Janet: Views about Mental Illness

Janet’s career in working with mental health in public health programs has led to her greater understanding about the challenges of living with mental illness and how the mental health system works. She views mental illness as a chronic disease similar to asthma or heart disease.

A person with asthma can choose not to take their meds and they can go downhill. It’s their choice. It’s the same with heart disease, diabetes, and any chronic disease. It’s a chronic disease. And we’re all unique. We all have elements of bipolar in us. We all have elements of frustration intolerance. That affects everything and so I think it’s a big thing just letting people be who they are. . .Periodically, you can’t handle life. Almost everybody can’t handle life at some point. This spectrum of people, meaning my brother, people with diagnoses, just have more challenges than the middle bell curve. That’s kind of how I see it now.

On one occasion when David asked for help, Janet saw that as a huge positive action. However, she believes a lack of continuity in the mental healthcare system and David’s irritability interfered with connecting with the care he needed.

David came to my parents and he said, I really need help. They called the mental health clinic and the mental health clinic said go to the ER. The ER says go to this mental health clinic the next day. That was the breakdown. He was asking for help and he didn’t get it that day and he didn’t go to the mental health clinic the following day due to frustration.

More of the Story: Impact on Her Life