Family members, others affected by mental illness






The day Hector was diagnosed with bipolarity, his whole world fell apart. Yours and that of your entire family. At the age of 20 he left swimming, a sport with which he had managed to be 15 times champion of Spain. He lost friends and colleagues and even dropped out, on two occasions, from a study scholarship in the United States. That day he returned to Madrid with his parents and assimilated, by force, that extreme changes in his state of mind have a name and a diagnosis.

Now he lives with a type 1 bipolar disorder, that is, the one with mid-term episodes of excitement and depression (up to three weeks). He controls breakouts with pills, 21 a day, and by observing himself a lot. “When I wake up and am euphoric, my head works at 100 per hour and I can prepare infusions and coffees for the whole family. That’s when I realize that I am experiencing the beginning of a manic outbreak, an emotional high ”. When you have a depressive episode, on the other hand, you lose all your energy, interest or pleasure in doing anything and you can go weeks without getting out of bed.

“In those moments we are the ones who have to help him go to the bathroom, wash himself, eat… basically, we have to do everything for him so that he can continue. It’s very hard, ”says Rosa, her mother. She and her husband have been fundamental pillars in Héctor’s life for two years. “When they tell you that your child suffers from a serious mental illness, everything turns upside down. You feel helpless and lost because nobody informs you about how to treat this disease. You learn thanks to associations and private initiatives ”, he adds.

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Three out of 100 adults suffer from a serious mental illness

In Spain, three out of every hundred adults suffer from a serious mental illness. But aid and public resources are scarce. “Héctor gets ahead based on paid psychologists and psychiatrists and because we are there,” says Rosa. “There are very few resources for mental health and almost everything falls on families. The worst thing of all is when we have an emergency and we are treated by a new doctor, a psychiatrist who does not know my son at all and who needs to be told his entire history again. That is exhausting, and at the same time attention deteriorates. A person suffering from bipolarity needs continuous follow-up with the same doctor ”, he laments.

Public health is badly damaged

The number of mental health professionals in Spain is one of the lowest in the European Union, only above Bulgaria. According to the latest data, we have 30 professionals (including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and other professionals) per 100,000 inhabitants. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has 260 mental health experts for every one hundred thousand. “Public health is very damaged, and especially after the covid,” says Rosa.

The lack of assistance or information is often the main concern of patients and their families when diagnosing a mental illness, especially mental illness. schizophrenia. It is the disease that Remedios has suffered since 2001, “I take eight pills in the morning, two at noon and fourteen at night”Thus, he says, it appeases its shoots. But Rebeca, his daughter, with whom he lives, assures that medication alone is not enough. “Sometimes she gets angry and violent. One day he almost threw a glass at my head. Other times he can stay in bed for days and I don’t know what to do, ”he adds.

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“The important thing is that you do not feel alone”

And that’s just when it comes into play Elena. Is social educator of the La Latina Day Center, in Madrid, and sees Remedios at home when she cannot go to the consultation on her own. “The important thing is that you do not feel alone. We keep him company, we ask him how he is, if he has been to the doctor or if he has taken the pills. At the same time it serves as an outlet for her daughter, “says Elena while checking if Remedios can stand up after passing the COVID,” one step, another step … so Reme, very well, slowly, “she says, holding her hand.


Elena (social educator) attends Remedios at home LUCÍA PÉREZ SANAGUSTÍN

Her 26-year-old daughter Rebeca struggles to have a life like the rest of her friends: “When my mother calls me, my colleagues are amazed that I always answer, but I have to. If you have an outbreak, I have to be at home. ” Elena’s home visits alleviate her, she assures “this is the time when I can go out to do my things.” Home care serves as an outlet for Rebeca in addition to helping Remedios to be more autonomous in her life.


Remedios (in the center) with her daughter Rebeca (left) and Elena (right) LUCÍA PÉREZ SANAGUSTÍN

“One of the objectives of this support is for people with mental health problems to overcome their fears,” says the educator, “that they dare to leave home, to interact with people and to have a minimally independent life.” Remedios has improved her emotional state since she attended the day center and received outside help. “When we met her she did not speak at all and we thought it would be difficult for her to find her place”says Elena “Now she talks to her friends on the phone every day, goes in and out of the house and always invites us to a coffee.” The problem, he repeats over and over again, is that there are too few professionals for so many patients, “psychiatrists see the sick once every three months and for ten minutes. That is not an attention ”.

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It is precisely this lack of professional help that pushes patients and relatives to create associative movements that make them feel protected and understood among equals. In this complex world of mental health, Supporting patients is essential, but it is also vital for everyone around them.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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