There is no question that family participation in a person’s mental health treatment is beneficial and critical to manage the long-standing problems that surface during a person’s recovery from a mental health disorder. This message was communicated to my parents Jane and Frank Guttman when I was an adolescent receiving my first in-patient treatment. Since my first hospitalization at an adolescent, to my state-level hospitalization as a young adult, and every treatment in between, my parents have been vested in my mental health treatment.
My family has witnessed the impact of family support before and lack of it within our own familial history. Both my uncle and my aunt suffered from Schizophrenia. I never met my uncle face to face. I only spoke with him once on the phone. I remember him apologizing to me that he couldn’t come to our home to visit and meet me. I only lived twenty minutes away from him. So I could never figure it out. I remember going to clean out his room after he died in the hospital from an non-life threatening illness that went untreated, which I could also never figure out. It wasn’t until much later on, when I became a social worker, and visited his apartment building with the ACT (Assertive Community Treatment Team) I was working for at the time, did I realize why he died so prematurely.
Living in a apartment treatment building, or adult home, my uncle, akin to many people with serious mental illness living in treatment facilities in the community, post deinstutionalization, are overcrowded, underfunded, poorly managed, and neglectful in their practices. Many people go without the adequate supervision they require or need to truly live in the community and retain some independence. My uncle’s fate was no different than a large segment of the community carrying a severe and chronic mental health condition.
My parents, all too familiar with my uncle’s fate, and my aunts, which was very similar, were determined not to let their son live the same life, cut short, and eclipsed by the disorder. Since my diagnosis of schizophrenia my parents have been relentless in this regard, and for these reasons, which, are very personal, but nationally and internationally important to everyone who is underserved by their mental health system, and at risk of early medical problems, and other medical co-morbidities gone untreated from maltreatment and neglect.
This is why after ten years of recovery my parents continue to support my writing on mental health, and understand how this act of writing on mental health, spreading awareness to others through blogging, and learning self-management skills is used by people carrying a diagnosis to self-soothe, and also as technique to diffuse and disrupt their new or active symptoms. For a decade now, my parents have read every blog I’ve posted, and support blogging as a tested and effective weapon in the battle against chronic mental health disorders.
When Dennis Relojo, the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg asked me to speak at the 1st Mental Health Bloggers Conference (MHBC 2018) in London, my parents again threw their support at this tremendous event to take place in the UK on December 17th. The conference, which is jointly hosted with GetPsyched, will be held in the historic Rainham Library, will no doubt set the stage for how the deep problems are in the mental health community, and grand imperative at stake in the larger international context. This is why my parents have chosen to sponsor me at the event, and make the journey across the Atlantic about Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 this December. In doing so, my family hopes to signal to the world how deep the problems run, and the need to get together internationally to truly make a difference. I am confident, at the conference, we will send a message to the mental health system in the UK, United States, and larger community that this is a global problem and together we will find a solution to it.