Thursday, April 30, 2009

Family Pulling Away and Friends Fading Away

Yes this scenario is the repeated scene for every mentally ill person and their families. I totally understand what this girl is saying. My mother also was discharged from the hospital with no place she would agree to go to and was also very close to becoming another homeless statistic. Amazing how similar all the stories are. Please KTDUP!!!

Daniel Rubin: With Phillies, fightin' to help the mentally ill

By Daniel Rubin

Inquirer Columnist

A perfect day. We're sitting behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park, midafternoon, as the Washington Nationals stretch and shag flies in the sun. Next to me, Melissa Maani talks about mental illness.

"It changes the dynamics of the day - every day, every holiday," she says. "Everything is different."

Maani is the Phillies' graphic artist. Her latest work hangs in left field, the "HK" that honors the late announcer Harry Kalas.

She's hoping to get another message in front of the fans. For 19 years, she lived with a loved one suffering from schizophrenia. She watched as friends grew distant. Relatives pulled away, too.

What if the team helped raise awareness of the subject, which nearly went unmentioned when she was growing up in Glenolden?

The Phillies made this pitch: Sell 500 seats to a game this season and we'll host a Mental Health Awareness Night.

So Maani's asking for a little help. She has until May 8 to sell 300 more tickets to the May 26 game against the Florida Marlins. That's a Tuesday night. For $14, you can sit above the third-base side in Sections 330 to 333 in a seat that normally goes for $24. (If you're interested, go to

I figure we should be able to help her out. We'll be helping a lot more people than Melissa Maani.

Unspoken things

She doesn't want to identify which family member is ill. She puts it this way:

"I'm the only person who has never denied her the reality of what she thinks happened to her."

So let's leave it as a loved one.

"I was taught when I was young not to speak about it outside of the family," says the 36-year-old, a hearty woman with spiky dark hair who grabs my forearm when she laughs, which is often.

In high school, she wrote lots of reports about schizophrenia. "I wanted to make it better. Fix it."

She couldn't, of course. Her relative's fragile mental health reached a crisis point five years ago. She was about to be released from a hospital to Maani's care.

Maani lives in a two-story house. "She couldn't remember how to walk up stairs," said Maani, who didn't know where to turn.

Meanwhile, the nurses at the hospital told her that if she didn't pick her up, the relative would be homeless.

Uncharacteristically, Maani mentioned to a coworker what she was going though. The colleague said her mom had the same illness. Call Edie Mannion, she said - the therapist with the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Better days

Mannion let Maani know her rights, steeled her nerve. She even recommended a nuclear option for changing the hospital's mind: calling Action News.

That wasn't necessary. The hospital let the woman stay a few days until a place was found in a nursing home equipped to care for the woman, whose diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia. Things are better now.

As we sit there soaking up the sun, watching batting practice, Maani says the mentally ill are the true heroes, just for getting by.

"Life in general is hard enough," she says. "Then, to hear voices and things you are unsure of, and to have such strong fears . . . they just can't handle so much. They're more afraid of you than you are of them."

If Maani sells her 500 tickets, the team will let her show a short film about mental illness. She'll ask Mannion to throw out the first pitch. I called Mannion, to ask what she'd like the public to know.

"Everyone should be aware of their own mental health," she said. "I think we are all recovering from something."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness figures 26 percent of American adults have some amount of mental illness. "With unemployment and the war," Mannion said, "there are going to be more mental-health issues than ever, hitting all different segments of society."

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