By: Erin Vandervelde
November 24, 2014
I do not suffer from a mental illness. However, two members of my immediate family do. Mental illnesses do not only affect those afflicted, but also those who love them. Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and addiction have been present in my home for twenty years. Although some days have been emotionally unbearable, most days are not.
A mental illness does not disappear, and has to be treated with discipline and compliance every day. This is no different than the life 347 million people that suffer from diabetes tolerate; or the life that many other people that have been diagnosed with a chronic illness live every day. The difference is how society perceives those who suffer from mental illness. Our minds are filled everyday with news, movies, rumors, pictures, and reminders of “crazy” people. I, like most others, didn’t think twice about calling someone crazy until my son was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at six years old. Yes, he was experiencing rage that could result in someone getting physically hurt, but it wasn’t his fault. His brain chemistry was to blame.
Brain chemistry is a complex science; a science that contains many unknowns still today. Yes, those people who make bad choices and hurt other people must be held accountable, but our world would be a better, safer place if these illnesses blamed for the bad choices were recognized and treated before problems ensued for those suffering. Compassion needs to be granted where necessary, and children need to be treated, not punished. If the correct services are granted at a young age, many will avoid a lifetime of misfortune. Unfortunately, funding is imperative to allow schools to offer services to all those requiring them. And, funding mental health services is too often overlooked.
My son is extremely bright, courageous, and knows he is different than many of his classmates. He has watched his father suffer from mental illness and addiction his entire life. But, I am confident that with the right medicine, doctors and school accommodations he will succeed in life. It is not easy. It is, of course, not easy for him, and it is not easy for his family. There are very few days that do not require a conversation with one of his teachers, and as with any mood disorder, there are always days that require special attention or treatment. But, as a parent we should be willing to do whatever it takes to provide for our children. And, as human beings, we should fight for those who can’t fight. This includes helping those families that are not as fortunate as others.
The Brandon Marshall Foundation is amazing. Brandon, Michi, and Louie walked into my life at exactly the right time. This is not the place to explain that timing, but their dedication to eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness helps fuel the energy I need to fight for own family and others. Brandon’s discipline and compliance to treat his illness in the public eye is huge. He is a role model not only to the little boys wanting to play in the NFL, but also to the little boys, and girls, that suffer from a mental illness. His success and humility has made a huge impact on my son. Michi and Louie’s ability to show compassion and provide hope for those that suffer and their families warms my heart. It is not always easy to love someone with a mental illness, but if we all try to fight for those suffering, the world will be a better place. Let’s paint the world lime green TOGETHER!
Bio: Erin Vandervelde is the Operations Manager at Starved Rock Harley-Davidson in Ottawa, IL. She is very excited to be a member of Team BMF! #375