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Like The Phoenix: Reflections on Family, Mental Health Care, and the Tenacity of the Human Spirit

Updated: Apr 8

By a Former FIV Client


I am writing about something very close to my heart, my family’s hearts, and to the hearts of millions of others.  It concerns illnesses that can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or color.  They disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. They are illnesses that are treatable and individuals can recover from.Unfortunately, many are allowed to go untreated every year due to the stigma associated with the disease and the extreme difficulty with accessing proper resources and care. As you may have guessed, I am referring to mental illnesses, diseases that affect 1 out of 4 people. People often say they are an illness like any other and I will agree that they are right in every aspect but one. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions affecting the brain. They cannot be overcome by “will power” and are not related to a person’s character or intelligence. What I believe makes it different from any other illness is devastating impacts it can have in every area of a person’s life-family, friends, jobs, finances, etc.I will not go into all the details of what my family has had to experience. I will say is that it did not need to happen. We have fought for the past 30 years to get my mother the help that she has needed, but more than anything the help that she deserved.Since I moved to Virginia to take care of my mother, it has become very clear that there is very little awareness and very limited resources that are available for those with mental illness and those that care for them. Her life could have played out very differently. The way our mental health system is organized she did not receive treatment until her health deteriorated so much we were finally able to her help.  We had to wait until my mom was dying to finally get attention-even then it was still a fight, every step of the way.  It should not have had to be this way for my mom, my family, or any other. No one should have to fight for proper health care.  I know we are not the only ones-I have been meeting family after family who has had a similar experience.My mom is doing very well these days. There are a variety of factors that have led to her recovery. One in particular helped our family achieve things that I never thought possible.  I owe a very special thank you to the Family Institute of Virginia. Their care and attention to my family, in every aspect, is the primary reason my family was able to get through this ordeal. Last year my mom made this statement:“Like the Phoenix, the mythical bird that dies in the flames and is reborn from the ashes, I hope to fly again one day and give those affected my mental illness more hope.”  WELL, HER WISH CAME TRUE! She is my inspiration and motivation to change the way mental illness is viewed and dealt with in any way possible.


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