Bringing Hope to Mental Illness, Steve Pitman

Bringing Hope to Mental Illness, Steve Pitman


So let me tell you a little bit about my brother.
My brother was mentally ill for 50 years. He had schizoaffective disorder. When he died,
he didn’t die because he had any medical illness. He certainly didn’t have cancer, he didn’t
have a failing liver, he didn’t have high blood pressure, diabetes. He died because
of lack of hope. He died alone and I think to myself, “If I were in the hospital, I would
be fighting to get out because there are people who love me and people who I love. What was
John fighting to get out for?” The room he shared with another mentally ill man, toilet
facilities with 2 other mentally ill people. I think he just said, “You know, I’ve had
enough.” 50 years is a long time and I think he stopped eating, I think he didn’t stop
fighting to get out and he died alone, tragically. There’s another alternative to this, folks.
The alternative is the route of connectedness. My granddaughter who is now 28 first began
to experience problems when she was 15-1/2. My granddaughter has more friends now than
she did when she was 15-1/2. She belongs to more groups. She’s got her degrees. She’s
in graduate school. She’s doing all of these things that we would think of when we think
of a young person 28 years old because she maintained and the family made the connectedness
around her mental illness. It’s not a taboo subject. Her brothers and
sisters can mention it to her. She can bring it up. I can bring it up; whereas, with my
brother, we didn’t discuss it. We didn’t discuss it because of stigma. And I think as a result
largely of that stigma, every time he was hospitalized, his circle of friends and acquaintances
grew smaller and smaller and smaller. Melissa has 40 or 50 people that she can call when
she needs help. John didn’t have that. John died alone. Melissa’s thriving. Both seriously
mentally ill. So we have a choice. We can take the tragedy
of my brother and forget about it and move on or we can bring value to his life by talking
to people about it, by teaching people about it, so that more people out there can be like
Melissa, rather than John. That only happens with education. It only happens with emotional
support and, frankly, it only happens with advocacy. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life
to doing just exactly that.

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