Walls of Shame and Silence: Mental Illness in loved ones

This article was published in the local newspaper in Cobb County, The Bright Side’s February 18th issue. )

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.

-Mark 5:3-4

Mental Illness is the leading cause of disability in the nation today. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on in five adults with have an episode of a major mental illness in their lifetime. This means that all of us will have an experience with Mental Illness directly or with someone we know. And yet, Mental Illness is still misunderstood and shunned.

Mental Illness is misunderstood at a character defect in a way unlike most physical illnesses. Even behavior related illnesses, such as cancer from smoking, receive less scorn, than the person disabled through major depression, or the shame after an out of control episode of mania. Added to the shame, people with mental illness often have behaviors which exhaust their family members. Burnt out and ashamed, families struggle to help their loved ones, feeling they are alone with the problem. The very group most critical for recovery are the most burdened and most at risk of burn out.

If we go back to our statistics, one in five adults are affected over their lifetimes. This means families touched by mental illness are not alone, they are disconnected from others in the same situation. Families are left with no energy to breach the walls of shame and silence. If you know someone struggling with mental illness, chances are their loved ones are as well. I encourage you to help support these individuals and let them know they are not alone.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is an organization of people suffering from mental illness and family members. It is a great resource for support.


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Author: Bryan G. Stephens

Bryan G. Stephens is a former executive on a mission to transform the workplace. He is the founder and CEO of TalkForward, a consulting and training company, utilizing Bryan’s clinical and management expertise to develop managers and teams in a corporate environment. As a licensed therapist with strong understanding of developing human potential, he is dedicated to the development of Human Capital to meet the needs of leaders, managers, and employees in the 21st Century workplace. Bryan has an Executive MBA from Kennesaw State University, Coles School of Business, and both a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

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