All caregiving can be exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming and stressful but for the caregivers of those with a mental health issue the societal stigma you face creates additional challenges.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental disorder and the average age is 14 for the on-set of mental illness. NAMI is leading the national awareness campaign – the National Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 6-12 – first established by the U.S. Congress in 1990. The campaign includes National Depression Screening Day on October 10.
Shining a Spotlight on Mental Illness
Oscar-nominated and Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Glenn Close wants to help lift the veil of mental illness to reveal the myths and eliminate the shame associated with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues through a national public service campaign.
Glenn has become a champion who is shedding light on the dark world of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia which affects her sister and her nephew respectively. Appearing on the TV morning show, Good Morning America, Glenn said, “I believe we need to be having discussions around mental illness and talk as openly as we do about other diseases such as cancer or diabetes.”
Starring alongside her sister, Glenn launched a public service announcement (PSA) campaign on mental health issues created by BringChange2Mind, the nonprofit organization Glenn helped found to eliminate the discrimination felt by those with mental illness and their family caregiver. Her hope is increased awareness will get more people to seek help.
Caregiver Depression a Slippery Slope
In a study of caregiver health risks, the National Alliance for Caregiving reported 91 percent of those caregivers whose health was in decline reported suffering from depression over caring for a loved one.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in May of this year deaths from suicides since 2009 had surpassed deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. The report also found the increase in suicides were most significant among the baby boomers – for men age 50-59 years old an increase of 47-49 percent and for women age 60-64 an increase of 59.7 percent. One potential cause cited for this increase was caring for an older, ailing parent.
We also know that for those 15 million Americans caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, the risk of becoming isolated from friends, other family and life’s typical social connections is a common issue based on how loved ones are shamed by their diagnosis.
According to the Alzheimer's Disease International's World Alzheimer Report, about 25 percent of people with dementia report hiding or concealing their diagnosis due to the stigma surrounding the disease, and 40 percent say they are often excluded from everyday life.
Read more celebrity caregiver interviews at Caregiving Club or in Sherri Snelling’s book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.