May 22, 2022

Rachel Strella

3 Things I Learned About Mental Health from My Social Media Community

Mental Health

Two weeks ago, my mother was discharged from the hospital. To say the circumstances have been taxing would be an understatement. While I can’t talk about it much until after the guardianship proceedings have concluded, I can tell you I’ve learned a lot. Much of that wisdom has come from my social media community. Those of you unfamiliar with my situation can get up to speed with my journey by reading my earlier blog posts about mental health and the continuing saga.  

I continue to receive messages from friends, colleagues, and even long-lost family members offering support and words of encouragement. Many have shared valuable resources and insight that most people wouldn’t know about unless they dealt with a mental health crisis personally. I want to share three that might be useful if you have a loved one with a mental health issue.

1. A Mental Health Advocate Can Be Difficult to Find. 

Someone who experienced a similar situation told me to contact the county mental health department and request a case manager. From her experience, a caseworker from the county must be appointed so that you can receive advocacy services and resources. And — surprise, surprise — there might be a long waiting list! 

I reached out to the Office of Aging to find out more. It took four requests before I received a response from them, telling me that Mom would need to be formally diagnosed with a mental health disorder from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I asked if the doctor who found her incapacitated could provide that diagnosis, and I was told no. The Office of Aging reached out to the psychiatrist who evaluated Mom in the hospital. The earliest evaluation they can schedule is in March 2023. 

I'm reaching out to my community for assistance and resources to move things forward faster. Don't give up hope if you run into bottlenecks and red tape.

2. It Will Be a Long Road Ahead.

When I started this journey, moving my mother to a long-term care facility was identified as a last resort. Little did I know that those facilities are not properly staffed and have few beds available. Some will add a potential patient to a waitlist, but it could be an extremely long time until there’s a spot open. My mother’s condition adds a level of difficulty as well. Many facilities refuse to accept anyone with “behavioral issues.”  

If you have a family member in need of care, now’s the time to consider any and all resources at your disposal. It will be a long journey, so it’s essential to prepare as soon as possible.

Also, you may want to consider hiring an attorney. In my situation, I chose an elder law attorney. While no one wants to pay for legal assistance, I’ve found it’s the only way to get straight answers. The medical community is overwhelmed with cases, and it is difficult to discern the bottom line in this maze.

3. You Are Not Alone.

It may feel like you have no one who understands, but you’re not alone while facing your struggles. I discovered that quickly after I published my first post sharing my story. I am shocked at the number of people who came out of the woodwork to share their own stories, offer resources, and simply tell me they were thinking about me. Many people are experiencing the same issues. While I was initially reluctant to talk about what’s happening with my family, I now realize that someone needed to tell this story. 

Some people have frowned at what I’ve shared recently, and I’ll talk more about that soon. But overall, my community came to my rescue. This is exactly what makes social media so powerful. 

Moving Forward

I hope I can forge real change on this very prevalent issue. And it starts with a willingness to showcase vulnerability and, as Philip Seymour Hoffman says in the movie Almost Famous, “Be honest and unmerciful.” 

This past week, Mark Schaefer published a post about a “globally-important issue” that he accurately calls a “mental health crisis.” While his post focuses on the marketing opportunities in this space, his assessment of what’s going on in the world is 100 percent spot-on. No one can escape it… and very few can get help.

If you’re dealing with a situation similar to mine, know that many others — me included — understand and are there to lend encouragement. And if you have any words of wisdom and support for people facing mental illness in their families, I welcome you to share them in a comment below.

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