Quakers were one of the first groups to clamor for decent treatment for the insane. We demanded that insane asylums were clean and the care of doctors dignified, not condescending or punitive. We crusaded against punishments like leg irons and restraints for mental patients. I hope we might consider redoubling our efforts starting now and going forward into time. Research dollars to come up with new treatments is not cheap.
"I want to thank you for your courage," said the woman undergoing treatment for oncology. I appreciated her compliment, and told her that everyone's struggle was related. I have something of an ulterior motive. Psychiatric studies are, as I noted above, expensive, and many drug companies have sharply curtailed the money for research and development. The 1990's were boom times for new treatments, but since then, not much has been developed.
I have a rapport with those who are struggling mightily with their own medical problems. Many of them feel that they have been passed over or discounted by the rest of the outside world. In the middle of terrifying uncertainty and few concrete answers, I see the weariness in their faces. Unlike some, I have what is referred to as an invisible ailment. I don't need to use a wheelchair. I don't have open wounds. My hair has not fallen out completely due to cancer treatments. If people can't see visible proof of my illness, they think it doesn't exist.
Many people my own age have approached me to speak about their own bouts with depression. One of them gave me a huge, powerful hug, to specify that she understood. It is pleasant to live in a time that, though there may not be a cure yet, people feel comfortable confessing their own struggles, or even the struggles of a spouse of family member. My mother's depression has been present since before I was born, which is partially why she's chosen to spoke to others with mental illness. For many years, she hid her own problems, but found that it was much healthier to work on behalf of others who might otherwise might not have no advocates and allies.