Mental Illness is a Serious Subject We Have to Talk About

Dear Kid,

We have to have a serious conversation.

DO NOT pull the covers up over your head, turn off your phone, and go back to sleep.

It’s unlike me to write about serious things here, so you can assume it’s important. If you made that assumption you’d be right. And if you assume that since I’m addressing this in a public forum it doesn’t concern you, you’d be mostly right. “Mostly” because it concerns all of us.

I want to tell you about my friend Beth. Not one of the my-friends-Beth that you know. This is a different friend Beth. One you don’t know, but who I’ve known since I was 18 (aka, the early 1400s).

Beth is getting divorced.

While that is serious, it is (unfortunately) not enough to warrant a blog of its own. It’s the WHY she’s getting divorced that we have to talk about.

Her (soon to be ex-) husband’s adult son from a previous marriage was diagnosed 10 years ago with schizoaffective disorder. This is a very difficult form of mental illness to treat. Here is a link to Beth’s story in her own words. She wrote that particular blog because there is still such a stigma attached to mental illness that we—as a society—don’t talk about it. Yet 25% of the US population suffers from some form of mental disorder.

We’ve gotten to a place as a community where we can talk about things that were previously only whispered about (cancer, HIV, AIDS). For a long time cancer wasn’t even whispered about; people just raised an eyebrow and nodded to communicate the unspoken. As if by not saying it out loud, they wouldn’t be touched by it.

That’s sort of where we are with mental illness. We act as if it’s contagious. We don’t understand the impact on families, and frankly we don’t want to. It’s just so unattractive. Easier to ignore it and focus on what to wear to work tomorrow.

Easier to talk about sports and reality TV. Easier to look down on people who can’t agree to society’s unwritten rules. Call the police and just don’t bother me.

It’s time for us, all of us, to stop hiding behind our own hands (if I don’t see you, you can’t see me).

My friend Beth, who is a wonderful, caring, kind hearted person, did not feel safe in her own home because of her (soon to be ex-) husband’s son. She had to leave the city she lived in for a few weeks. Even when she came back she had to stay with friends for a while.

And we don’t want to talk about it.

Even worse, her (soon to be ex-) husband’s family is treating her horribly. They don’t want to talk about it either, so it’s easier for them to say she’s abandoning the family. They don’t know what’s really going on so it’s easier for them to say nasty things. Beth is acting like the lady she is and not giving them all the dirty details—making it easier for them to say rude and untrue things.

They have no right to judge. They don’t have the information with which to judge. Yet they are judging.

Beth will get through this. She is an amazing lady and, as she says, she puts on her cape every morning and flies with her head up ready for whatever is next. She has a solid support network and a great dog (who is almost as confused by all of this as she is).

But as she also says, we as a society need to do more to help families and individuals who are suffering—mostly in silence—with mental illness.

Please help share Beth’s story. It’s the least we can do.

Love, Mom


  1. Judi, thank you so much for not only writing about this very serious matter but sharing my story. It was not easy to tell and I tried to do it with the utmost of respect for all parties involved so I was very sad to see some of the reactions. As I keep saying over and over, unless those of us affected by mental illness, whether because we suffer from it ourselves or have a loved one or friend with it, tell our personal stories and try to help remove the stigma attached to it all, then we are going to continue to wake up every morning and see yet another tragedy reported on the front page of the newspaper. I am so glad that my soon to be ex-husband’s son is getting the help he needs, but it was a very long and bumpy road over the past 10 years due to the lack of resources and support. It shouldn’t have taken for it to get to the level it did for us to get any significant help and ultimately for my marriage to end…it’s all just so very sad. Again, thanks for your support !

    • Keep taking care of you, my friend.

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