My oldest son Jordan is an accomplished thespian, musician, singer, and all around entertainer. Last night, our family and friends gathered to watch Jordan perform in the last showing of "The Boys Next Door," a play at Cannon Beach's Coaster Theater. This play told the story of four mentally disabled men living together in a supervised group home setting. The skilled actors, through many lighthearted moments, projected a poignant theme. I left the experience with an enhanced awareness that mental illness, whether we like to talk about it or not, touches us all.
Everyone has one friend or family member that has faced mental illness at one time or another. It's the aging relative struggling with dementia, or the Veteran returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But we seldom talk about it openly for fear of being viewed as weak, or worse, defective.
Many of my Social Security Disability clients with mental illness struggle to navigate through the every day activities we take for granted, let alone the stress and strain of work. The challenge, unfortunately, is that we cannot "see" these mental impairments. We may notice the odd behavior, irritability, or forgetfulness, but there is often no test, x ray, or lab study that gets us to the root of the problem.
So then skepticism creeps in. We wonder why this person just doesn't buck up, and move on. After all, there are many people out there less fortunate facing far greater challenges, and they seem to get through without much angst. There are many other Vets coming back from the Middle East, and they are adjusting just fine, or so we think.
Despite all the educational efforts, whether from the classroom, the community, movies and news reports, ignorence about mental illness persists, but it continues to slowly fade.
Thank goodness we have our children to lead us into the light.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness: www.nami.org