Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why nobody shares about family mental health issues: TMI

Alternatively titled: Timing is Everything.

Today is #NAMIWalks and my virtual team has thus far raised about $350. During my virtual walk today I got a message that a close family member had called 911. Hmmm, I thought. That could be anything. My anxiety meds kept my heart-rate low and my thoughts from racing. My friend Felicia had arrived early to help me around the house a bit so I focused on that. An hour later I received a message that another close family member had done self-harm behavior to themselves with their pain medication. The paramedics could not tell the close family member who called 911 where they were taking the suicidal family member because of HIPAA.

This is why we need organizations like NAMI. This year NAMI helped pass legislation that will give more leeway to communicate with family members in cases such as this one (SHB 1477). I’m proud to be a member of their public policy committee that lobbied for this change. I lived practically next door to NAMI for 30 years and never stepped foot in the door until I went to talk to them last year as part of my personal reinvention. Yep, it’s been only a year, but I’ve learned so much and participated in some cool projects: Mental Health Awareness Month, King County Family and Youth Council, NAMI Washington Public Policy Children’s Mental Health Lead, NAMI Walks Virtual Team Captain, and learning to navigate Olympia with a bill that has a very strong possibility of passing next year and bringing decision making regarding at risk minor children back into the hands of their parents!

The great thing about doing this work is when a close family member self-harms to the degree that they are taken to the hospital, I know there are people in my life who get it. We can use social media to get support if we break an ankle or our kid gets cancer, but how does one talk about how the severe self-harm of a close family member affects one while being respectful of the privacy of the vulnerable person? If I don’t talk about then the friends of my close family members who experienced this trauma today won’t get support. My hope is that my close family members will get the help they need. I hope that insurance will cover the necessary treatment for the suicidal family member. And I hope my extended family will be able to talk about this with each other and support one another.

Today I found three items that could have warned me that another attempt was imminent. But even if had I found those items earlier, I am not certain there would have been anything I could have done to prevent what happened this morning, during the NAMI Walk.

NAMI is part of the solution to our state’s woeful mental health services. I hope you will consider giving to my virtual team here [link]. No number of suicide awareness posts protects close family members from the trauma of having a close family member attempt suicide. Processing it alone isn’t my hope for my close family member who had to make that call. I hope the next time something like this happens to a close family member of yours, you will consider sharing it as openly as I have here.