Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Are Not Your Mental Illness

One of the major goals for a caregiver is to help the person with mental illness accept his or her illness as a reality, but become determined not to be totally defined by it. That's tough.  People with mental illness often feel bad about themselves. Some are overwhelmed by raging emotion. Some feel continual apathy. Both can struggle with hopelessness.

This excellent first-person video about having schizophrenia and obtaining a recovery that was posted on YouTube a few days ago. It describes the situation better than I ever could.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Economic Impact: Caregiving Costs $25.2 Billion in Lost Productivity

Caregivers may feel like they are always on the job, but they know the extra obligations and duties impact their performance in the workplace.  A Gallup poll released in July found that 17 percent of American workers, across all socioeconomic and demographic groups, are caregivers. And a majority of them said caregiving has had at least some impact at work.

On average, caregivers miss 6.6 days of work to deal with their other responsibilities.  With 17 percent of the working population acting as caregiver, the amounts to 126 million missed workdays a year. This costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.6 billion in lost productivity.

Gallup discovered that nearly one-third of all working caregivers are in a professional occupation,with 12 percent in service jobs and another 12 percent in management.

About 71 percent of the caregivers said they told their employer about their situation, although the rest did not.

About 25 percent of the group said they had access to workplace support programs. This is not surprising under current economic conditions, yet the support groups, financial/legal advice and assisted living counselors evidently do help a great deal.

As the population ages, the number of caregivers will grow significantly. Evidently the folks who are doing a lot of work for a loved one for free are not only paying a huge cost ... they are costing the economy as well. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Words and the Lack of Them in Mental Illness

Mental illness is a "no casserole" disease that also provides a vocabulary that smart people misuse at will. It's all part of the stigma. Yet it causes much resentment in the mental health community. Much of it mine. Thus, this rant:

One of my friends who dealt with the mental illness of a child put it best. The mental illness got few signs of sympathy or concern. But when she got cancer, the casseroles and cards never stopped coming. It made her angry. She says dealing with the cancer was nothing compared to dealing with mental illness.

It's OK to ask about the illness. If you would ask how a person with cancer is doing, ask how the person with mental illness is doing. And if you are on the receiving end of the question, and the real answer is "just awful," the quick polite response is: "About the same." 

Cancer used to have stigma, and we are all glad that it has changed. Cancer is also one of those illnesses that has contributed vocabulary.  Nixon had "a cancer" on his presidency, John Dean famously said. Maybe that bothers people with cancer, too. I don't know.

I do know that people in the mental illness community are upset at the misuse of terminology. I literally stopped reading or listening to a famous female Bible teacher because she misuses the word "schizophrenic." People somehow think it's OK to use this word to describe a dysfunctional situation. That is profoundly disrespectful to everyone who suffers from the disease. Too many people who try to be politically correct about every other part of language fail to use psychological terms accurately. It contributes to stigma. 

Feeling resentment about the "no casserole" effect and misused language of mental illness isn't good for anybody, of course. And few caregivers have the energy to inform people of how offended they have been by the lack of caring. So just know this: They have been offended.

So, now and again, ask how things are. Try not to use disease names to describe non-diseased states (or even Congress, given that it is kind of diseased). End of rant.