My name is Maria Lorenzoni. I am pictured here taking part in a Home on the Hill Art Class for clients and family caregivers. I am pleased to share my experience with you as a caregiver of an adult son with serious mental illness. My family and I, in the course of our never-ending journey through the metal health system, have met many doctors, social workers, nurses and therapists in a few hospital settings.
Of course, health care practitioners deal with science-based, symptom-oriented facts and rational conclusions. Diagnosis and treatment are their goals. Families, especially parents, on the other hand, deal with the very human and emotional side of the illness. Add that to the fact that family members of adults with mental illness are not privy to information about their loved ones’ condition and treatment, and you have a situation where families feel isolated and hopeless.
Yes, there are group activities and ACT team monitoring the patient, but each family is left on the sidelines, afraid and unable to reach out to anyone, partly because of stigma and partly because they are mostly left out of the equation.
It is simplistic to say that families should come together and support each other in any way they can, but this is difficult, due to stigma, fear, lack of knowledge, and other factors.
It’s very hard to find a place where a family can find acceptance, education and insight, hands-on and practical support, and initiatives geared to helping and engaging the stuggling mentally-ill patient, a place where a family feels validated in a non-judgmental way.
And then, it was my good fortune to find Home on the Hill.
Their initiatives to push for improved mental health resources, the support groups and social activities they have created, and public education seminars, are of value to everyone. But in addition to this, the emotional support , the sense of belonging, the personal, non-judgmental interaction, and knowledge that there is a place where I can share my concerns freely, have given me a great sense of relief and renewed self-esteem. I no longer feel alone in my journey. While these are not in the category of concrete accomplishments, they are of enormous comfort and help. In unity there is strength, and with this personal support system at my side, I feel stronger and no longer isolated. This is what enables me and my family, to continue our journey, knowing there is a group of people who have taken a personal interest in helping me along the way. I have found a haven.