After reading Hazel’s blog, I was prompted to write down and share a little of my family’s story.
I remember the day so vividly when I was first told my brother had a mental illness. I was in a soup kitchen in downtown Toronto, Canada. My brother, who lived there, had gone missing for several months and I had been nominated by the family as the person to go over to find him. A catholic monk in charge of the soup kitchen that day nodded as I described my brother and said he definitely came in there almost every day.
The monk said “you know your brother is mentally unwell”. I couldn’t speak with disbelief. No one in our family had ever suffered from mental ill health, though being a nurse I had witnessed others suffering with a mental health condition.
My brother did indeed come to the soup kitchen that day for his only source of food. He recognised me but showed no emotion despite the fact that he hadn’t seen me for 5 years. He looked to have aged 30 years, was thin gaunt and malnourished. He clearly couldn’t cope.
A month later I was able to bring him back to the UK where he was diagnosed with a serious mental health condition. The shock within our family was palpable; we were dealing with a crisis situation we had no previous knowledge of and liaising with mental health professionals for the first time. It seemed like a nightmare.
That was some years ago now. Fortunately we came through it and are in a much better place. Along the way, we were told of the carers support group who met monthly in Hemel Hempstead. They were able to support, listen, empathise and advise us through the whole process. They have continued to be an invaluable support over the years that my family has cared for my brother.
The information we received from guest speakers, as to how mental health services operate, was and continues to be very useful. I don’t think we’d have managed in any way as well without the group’s support which I will always be thankful for.