A reader writes:
I found your blog online and felt compelled to write you. My brother was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. We were very close and like many mentally ill people, he refuses treatment and has become almost completely isolated. He has already attempted to live on the streets. When he was diagnosed, I knew I was in for an uphill battle.
What I didn’t know was how stigmatized mental illness is! I have had it suggested to me that he did too many drugs (he was not a drug addict), or that he is being lazy and stubborn. I have even had old friends avoid the subject of his illness or change the subject with no apologies. I was previously unaware of the widespread ignorance regarding mental illness in our society. If my brother had AIDS or cancer he would have received more sympathy and compassion!
My point is that this experience has made me realize I need to contribute something. The way the mentally ill are perceived and treated is shocking. There is a gaping hole in public awareness that needs to be filled!
I haven’t decided what exactly my role will be yet, but your site has inspired me! I have felt so very small, up against such a big problem, but your freestyle volunteering is a brilliant way to make a difference. One hour at a time can absolutely add up to change attitudes and lives. Thank you. I respect your service very much and feel comforted to find someone who makes me feel less alone. It also eases my mind a little to hope my brother encounters people like you in his travels. I have somewhere to start while I figure out my own journey.