Tuesday, June 11, 2013
My 19-year-old son has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and is currently getting treated. It has been a rough two years. The Medical University of South Carolina and his doctors say his prognosis is good as long as he stays on the proper medications and avoids alcohol. He is committed to doing this, but we understand it can be a great personal challenge. This is a huge relief.
He’s a very smart kid, and is feeling better already. But the stigma of mental illness has hurt him, and kept him out of treatment earlier. He was arrested once during a manic episode and kept in shackles and chains. The good thing is, the arrest was the wake-up call that got him into treatment.
Sadly, the news got out in our upscale neighborhood, and some people have been unkind. He will be living with us for the rest of this year, and then going off to college next fall. Is there anything we can do to educate the public about this?
Relieved but concerned
I am so grateful that your son is getting the treatment and support he needs. I pray your letter will be helping others understand. Bipolar disorder is commonly diagnosed in the late teens, early 20s. Untreated, the outlook is not good. Treated, individuals can have extremely productive lives — and high intelligence often is apparent in those with the illness.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding, and fear, of mental illness, along with a long-standing stigma that President Obama spoke of during a White House Conference on Mental Health. We all need to be educated and aware. (And kind.) Making sure people with mental illness get proper treatment and support can truly prevent the tragedies such as the school shooting in Connecticut and others.
There is a big difference between shunning someone, ignoring them and reaching out to see if help is needed. “If you see something, say something.”
Your son may have been arrested because he was acting strangely. Don’t be afraid to call authorities to check something out. It is our business (to do things wisely.)
There is a lot of helpful information about mental illness including the local organization on the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI website: http://www.nami.org
Please send my best wishes to your son — he can have an exceptionally bright future. Thank you for sharing his and your story. The road can be equally tough for the families involved.
We are taking your advice and getting ready as a family for hurricane season. We even took a tour at a local TV station and got to watch the weather broadcast be prepared.
We are planning a field trip this summer to the Weather Service as well. Our kids are selling potholders and other items and donating the proceeds to the Red Cross for recovery efforts in Oklahoma and other states suffering with the huge outbreak of twisters.
It has brought us closer as a family, and we are enjoying preparing together. I think we’re raising some future meteorologists. Just thought you’d want to know.
You know my saying, “Don’t be scared, be prepared.” It is awesome that you have taken this on as a family project. As we enter Hurricane Season (and bad thunderstorm season) I hope you can enjoy the peace that comes with preparing for the worst, while praying for the best.
Contact Liz via firstname.lastname@example.org. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.