Marja Bergen

author, mental health activist, follower of Christ

Part 1 – The other side of the coin


When I go to the Internet for material about people with mental health issues being in supportive roles to others, I couldn’t find anything. All I found were websites that showed how people with mental health issues need to be supported by family and friends. Many touched on boundaries.

The internet is full of advice about the importance of setting boundaries when caring for people with mental illness. But I haven’t seen what should be just as important: the need for the person receiving care to set their own boundaries, the importance of treating others as they want to be treated, recognizing when they’re not giving their caregivers enough space.

Apparently, the view is that we who live with mental health issues are simply looked upon as people needing help. Disabled people with troublesome behavior. We take. Others give.

But there’s a lot more to us. Many of us are supportive to our partners in marriage. We have a role there that we play as well as we can. Many of us help sick friends and aging parents. Some lead peer support groups.

I believe that most of us would rather care for others than to be on the receiving end of care. With this series, EQUALITY IN RELATIONSHIPS, I will try to address the other side of the coin. How can we show that we who have mental health challenges are real people who want to be there for others as they are for us?

I don’t believe we’re as different as we’re thought to be. In fact, I think we should be considered equal.

This is Part 1 of the series EQUALITY IN RELATIONSHIPS. To read Part 2 – Small Like Gandhi



1 Comment

  1. Thanks for that perspective. You are right, once a person is labeled that way, their humanity is almost dismissed, and they are not expected to hold up their end of a relationship. I wonder whether it would be helpful for others also to stop seeing people with mental health issues as needy victims, and start working out ways to allow them to have more agency in relationships. It must be hard to feel responsible in a relationship if a mental health issue keeps leading to screw-ups, but surely we can all help with treating a person more equitably.

    I’ve seen examples in the past of how much it helps people with a variety of disabilities not to victimize them more than they deserve, and thus increase their helplessness rather than help them integrate into their social obligations (even with some adjustments).

    It’s just that this requires a lot of effort on everyone’s part to know people and to be accommodating to their individuality. That is more possible in smaller communities, and one of the advantages of small-town living. We all know that same knowledge and intimacy with others is also one of the disadvantages of small-town living. Balance!

    A church congregation can then imitate a network of small-town relationships, and thus provide that caring basket in which to hold people in relationship, even within a larger community.

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