About Partnerships … thinking about enhancing care and support within them

46 years. That’s how long my husband and I have been married.  And it was 50 years ago when we first dated, a sweet memory today.  Jim has always been the very kindest, most fun and interesting man I know.  Our kindness toward one another is a key to our relationship, especially when the water wasn’t so smooth due to effects of mental illness on my thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

My partnership is our marriage.   It is the most supportive aspect of our lives together.  It is, it turns out, quite a bit stronger than mental illness.  Yours may be another partnership – marriage is not the required word, but supportive is.  How do we support our partner without being overwhelmed?  How can we be supported without having to feel we’re a burden?  I don’t have all the answers, but we do have some suggestions here based on our experience.

Chronic Mental Illness: Recovery while (Still) Homeless?

Did you know that among the large population we in the United States have of homeless people, approximately 30% are people with serious mental illness! Yes, at least 30%. Fifty percent, if you count those that also have substance abuse disorder. These homeless, along with those individuals with mental illness in prison and jails, are the forgotten of our world … even at times, forgotten by the advocates of mental health policy and care. They are out of view and out of mind.

Do we assume we can’t do much or shouldn’t do much for these forgotten?
Or do we realize we can end homelessness?

“Providing someone who is chronically homeless with a home first gives them the stability that they need to begin the process of recovery.” – Sam Tsemberis, Pathways to Housing

I couldn’t agree more … recovery is hard enough when you have a stable home!

One of the unique features of Pathways’ Housing First model is that participation in treatment or sobriety as a precondition is not required for housing. [More here]

What to do, “When Mental Illness Enters the Family”

What do we do now, now that mental illness has entered our family?  Dr. Lloyd Sederer’s video “When Mental Illness Enters the Family”  is a Godsend. In this short, 15-minute video, Dr. Sederer addresses family members of people with mental illnesses and gives them clear and doable tips on how to live harmoniously (mostly) and wisely (usually) with the ill family member. His four main steps to cope with the effects of mental illness are right on target.  I can write this because of the lived experience I have had with two members of my family of origin. One person is still living, a sibling,  and  I work to understand better how to provide this person true support and health needs in an integrated manner without sacrificing my health in the process. The recommendations in “When mental illness enters the family” are a good beginning for people starting out on that road – Helping to care for someone with mental illness – as well as a good review for experienced family members.

Dr Sederer is a psychiatrist who is the medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health –, i.e., Chief psychiatrist for the nation’s largest state mental health organization. He was the  medical director and executive vice president of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. He is also the mental health editor and columnist for The Huffington Post.

I also heartily recommend readers who have a mental health condition and family members of people with a mental health problem explore NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website for all the valuable resources and information that are gathered there.

As I worked and volunteered for NAMI on the state and local level for many years (20) here in Wisconsin, I will post a resource article with thoughts about the NAMI website and programs soon.