Mother Stares Down Stigma for Mental Health Month: Nurse Lindsay Burton McIntosh
“If you know something is going on with your child or loved one, don’t give up. The most important thing: Don’t let stigma make you doubt yourself. You may even need to step out of your comfort zone to help.”
Mental Health Month
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During May, NAMI and the rest of the country are raising awareness of mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. This year’s WhyCare? campaign is an opportunity to share the importance of care in our relationships to others, in mental health treatment and services and in support and education to millions of people, families, caregivers and loved ones affected by mental illness. Demonstrating how and why we care brings more to awareness by showing our actions and connections to others. Care has the power to make a life-changing impact on those affected by mental health conditions. Most importantly, by sharing our stories we help to reduce stigma for those struggling in secret. Here at Windrose, one nurse is going the extra mile to address mental health stigma on behalf of her son.
Nurse Lindsay McIntosh
“There have been numerous times when my son can not put into words exactly what is going on in his head. This frustration, agitation, and even anger will feed on him for several minutes when he is trying to explain what he is thinking and feeling. He will often tell me that I will never understand.
It hurts to admit that but he is right. I will never understand. I will never be able to make his brain give him the words he needs to be understood. I will never be able to feel his frustration with being unable to express how he feels on the inside. I will never understand, but I will never give up on him. I will never stop trying my hardest to help him, teach him, and guide him. I will never quit on him. I will never stop fighting for him. I will never stop loving him. We may not see the signs and symptoms of those struggling with mental illness the same way we see them in a cold or a broken arm but please know that does not mean they don’t exist…..it just means we need to keep looking.”
“He first started showing signs around age 2-3. He had great difficulty coping with any unexpected change–dropping a bottle or toy for example would lead to huge overreactions. Once he got a little older, if you told him you were gonna pick him up at five and you were five minutes late, he would struggle with that. He would bang his head against the floor, kids act differently when they’re feeling tired or hungry…but he seemed to always be in this state. In preschool he kicked a girl for no reason, thats when I knew it was serious. First grade was the first time we started with medication. He was diagnosed with ADD and given Ritalin, which made him suicidal. There’s a blackbox warning on stimulants–some doctors will minimize this, but I’ve learned to take it seriously.”
“We experienced many different ‘ups and downs’, tried many different treatments–medication and otherwise. He ended up going to juvenile detention for five weeks. Once he got on his medication, the structure, schedule, and expectations ended up helping him quite a bit. I don’t believe that he would ever truly lay a hand on me or anybody else. HOWEVER, I also don’t believe that he is always entirely in control. He has heard voices telling him to hurt others. With the help of a counselor here at Windrose, we got him a recommendation to HARSHA–this was hugely helpful in reducing the hallucinations.
We were also able to get new testing done–brain mapping confirmed schizophrenia, autism…it confirmed lots of things.”
“I think the test results really helped him feel validated. It has been a long road but he is doing much better. He had been ignored and not believed for so long…he has told me multiple times that ‘Mom you’ll never know what it’s like in my head’. He’s in the Centerstone wrap-around program now with a doctor and a life-skills coach, and finally has the resources to help him find peace in his own mind.”
Staring Down the Stigma of Mental Illness
Lindsay explains, “I want that for everybody–I want all kids to know its OK to talk“. Lindsay has begun a facebook group to encourage open discussion within/among families with mental health struggles. Learn more about her group below. By working together, we can reduce the stigma against mental health for future generations. Also, check out NAMI of greater Indianapolis here!