DEBBIE HALL: Thankfulness requires understanding

By Debbie Hall

“Today I am thankful for…” It was a Thanksgiving Facebook thing…to change your status daily as Thanksgiving approached with the things for which you are thankful. It’s such a positive thing and it brought smiles to read about the things that make my friends happy.
I did not see, “I am thankful that I do not have a mental illness.” Nor did I see, “I am thankful not to be acutely ill so that I will spend my holidays in a hospital setting.” Actually, that would not be appropriate, but I am sure that, if asked, all my friends would quickly say that this would be high on their Thanksgiving list for themselves and their families.
In order to be truly thankful, we have to put ourselves in the place of those who live with mental illness. We have to empathize with those who daily struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other diseases that affect their mental health. We have to understand what it is like to work daily to keep an illness like any one of these under control in order to live a successful, productive life.
Then we have to imagine what it must be like to have our symptoms get out of balance and, therefore, to have our behavior reach a point where we become a danger to ourselves or someone else. Think what it must be like to have a friend or family member have to visit the Chancery Court to tell a judge that your illness has become this acute. Then picture yourself being taken to North Mississippi State Hospital by a sheriff’s deputy, not because you have done anything wrong, but because you are ill. This is when you will become truly thankful.
I ask you today to be thankful also for the fact that North Mississippi State Hospital is here to help. Add our caring professionals to your list of things for which you are grateful. Because these people help turn lives around by stabilizing a patient with an acute illness so they can return to their homes and families.
As you are saying thanks, be a friend to our patients, especially during this holiday season. Do something today that will help make their stay more pleasant. Bring a group to carol for the patients. Let your drama group perform a quick play. Plan a party for them. You can make such a difference! Please join in “creating new beginnings” for our patients – or someone else you know who lives with a mental illness. “Today I am thankful for friends like you…”
Debbie Woodrick Hall is director of community relations, North Mississippi State Hospital, Tupelo, Contact her at debbie_hall@nmsh.state.ms.us, or (662) 690-4286.