Where’s My Lasagna?

By: Natalia Beiser

When one is undergoing mental health treatment, it often feels as if no one cares. It is rare that one will receive a greeting card or flowers, nor a covered dish when arriving home from the hospital. In my experience, most are standoffish.

Recently, I was diagnosed with cancer. When the “C” word is spoken, everyone reacts. Flowers appeared at the hospital. People brought food when I arrived home; cards were plentiful. People sent money. Doors opened and a foundation paid some of my bills for one month.

Please don’t misunderstand; I appreciate the generosity; it has helped me get through a dark time. When I was undergoing mental health treatment or applying for disability for bipolar affective disorder, where was the generosity then? During that time, I was scraping together meals from the food pantry.  There was virtually no financial help then, and my money issues were much worse. I nearly became homeless.

So, what can we do to address this issue? My ideas are:

Change starts with you; choose equality. If you know that someone has been absent from work for a notable length of time regardless of if you know their health issues, display the same level of kindness. Invite this person out to lunch.  If they are a close friend, even if they have not disclosed any personal information about their situation, ask them anyway. Going out to lunch may be a luxury right now.  The worst that would happen is that they would say no.

When you find out that someone has been discharged from the hospital for any reason, drop that lasagna by, or any covered dish. That gesture will speak volumes. If you have the means, take them groceries or provide a gift card to a grocery store. Chances are that they have sustained a financial setback by missing work and this gesture could mean the difference between going to the store versus requesting food from the food pantry.

Model and encourage your behavior by rallying with your coworkers and/or mutual friends to provide the same assistance. Chances are that this kindness will allow the person recuperating to shine through and feel comfortable sharing some of his/her experiences, which could educate those providing assistance, regardless of if the illness is due to mental illness or not.

Remember – Be the change that you want to see in other people, and model such behavior to those around you.

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