK of SUPPORT, JUDGEMENT, TRAGEDY, FAMILY PAIN, PRISON/JAIL instead of Mental Health an so on. Everyone can feel for a person with cancer or a broken bone, but who feels or even remotely understand someone who is fighting the demons within themselves, mostly alone. I can only cry because sometimes it seems like such a hopeless subject. This world needs to change if we are to survive, thanks for taking a step in that direction. Hugs. Inderjit

    • Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much, Inderjit. It does feel like a hopeless subject because of the lack of support many of those suffering don’t have. I truly hope that changes soon. Thank you for YOUR support across the miles. Sending many hugs your way too!

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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