A “crazy” aunt who everyone jokes about at family gatherings. A cousin who believes the government is stalking her or a teenage friend, whose world is so dark that he kills himself in his parent’s garage.
Mental illness, no matter the severity, has touched most of us in one way or another. In my family, it wasn’t talked about when I was a kid. My aunt’s behavior – the highs and lows were just assumed to be normal – was talked about in a round about way, as in, “Do you know what your crazy aunt did this time?”
Little did I know that she had been taking, or not taking, medication for years.
The embarrassment or shame of talking about mental illness would be somewhat understandable if it was rare. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than a quarter of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, translating to more than 60 million people.