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Giving a voice to those with mental illnesses

Dear Annie: I am new to your column, so I’m not sure what all you’ve shared with the public about mental illness. I’m hoping you will publish this letter because I feel that most people need to know more. It’s often said that the more understanding one gains, the more compassion he/she can extend to others.

I have bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had these mental conditions for many years. And in that space of time, I’ve encountered many people who know very little about mental illness in general. Not long ago, a friend of my mother was talking to her about different people, here in our community, and she referred to some of them as “weirdos,” “flakey,” “nuts,” etc. I was offended and hurt that she would talk that way around me. She knows I’m mentally ill. Some people can be so insensitive. If more folks knew how dreadfully painful mental illness can be, they might have more compassion for one another.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people has a mental illness. You’d think that since it’s so common people would feel more at ease talking about it.

Television and movies do very little to educate the public on this topic. The mentally ill are often portrayed as dangerous criminals. However, studies have shown that only a very small percentage of the mentally ill are dangerous. It’s more likely that a mentally ill person will be the victim, and not the perpetrator, as they are so often taken advantage of and treated cruelly.

There are those who believe that mentally ill people are lazy, irresponsible, manipulative and without love. In my lifetime, I have encountered many people with mental conditions who are very loving, responsible and hardworking citizens.

Psychiatric facilities and private practices can be a beacon of light for individuals who are in the dark about how to help themselves. Psychiatrists, therapists and community support workers offer hope, but a lot of folks are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek it out. I believe that if more people would take a stand for the mentally ill, the number of people who seek help would increase considerably, and more people could find hope, happiness and fulfillment in their lives. Thank you for reading this. — Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: And thank you for writing this. You are spot on. It’s unfortunate that mental illness seems to only be a topic of conversation in the wake of tragedies. I encourage readers to visit https://www.nami.org/find-support or call the NAMI helpline (800-950-NAMI) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday.

Dear Annie: My concern is my husband of 15 years. After we got married, I caught him looking at porn. When I confronted him, he told me he would stop. I believed him. About a month ago, I had a suspicion and confronted him, and he admitted that he had been looking again.

We have had our ups and downs, but this is something that just makes me sick. I am so hurt and just feel so belittled by his need for this. It has taken an emotional toll on me, and I need some advice. The past 10 years have been difficult for me healthwise, and the stress that this has put on me really worries me. I don’t know whether I can forgive him and move on. I have always had issues with my self-esteem, and this just drives me to think I am not worth much. He says it means nothing to him. I see it as cheating, like if he had had an affair. — Stressed in PA

Dear Stressed in PA: Your husband’s predilection for pornography is no reflection on you. You could be Aphrodite incarnate, and he’d still be looking at the stuff. This is his issue.

That said, the solution won’t come from pointing fingers. You must approach your husband with empathy, not as an enemy. Ask him how he feels about his viewing porn; then explain how it makes you feel. Discuss what might help him drop this habit for good. Create an open dialogue and refuse to let anything be taboo between you two. Consider going to marriage counseling for help navigating these sensitive issues.

Lastly, I’d strongly encourage you to attend therapy on your own. You said that you’ve always had low self-esteem: That won’t magically change the day your husband stops looking at porn. A therapist can help you get to the root of those issues and weed them out, so you can grow and thrive in love and life in general.

Dear Annie: There are many ways to scam people. Last year, I had a stroke and seizures and stopped breathing. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. After I got out of the hospital, I never got a bill for the ambulance because insurance had covered it.

Just last month, I got a call saying that I owed money for the ambulance service and that I needed to take care of it right that instant. I knew it was a scam. I said, “I don’t do business like that over the phone, and if I owe anything, please send me a bill.” He hung up FAST. I’ve never heard from anyone about that since.

We have to be very alert as senior citizens because we are the most vulnerable. (I am 87 years young and so blessed with a still-sharp mind.) — Carlyn in Alabama

Dear Carlyn: The sense of urgency that the caller tried to impress upon you — that you needed to settle the bill immediately — is a hallmark of a telephone scam. It makes my blood boil to hear about such things.

Seniors who think they may have been the target or victim of such a scam can call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline (877-908-3360) for guidance. The lines are open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time.

Dear Annie: While going through some older newspapers, I read your column and loved your advice to “So Lost” — a woman who had left a 35-year-long abusive marriage, only to find that her adult children did not support her decision. In your response, you recommended that she join a support group for victims of domestic violence. I wanted to offer another resource: Emotions Anonymous, a wonderful support group for those with all different types of emotional issues. — Edith Ann

Dear Edith: It heartens me to learn just how many free resources exist for those who are struggling. Thanks for sharing yet another.

Editor’s note: Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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