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Why Isn’t Mental Health Just Health?

12 November 2013

Allison read Comfort Food: No One Brings Dinner When Your Daughter is an Addict by Larry M. Lake on Slate and hopes that you’ll share this powerful article with others.

Tags: allison read, health care, healthcare, mental health

I think mental health issues are just health issues. Some health issues are worse than others. All are something we hope won't happen to us or anyone else, but no matter what kind of sick or hurt we are, we need compassion, support, and time to figure out how we get over or live with our new reality.

In Comfort Food: No One Brings Dinner When Your Daughter is an Addict, Larry M. Lake tells a powerful story about how his family was wonderfully supported when his wife had breast cancer, but mostly ignored a decade later when his daughter “…was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, following years of secret alcohol and drug abuse.” (Read the whole article and you'll learn that his daughter was later in a car accident and everyone seemed to know how to be supportive again.)

When it comes to the spectrum of what we call mental health issues, I think it’s clear that sometimes we think of those health challenges differently and don’t always know how to support one another in those moments. I’m not sure why this is the case, but I fear that we hold a suspicion that a psychological affliction is the person’s fault or something they could get over if they tried harder. We probably don’t understand these ailments as well either. Since there is a lack of understanding and often a stigma, this leaves us feeling awkward and unsure of what to say. So as Larry said, "This question is rarely heard: ‘How’s your depression these days?’”

Please read this article and share it with others. Many thanks to my friend Amy Woolard, for originally posting the article on Facebook and Dahlia Lithwick for sharing Amy’s post. (They are two of my favorite people to follow when it comes to keeping up with things that matter.) I hope you’ll help spread the word on this issue in whatever way works for you. As Amy said, “We can change this.” We can bring each other food and ask, "How are you doing?" no matter what.


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