Mentally ill people need their families tooJanuary 3rd, 2022
Being at home with family and friends is one of the highlights of the holiday season in many countries. Many mentally ill people who are living on the streets however seem to be forgotten by their families all year around. 25-year-old Vishakha, a Correspondent from India, argues that family support is vital for people suffering from mental illness, even if they are living on the street.
Who are they? To whom do they belong? Why are they living on the street? These are questions I’ve asked myself when I see homeless people walking the streets aimlessly.
Some of the people who live on the streets have fallen on hard times but others are homeless because they are suffering from a wide range of mental conditions that involve changes in their emotions, thought processes or behaviours. Signs of mental illness include problems with concentration and logical thinking, rapid mood changes, unusual behaviours and nervousness.
The severity of the illness may cause parents who once invested time and money into raising their children to wander around eating scraps of food from the dustbins while they are unaware of where they are sleeping and of the foul smell emanating from their clothing and bodies.
When we see the mentally ill on the streets we should remember that mental illness follows a policy of zero discrimination— anyone can be a victim regardless of age, gender, class, religion or nationality. Today we are lucky enough but tomorrow it could be us, just like them, sick, abandoned and helpless.
Family members should also remember that when a loved one has a mental illness, that is not the end of the road. Professional help can be sought to treat and manage mental illness. Furthermore, there are several Non Governmental Organizations working for this great cause.
For those suffering from mental illness, the importance of support from loved ones cannot be overstated. One study found a “ positive influence of families on the recovery process of people living in structured community housing. Residents described drawing primary strength from their families, with a richness of detail and emotional depth not conveyed in previous research.”
When homeless people are victims of mental disorders, they can’t help themselves. But we who understand that they are ill, can help them.
Why would we treat mentally ill people worse than the dogs on the streets, spitting at them or hitting them with rocks or sticks?
Instead of being disgusted, let’s help our mentally ill family members living on the streets and treat everyone living on the streets with dignity and love because they too belong to the human family.
About Vishakha: Since I was a child, I’ve asked questions about life and various phenomena happening around me. I believe in observing people as it helps me comprehend the reasons behind their actions. As a PhD student, I aspire to change the lives of people across the world through my writing.