BOSTON (CBS) — A note from the reporter about getting help:
As journalists, we make every effort to stay neutral, be objective and dispassionate about the stories we tell. It’s a core tenant of journalism to not get involved, to separate ourselves from the news we cover.
But we are also human beings with real lives and real challenges outside of the work we do. When putting together this Matters Of The Mind series, I worked hard to leave my experiences out of it. Yet, another core tenant of journalism is to disclose unavoidable real- or perceived- biases. It’s important to be honest and transparent with our viewers.
For that reason, I felt the need to disclose that I am unable to be dispassionate about mental health topics. Particularly when it comes to the first story in our series about the emotional well-being of first responders. I am absolutely willing to hold the powerful accountable when it comes to challenging official narratives of news events. But I also know that police, firefighters, and emergency medical workers face extraordinary pressure that sometimes leads to unfortunate realities in their personal and professional lives.
My mother is a wonderful, strong, and giving woman who spent her life helping others as a professional firefighter and paramedic. As a kid I marveled at what I thought were hero awards; she was named Paramedic of The Year multiple times over the course of her career and Firefighter of The Year at least once that I can recall. But she also cared so deeply for others that she put her own well-being second. Eventually, the cumulative weight of the world crumbled on top of her.
Mom was officially diagnosed with PTSD and retired early from the fire department she loved so much. Many of her colleagues didn’t understand what was going on with her. I didn’t understand what was going on with her. The “Mommy” (yes I still call her that) I grew up with is very different from the mommy I know now. She is no less worthy of love and support than she’s always been, but the new reality was scary to face. For those who love someone with a serious mental illness it’s incredibly hard to feel like you have no power to help. Just imagine how scary it is to actually be the person living with that diagnosis.
What I recognize very clearly is that my story is far from uncommon. In the process of filing this week of reports, the courage and empathy displayed by sources, patients and viewers who sent emails, Facebook messages and Tweets was nothing short of overwhelming. Despite the prevalence of mental health concerns, there is so much that is still misunderstood and undiscussed. It’s time for mental health to be examined more closely from many different angles. We could devote whole shows to the topic. Thank you to the people who opened their hearts and bared their souls in the stories we’ll share this week. Each did so with the goal of encouraging others to look out for themselves and their loved ones.
In researching this series, I came across some amazing resources that might be able to help others get started on their journey to living happier, healthier lives. Their links are below. Please, if you are struggling, dig deep and try hard to find the courage it takes to seek help as soon as possible. Research shows that finding the right treatment will take some time because everyone is different. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll have a shot at feeling better.
For parents with questions about their children’s well-being, visit the Parents/ Professional Advocacy League.
More information on transitional assistance for people leaving prison or jail, here’s the Community Resources for Justice. Or to learn more about a group dedicated to keeping the mentally ill out of jail, visit The Stepping Up Initiative.
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health is a state agency with a mission to provide access to support services for mental health needs.
To learn more about mental illnesses and their impact, see research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
For anyone impacted by the Marathon Bombing, talk to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center.
Anyone interested in the politics of mental health or the myriad of causes endorsed by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Your primary care doctor is always a great starting point for finding mental health professionals. Other resources include your local community health center or the Veterans Administration for those who qualify.