I am  writing to respond to Dan Haley’s article “Thankful for Mariah” [News, Nov. 27]:

Oh Mariah, you are my hero! And so, too, are your mother and father.

My heart is full of gratitude and admiration for your extraordinary courage and selflessness.  

As a family physician, I am well aware of the pain and isolation that so many families experience when faced with mental-health issues. Your decision to share your journey and to say out loud that you and your beloved family are in pain and struggling is as brave and heroic (perhaps more so) than anything that fills our movie screens or novels.

Currently, many of our community’s precious children are in therapeutic schools, hospital wards, and even away from home in residential programs during this holiday season. And their parents are in great pain, unsure of whom to tell and how to tell them. They grieve for their child, they grieve for their other children who live through their siblings’ crises, and they often grieve the loss of a “normal” social life as they too often find it impossible to trust their stories with more than the closest of friends or family.

The straightforward way with which you approach your illness, Mariah, is precisely what I know will help so many others find their own voice and reach out for help. I have long wished we would abandon the phrase “mental illness” and embrace what it really physically is: a brain-based illness — just like a heart problem or kidney problem. 

I am hopeful that your father’s column and your openness will change that and help move us to a place where brain-based disorders receive as much understanding, compassion, and acceptance as leukemia and breast cancer.  

In the meantime, I am wishing you and your family peace on your journey. Know that you have done something wonderful!

I am grateful for the grace with which you have gifted our community. 

Marian Sassetti, M.D.

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