Pete Earley, best-selling author of the book Crazy, A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, recently profiled the death of a much-loved mental health advocate named Glenn Koons. The story of Mr. Koons is a tragic one. He was a peer-to-peer advocate who worked with groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He was recently invited to the White House by President Barack Obama to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mr. Koons had gone missing and was recently found dead by a utility worker in a small Pennsylvania town. Some believe that he stopped taking his medication, had a relapse and may have been too ashamed and embarrassed to seek help because of his high-profile status as an individual who had recovered from a mental illness.
The tragic story of Mr. Koons’s death underscores the importance of seeking help. It also highlights the reality that there is no shame in seeking help. No one is certain what happened to Mr. Koons but it is possible that his death could have been prevented. No one knows with certainty what Mr. Koons was thinking and the speculation could be completely inaccurate; however, for many people it is the fear of failure and embarrassment that stops them from getting life-saving help. This should not be the case.
Would you feel embarrassed about seeking help for a broken leg or a bleeding ulcer? I highly doubt it. The same logic should apply when seeking help for a mental illness. There is a stubborn and inaccurate belief in our society that asking for help for a psychological problem equates to being weak or to not having the willpower to handle your own problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Each of us faces a series of problems throughout our lives. The nature and severity of those problems varies to one degree or another but problems are a part of daily life. They are a part of human existence. Relapses do happen. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Feeling ashamed is tantamount to blaming yourself for hearing voices. The fact that you hear voices is not your fault. If your loved one were suffering in a similar manner, you would hope and expect that they would come to you for help. It sounds as though you have a supportive mother who loves you. You also have access to a therapist. Please utilize the resources that you have available to you.
Treatments are available that can decrease or eliminate your unpleasant symptoms. Get help as soon as possible. It is the only correct way to handle this situation. I wish you the best luck. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle