This was originally published on Liberal America on July 27, 2016.
When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness, I was watching videos about stigma. One remark struck home: mental illnesses are not “casserole illnesses.” People don’t offer to help when you get diagnosed with schizophrenia. No one is going to show up on your doorstep with a casserole. People don’t offer to take you to the doctor or anything.
One Australian company has released a line of greeting cards for those suffering from mental illness. They cover topics like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. This could pave the way for other companies to make similar cards. Here are some of the wonderful Hope Street Cards.
Here are some examples:
Dorothy Coughlin, director of the Office for People with Disabilities in Portland, Oregon, said she had a man come to her in distress. He was with some other dads talking about their children’s accomplishments. He didn’t want to admit that his son had to take time off school because he was battling schizophrenia. That father said:
“If my son was sent home because he was in a sporting accident, that is something that could be shared. But to say my son came home from college because he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it just stops the conversation. People just don’t know how to respond, how to offer support.”
The stigma happens all the time. Often, it happens to young adults and children. This father should not be afraid to share his pain with his friends. If they shun him, then they weren’t real friends to begin with.
A Chicago Deacon Tom Lambert hit the nail on the head with this statement:
“If a person is in the hospital for a heart situation, people in the parish come over to the house and bring casseroles every other night until you get to the point that you’re sick of casseroles. People with mental illness may be hospitalized either in a state hospital or a psychiatric unit not even near the parish. And because of the stigma involved, there are not a lot of people relating to the situation and so nobody brings the casseroles.”