Mental Health/Stigma/One Woman’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom


FALL, 2004



We’ll only have peace within when we surrender to ourselves. The worst stigma of all is the individual who’s aware they need help and would benefit from help but refuses to allow themselves to obtain it.

My soul turns in and the world moves, dark and sluggish. Interests once penetrating every part of my being have left me alone. This is a foreign concept. How can I walk away from being victimized by a mental illness?

Globally, one of four will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime.

We’d moved from our dream retirement home in Brown Summit, North Carolina for greener pastures. The demons in NC were tearing Tom apart and I could not allow that to happen. You may read that blog here and here.

Sitting above the shoreline of Bull Shoals Lake [located a stone’s throw from our back

Life At The Lake

Life At The Lake

door], I marveled at the sweet sounds of the water massaging  the round pebbles and back out again. What peace. What tranquility. Would this be home for us?

It would be wonderful to believe the Arkansas Ozarks is an enchanted place where mental illness, more commonly known as a brain disorder, could tag onto a rainbow, float over the Ozark mountains and move to another place. Unfortunately this never happens.

No one is exempt from brain disorders. One in four homes has someone living there with a mental illness. The crisis presented inside the home includes: stigma, loneliness, hunger, the inability to work and adequate insurance coverage to procure necessary medications. These are just a few of the latest enemies.

To drive away the excruciating pain of the mind and the physical illnesses haunting the body, illegal substances and alcohol are commonly used. These brain disorders are not caused by weakness of character or bad parenting. They are the result of a biochemical disturbance of the brain and no one is immune.

No amount of love or money will save you or me or someone we love from developing a brain disorder. Mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. Comparatively, the success rate for treating heart disease is more successful than the treatment of a mental health diagnosis.

Even though there are thousands of people in the Ozarks with mental illness who are living full and rewarding lives, many are still afraid to ask for help. The stigma of mental illness keeps them from receiving the help that is readily available.

Artisan blowin glass.

Artisan blowin glass.

Unequal insurance coverage, fear of discrimination by friends, families and co-workers and stereotypes of the mentally ill all serve to cloud people’s understanding about the very nature of mental illness.

The fact is that remarkable things begin happening when individuals with mental illness feel it is all right to get treatment: families stay together, kids stay in schools and out of trouble, adults become more productive on the job and health care costs decline.

By changing attitudes and shattering the myths surrounding the illness, we’ll accept that people really do move from mental illness to mental health.

Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate your time.



About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. I thank you for blogging on this topic. For I have family members who were diagnosed with a brain disorders. I have now begun my journey with passion to understand as much as possible about mental illness. Living with one with it has been challenging to say the least. However love conquers fears, frustration, even anger.

  2. Reblogged this on Journal Edge and commented:
    Article Source: sheridegrom.com

  3. Really great post! Thank you! I particularly enjoyed the statistics around how common it is and the comparison in cure/recovery x

  4. nancyt18 says:

    Hi Sheri,

    Loved your post and can very well relate as my mother has gone through the illness. We faced a lot of denials and stigmas. I too hope to create more awareness through my experiences.


    • Hi, Nancy, Thank you for stopping by my bl0g. I always love it when someone takes the time to read with me and especially when someone leaves a comment. I thank you. I’ve been to your blog and you are spot on with your comments. I understand completely what you are saying in your blog and urge you to keep up your advocacy. I always appreciate another adavocate; heaven knows we need more.
      I wish you peace and grace with your mother. I didn’t have a struggle getting my husband to go to get help. He knew he needed the help and he had no choice. If there’s anything at all I can do to help, my e-mail is sdegrom@conwaycorp.net. I commend you for wanting to help your mother. So many children want to turn their backs these days. I don’t get to my e-mail everyday but try to get there every couple of days or so. With Tom so sick, my time can be limited on some days. Thanks again for stopping by. If interested, my blog where Tom told me I had to attend 4 sessions is at https://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/mental/health-…e-who-needs-it/ It was a hard blog for me to write but felt I had to tell the truth. Honesty is the essence of each blog I post. Sheri

  5. applesbutterfliesrainbowsblog says:

    My favourite part is when you write, “These brain disorders are not caused by weakness of character or bad parenting”. I am so appreciative of this both from the stance that my own struggles are not necessarily my fault, but also that my mother is not responsible either. My mom holds a lot of guilt and shame about her parenting even though she did the best she could with what she had, and I harbour no ill feelings toward her in any of the choices she made. Thank you for this very good article.

    • You are more than welcome. I’m tired of people pointing fingers when there’s so much scientific evidence that brain disorders are just that, brain disorders. The understanding needs to start with the medical profession. I believe when the medical profession begins treating brain disorders the SAME as all other diseases then, and only then, will we see true equality for those that have a mental illness. Sheri

  6. A great focus Sheri and very True what you shared especially about stigmatization and discrimination for the Mentally ill, which I also experienced when wrongly diagnosed with a Mental illness, even from the Nurses who made it very clear they were not aloud to be friends with me when I left the Hospital, even the woman who served coffee kept me at arms length.

    I made friends with some of the Patients and we are still friends today, they still suffer Mental Illness 20 years later but they are some of the dearest and most caring friends I have and I Love them greatly, yes I do Love and value all my friends but they are Special, we have shared in one of the most emotional damaging illness together and have survived the contempt of others who think they are normal but their hearts show they are damaged.

    Blessings dear friend, my Love and prayers are with you, I respect you greatly Sheri.

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

    • Anne – How wonderful to see you here. I pray the healing is going in a positive direction for you.
      I’ve seen the stigma you speak of thousands of times over and more times from medical staff than any other. What always disgust me the most is when it’s psychological medical staff. Their careers wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for those with mental illness or individuals seeking to improve their own mental health.
      I elect to believe many people seek treatment because they want to improve their lives and not because they are ill. They simply know life could be a golden kernel with self-improvement. With love and prayers, my friend. Sheri

  7. Your story is so valuable. Keep sharing these–I know it’s hard.

    • Good morning, Jacqui. Thank you for taking the time to read with me and leaving a comment. Yes, I have to weave in the mental health blogs. That was my primary mission when I started my blog and that will remain my purpose until the day I close it down. I do have some military/veteran blogs coming up plus some fun stuff here and there. I’m trying to get back into my groove.
      I’ve passed on to friends what a wealth of information you have in your ‘Tech Tips.’ I was a little nuts not to have gone hunting there myself for such a long time. You are one smart lady!!! Sheri Of course, Tom is following your book reviews. Sheri

  8. Another much-needed message, Sheri. Very well stated. You deserve a HUGE audience.

    • Hello, John, How’s my special friend on this beautiful fall morning. I’m happy you appreciated the blog. I’m a firm believer that we all must recognize our own needs and get ourselves to the help we can find. Of course I realize many mentally ill people have to have help finding that initial help and I’ve been with Tom every step of the way in coordinating the way. With that being said, he hasn’t fought me on anything.
      How are your new classes going? I’m ready for more show and tell! I’ve been in the business of destroying my rose gardens every spare moment I have – easy survivalist must take the place of all the fancy demanding stuff!

  9. Great post and so well stated…you are spot on…I agree with what Cindy said in her response…as always…thanks for sharing!

    • Kirt – How wonderful to see you here again and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to leave a comment. I’m trying to get back into a blogging schedule but I’m a bit off my game. I so appreciate your kindness.
      I still fantasize going for a ride in your hot air balloons and it’s prompted a trip that Tom and I hope to take one day. Your gallery photos are some of the best I see. Now that Tom is doing some better, we often look at them far into the night and Tom’s equally complimentary of your work. Sheri

  10. Beautiful writing Sheri and you make important points about the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.

    • Andrea, Thank you for the compliment. Coming from someone like yourself, with magical elements, in every sentence you write, what more could I ask. I pray the stigma surrounding mental illness will slip away when we aren’t looking but I fear that will not be the case. Hopefully we’ll stumble onto the reality of integrated care and in the process, some understanding will come forth about brain disorders.
      I so appreciate your taking the time to read with me. Sheri

  11. ksbeth says:

    This is all such a compassionate and humanistic post. All of this is so true and you know that someone in my family struggles with this too, as I’m sure most other families have someone also, as you stated. The world would be so much better for them and the people around them if this was covered and dealt with as any other illness. I am ever hopeful and thanks for you endless battle to have this happen.

    • Hi Beth and happy fall. I’ve written 1 in 4 families struggles with at least one member of the family suffering from a serious mental illness. In many cases the family will have more than one illness and more than one person in the family. I often count houses as I drive home and it’s always shocking to me how fast #4 arrives.
      I don’t believe we’ll be ‘in front’ of stigma until the medical profession accepts mental illness for what it is, an illness that must be treated the same as all other diseases. Not only the person with the illness must demand respect and equality of treatment but if we’re ever going to turn this around, we as family members have to do our part. I can never show stigma in any form against Tom’s disease yet all the years I worked for the government, I had to keep his diagnosis a secret.

  12. Thank you Sheri. I’m not an expert but I’ve worked with so many folks who have mental health issues (of varying degrees) who do not get help. For many reasons. Many of which you speak about. I still reflect on the 80+ year old lady I met through a coworker in the beginning of my APS work. My coworker worked with her, for her, and she was eventually placed in a nursing facility. SHe passed away after less than a year. But my coworker paid her a visit in the nursing facility. She had lived an isolated and difficult life for 80 years. Once in the nursing facility she had been treated for her mental health diagnosis. And when my coworker visited with her, he found her happier than he had ever known her. My coworker had a difficult time reconciling her having to wait 80 years to know happiness because she lived in a world that did not recognize the illness, or, if they did, they made treatment difficult to seek out because of the shame of it all. I’ll never forget him saying six months out of 80 years, the last six months, didn’t seem fair. But, at least she did get that….

    • Colleen, What a sad story. It’s terrifying to recognize some individuals are never offered an alternative to the actual life they are living, especially when that life isn’t working for them.
      I believe we see battered wives and abused children live in impossible situations until they have a mental illness from their environment and it’s not until they are removed from the environment that we begin to see another side of them. Unfortunately, with the children, they go into ‘the system’ and they face more abuse and the legacy continues. I’m following a set of statistics at the present time wherein over 6,000 abused adults with a combined 13,000+ children have been removed from abusive situations. The groups have been placed into 4 controlled groups. It will be another 8 years before we have the out-come but it’s fascinating to watch in the meantime. Not all of the adults have a mental health diagnosis but most do and a majority of them are situational.

      • I hope you share those results with us. Because I saw those lives daily. It is horrific. To be living an abused kind of life and not know the way out, not know there is a way out (or help to make it better). Mental illness is a wicked abuser.

        • Colleen – I sit on this research committee and you bet, I’ll be happy to pass on results to you. I believe this is going to be one of the most valuable clinical studies of our time. The sheer number of participants, the quality of testing and the -1% drop-out rate all give me positive hope.
          You are so correct in that mental illness is a wicked abuser. I learned early on that the mate of an individual living and loving someone with a mental illness must also have other interests and activities or we will become totally immersed in the illness ourselves. When others ask, “Is it catching?” I answer, “It’s not supposed to be, but if you allow yourself to become enmeshed in the illness, chances are good that you will begin to act out the same symptoms. Sheri

  13. NUTRITION CARE says:

    Sheri _ thanks for that post,I’ll take care of my mental health

    • Good, and we know a balanced diet is all important to good mental health. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve seen much emphasis placed on nutrition in the mental health environment.
      Thank you for taking the time to read with me and to leave a comment.

  14. mihrank says:

    Sheri – you have such a magic power and clear vision in sharing the most import topic in the states, I wish and pray to God with a better solution to bring a joy of life

    • How nice to see you again. Tom asked me just the other day if I’d ‘seen you around lately.’ I was away from blogging much due to his failing health for almost a year. Now, I’m trying to get back on schedule.
      Thank you for stopping in to read with me and leave a comment. It means so much to me that you took the time to do so. I also pray for a better solution for everyone to find the best and most productive mental health in the hemisphere. We know there will never be a ‘one size fits all.’ I especially pray that physicians recognize mental illness as a brain disorder and not the patient’s fault. The patient with a mental illness deserves equal treatment as all others.
      Wishing you and your family blessings.

  15. HAVE FAITH says:

    Like a termite it devours one’s self gradually, closing all the gates to recovery. I ve lived with a depressed parent for long, hoping that someday he will recover. It is so so difficult to help him.

    Thanks for writing this post.

    • We can only help when help is requested. That was so-o-o-o hard for me to learn and stick to. Often we make things worse when we try to help and the other individual is trying to hide something or believes they are handling things fine on their own. It’s so very hard to penetrate that wall of depression. It seems there’s no way to chip away at it and no amount of kindness helps either.
      I honestly believe some individuals become comfortable in their depression and don’t really want to come out the other side. They are familiar with how depression feels and know others don’t expect much of them. I know this sounds cold but I believe it to be true.
      Thank you for stopping in to read with me and for leaving a comment.

      • HAVE FAITH says:

        “They are familiar with how depression feels and know others don’t expect much of them.”

        This is absolutely true

        • Tom is the one who told me that when he falls into a deep depression that it sometimes felt comfortable to be there and it was all that much harder to pull him out of that spot. He’s asked for me to help him when I see him getting stuck in that place. I will say, he has kept a remarkably upbeat attitude during this awful round of medical mysteries we’ve gong through for over 18 months now. We see his rehab folks today and am praying for a positive report.
          I so appreciate your comments as they give me a different perspective to think about.
          Tom told me what finally shook him out of his last depression is that he saw that life was continuing without him and he realized he couldn’t allow himself to pull me down and that he wanted to be a part of my life and the activities I was taking part in [mostly advocacy related].

  16. Gallivanta says:

    Another important post, Sheri. Mental health; we all have it, but to different degrees. It’s like eyesight, in many ways; very few of us have perfect vision, and many of us need varying degrees of intervention to help us see more clearly. Not perfectly but more clearly.

    • What a wonderful analogy, it’s perfect. I believe there are times when I need to be reminded I’ve moved into the world of fanciful thinking. When Tom has a good day, it’s so easy to expect that he’ll have a good day tomorrow. We both know we haven’t reached that stage yet. I continue to build myself up and then am crushed when it doesn’t happen. And, yes, I do it all to myself. I tell myself I know what I’m doing and that it’s not good for me but I do it anyway.
      Our mental health, so important, we must step up to the plate and care for it. No one else can do it for us. Thanks for stopping by and I always appreciate your wisdom.

  17. Excellent post. Mental health should be everyone’s business. I hope one day that stigma about the mentally ill will be erased but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

    Much love to you and Tom and your little angel dog.

    Warm regards,

    • Hello, Yvonne, How nice to see you again. Bailey is asleep on the end of my desk. I do believe he’s taken up residence there and I’ll never use that part of my desk to write again. Tom is also asleep but he was up for 6 hours earlier in the day. The 6 hours is the longest Tom has been awake since this past Dec. He’ll probably wake up around midnight or so for a couple hours.
      Yes, you are so right. Mental health should be everyone’s business but unfortunately it’s not. Until such time as we can get physicians and other medical practitioners to recognize that mental illness is actually a brain disorder, we have no hope of moving away from stigma.
      Thank you for stopping by to read with me and I always appreciate your comments. I hope you are doing well and that your son is making positive progress. Sending prayers to you both. Sheri

  18. Elyse says:

    I agree with Mildred above. The more folks talk about mental health, the more folks will feel comfortable getting help. There are so many taboos — this will be the hardest to overcome. I take heart in that my bowel disease is now something folks discuss. They don’t hide it any longer. I’m hopeful for mental health, in the same way.

    • Hi, Elyse. Some bowel diseases are now discussed but not all. I’ve heard discussion around some and then heard, “oh, yuk, gross, that poor person,” when another bowel disease was brought up. Sometimes I think some diseases have made it through the portal and some haven’t. Either way, I’m glad that your disease has and others will. It’s a one step at a time process. Remember when we didn’t talk about cancer. That seems like a life-time ago.
      I’ve learned the perception is much different if I’m feeling really down and I tell someone I simply need some quiet time instead of telling them I’m depressed. We have so many levels and types of depression, why label myself. It also might be that my bowel disease might be acting up and I don’t want to explain myself. Is it any wonder mental health and mental illness have such a hard time standing up to stigma?
      Thanks, Elyse, for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      • Elyse says:

        And then there are all the diseases that folks tell you “are all in your head” (which is what I was first told). Ahhhhhh.

        • Elyse – Isn’t that the truth. I specifically remember a young woman who worked within a group of ALL WOMAN and this particular young woman was scorned and ridiculed because she had such horrific cramping with each menstrual cycle it put her to bed for at least a week. I was working an undercover operation but also realized I couldn’t stand the abuse this young woman was taking. My team found a way for her to relocate to a flex schedule in another work environment. We couldn’t stand seeing the way her boss and fellow workers treated her as though her pain was, “all in her head.”
          Family members, to include Tom’s father can cause devastating pain. The only time his father ever called Tom was when Tom was 39 and experiencing his first hospitalization. The conversation went something like this, “Get up out of that bed you fool boy. There’s not a damned thing wrong with you and you are worrying your mother to death.” Had his father not been on the opposite coast I’d likely have had choice words of my own.

  19. Thank you for sharing this post, Sheri.

  20. cindy knoke says:

    You are a joy and an inspiration dear Sheri.
    Thank you for tossing away the old tired 10% statistic, that was basically never accurate. Everything was 10%, alchoholism, molest, all the mental health diagnoses. 25% is far more accurate. Another accurate fact is although 25% of the population may experience the disabling effects of mental illness personally, 100% of the population has mental illness. I always challenged patients who told me there were either too sick, or not sick enough to bother me, to “Please bring your mentally healthy friend or relative.. I would like to meet one.”
    This always brought a laugh or recognition and no one ever brought me one such person.
    There is an old mental health joke that went something like, “If someone says they are normal or come from a mentally normal family, this is diagnostic.”
    The truth is there is no mental health. We all suffer from some forms of mental illness, some people, your 25%, suffer more. And you are correct, all families have the people who suffer more within them.
    When we stigmatize mental illness, we are stigmatizing ourselves.
    Hugs & love to you and Tom~

    • Hi, Cindy. So good to see you here. I can well remember a time when I thought I was raised in a perfect ranch house with a split log fence and entwined rambling roses year round. False. You can’t have roses year round in Kansas! But, you get my drift. Way back when Tom was in the hospital in the 1980s he was smart enough to know I needed to go to therapy while I argued with him that there was nothing wrong with me. Of course you also know how hard it is to pull off therapy on a weekly basis when you have a top secret clearance. Thank heavens for private health insurance. I was one of “those” that would not admit they needed help and Tom had to say he refused to come home from the hospital until I went to at least 2 appointments.
      Hugs and love coming back your way – I always appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment. Sheri

  21. What you wrote toward the end about remarkable things happen when people feel they can seek help is so important. It’s posts like these that help bring that home to some who may still be in the closet. Thank you for this. ❤

    • Pauline, If that one phrase will help one person then we’ll both be happy. We never know what might help or harm. I pray individuals needing help will seek it.
      I watch the fantastic numbers for your books on Amazon and am overjoyed. More and more animals are feeling the joy of life because of your hard work and devotion. Thank you. Sheri

  22. Nice post, Sheri. My daughter is still struggling with depression and suicidality. It’s so sad to watch a teen fight these demons when I hoped she’d just be having a lot of fun.

    • Patti, I’m so sorry your daughter is having such a hard time. I know how hard this makes life for you and the rest of the family. Does Calif. have resources to help her other than your having private health insurance? You are correct in that we’d love for this to be a carefree time for her and that she’d be able to look back and remember fun and lots of easy times. Unfortunately, no matter how much we’d like to, we can’t live the lives we wish our children were having.
      In the meantime, as hard as it is, please remember to take care of yourself. It’s so easy to forget what we need to do for ourselves when we’re always thinking about someone else. You know how to reach me if you want to talk. With love, Sheri

      • Sheri, you are too kind. Thank you for your caring words. My daughter has a bevy of people in her corner to help her, including a therapist, psychiatrist, friendly doctor, family, friends, people from a mental health program, etc. She’s very savvy now about reaching out and also telling me everything I really wish I didn’t have to know! She’s thinking of going back on drugs due to my instigation because she doesn’t know what else to do at this point. We’ll see what happens.

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