My son had his first psychiatric hospitalization at age 9. To say that I wasn’t ready would be an understatement! Not only was I concerned about my son’s well-being during his psychiatric crisis, I was worried about what my friends and family would think when they heard about the crisis.
I was ready to be judged. But I don’t think I was ready to be ignored. It was almost as if other parents, friends, and relatives thought that by speaking about my son’s condition, it would somehow tarnish them. Or that it was contagious in some way. So they avoided me.
It was very unlike when my daughter was admitted to the hospital with the flu and asthma. Then, everyone was calling and checking on us, asking if they could help in anyway. If they could maybe bring food or help with the other kids. And ironically, she did have something contagious!
Unfortunately, that wasn’t my son’s only hospitalization. But I learned some valuable lessons from that first one.
I learned that not everyone can understand the complex world of mental illness. I quickly knew which friends and family I could talk to about what was going on. And which ones would shut down and not be there for me.
But an unexpected side effect of his hospitalizations was the new “village” of people we gained. People who had walked the lonely mental health road before me. They surrounded me during these times. They reminded me that my son was getting the health care that he needed. Mental, physical—it didn’t matter.
As a society, we need to treat mental and physical illness equally. Both are essential to a quality life.
There is more information for families in Mental and Behavioral Health.