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Letter: Families of the mentally ill need support, empathy

“We miss the brother we once had.” This statement from the family of the Williamsville man who died recently, Lawrence Bierl, clearly expresses perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of having a mentally ill family member.

If you can imagine what it is like to see another person suddenly taking over the body and spirit of someone you love, you can begin to know what it is like to see a loved one consumed by mental illness. It is frightening and difficult to cope with the person who presents while mourning the loss of the person they used to be.

We need to educate people about mental illness. It is not contagious; it is not the fault of those suffering with it; it is an illness like any other. It requires dedicated professional treatment, ideally offering services and support to the patient’s family members.

We hope and pray that there will be a path outward from the pain and turmoil they are experiencing.As with coping with any problem, the journey is always easier when it is not solitary.

I believe the way in which we respond to mental illness is one of those problems that defines us both as individuals and a society.

Carolyn Kirsch

City of Tonawanda

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