Full Disclosure: By Martha Cooke
I have been associated with behavioral health advocacy in the past with NAMI Santa Fe and with the NM Behavioral Health Collaborative. I am not actively involved now but I live with mental illness as a family member and personally as a someone with Dysthymia. When I spoke to County Commissioners publicly in favor of the 2017 GRT for the Behavioral Health Triage Center, I said that recovery is possible. But it requires the support of the judicial system, county and city police and hospitals in addition to family and friends.
Recently I became part of an online disclosure that began as an ask by my son from his Facebook friends for insight of his own behavior. He wrote, ‘Has anyone perceived my behavior as abhorrent, deranged or unstable in the last few months? ‘ The response proceeded to play out on Facebook with family and peers. Thankfully the responses were thoughtful and mostly respectful and heartfelt. The behavior in question that is exhibited by my son has all of the symptoms of a hypomanic episode that is not a psychiatric disorder or diagnosis in itself, but rather is a description of a part of a condition called bipolar II disorder. Hypomanic episodes have the same symptoms as manic episodes with two important differences: the mood usually isn’t severe enough to cause problems with the person working or socializing with others (e.g., they don’t have to take time off work during the episode), or to require hospitalization; and there are never any psychotic features present during the episode. psychcentral.com
The Facebook social media phenomenon has proven to be a useful tool in this instance for several reasons I would not have anticipated. This disclosure from friends and family online has confounded me with concern that grandma and family in far away places and mutual family friends have joined the conversation. But many of the constructive posts have been from people who I don’t know, yet know my son from his social life. Many responses shared the perception that society in general is insane and we are all doing our best to cope. There were some who spoke from personal experience with bi polar disorder who tactfully advised with the most insight of anyone. Others commented on his inspiring, loud and passionate style. Of course any input I offered is of the mom with universal wisdom to get enough rest and get enough to eat and by the way, dinner is ready anytime.
My final conclusion is that it takes someone who loves you to tell you the truth even when it is not well received. That kind of honesty is difficult to achieve and requires an element of bravery and tact. If you ask for opinions from friends, there will be a spectrum of reactions that together can reinforce a support network for truth. Once again, families need advocates for the integrated support that come from every one in the community and in this case, social media.