*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
When I was in my early thirties I had a bit of a mental breakdown and ended up in what my local psychiatric hospital calls their “Intensive Outpatient Program” or, IOP. The IOP required me to attend in-person group and personal therapy sessions that went from 9 am to 1 pm for five days a week, for six weeks. I was lucky to be unemployed at this time or else I never would have been able to complete the program, despite the fact that the unemployment is partially what got me there in the first place.
As an adult, I was on my own at the time to get help for myself. I had to set up my own appointments, be responsible enough to get there on time every day and be dedicated to doing the work to get better. However, without the constant help and support from my family and friends, I probably never would have gotten through those six weeks and pulled myself together.
What I learned in my time in the IOP is that mental healthcare is healthcare. It’s not a subsidiary of health, it is part of overall wellness to have your mind in good standing.
If I had cancer, say, and not depression and anxiety, I’m sure my family and friends wouldn’t write it off as being a character flaw. They would tell me to “just buck up and get over it” or let me go without the help of medical professionals. But with mental healthcare, things are much different.
I was horrified a few weeks ago when my seventeen-year-old daughter Tori told me about what happened to one of her friends and classmates, Jana.
I had known Jana for years and had seen her struggle with her mental health all throughout her adolescence and early teen years while her parents went through a terrible divorce. As a good friend to Tori, Jana spent many nights sleeping over at our house and I watched Jana decline until I finally asked her if she was seeing a therapist. She wasn’t, and so I admittedly stepped beyond my boundaries and contacted the school to let the school psychologist know he should reach out to Jana.
Months later Tori tells me that Jana has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but that her mother, who she lived with now that her parents were divorced, did not want to put her on medication because she couldn’t afford it.
Jana slowly spiraled out of control and after a number of outbursts at school, she was taken from school directly to the hospital for emergency psychological evaluation, at which point doctors determined she should be admitted for treatment.
Well, Jana’s mother went ballistic. Not having health insurance, and knowing that her new ex-husband did not have it either, she knew that this would cost her a fortune.
Jana’s mom did a thing I can’t imagine any other parent in the world doing to their child. She went to the courthouse to terminate her own parental rights of her seventeen-year-old child so that she wouldn’t be responsible for her any longer.
When Jana was released from the hospital, she went directly to the care of her aunt and uncle who lived a few towns over, and by some miracle, the school made arrangements for her to finish her senior year there without having to transfer to a new district. They probably just felt terrible about what her mother did to Jana.
What do you think about what Jana’s mother did to her?
Hi, I hope you enjoyed this story! I am a freelance writing single mom trying to create a better life for me and my daughter through words. If you enjoyed this, please consider leaving a small donation: https://ko-fi.com/maryduncan
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