The COVID-19 pandemic has likely made you more aware of your health. During times like this, it’s important to engage in self-care and stay on top of any changes. One thing many people have learned during this time is that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with filmmaker and healthcare advocate Patrick James Lynch about his documentary, titled Let’s Talk. His project shines a spotlight on hemophilia and other blood disorders and the mental health challenges those with these illnesses face. Here’s a peek inside our chat.
Showbiz Cheat Sheet: What inspired you to make this documentary?
Patrick James Lynch: There was a high-profile member of the hemophilia community who died by suicide a few years ago. This was someone who was a real leader, a titan, someone revered by the community and seen as resilient, strong, and in some ways, superhuman. His suicide–coupled with a number of other notable suicides, overdoses, and preventable deaths–was a real wake-up call as to the mental health crisis that exists in the bleeding disorders community.
I kept hearing from advocacy leaders versions of, ‘When is someone finally going to address this?’ I knew that a film featuring honest, unscripted accounts of challenges and struggles with mental health from a broad range of perspectives within the blood disorder community could be the conversation accelerant that we desperately needed.
CS: How does having a chronic illness like hemophilia affect mental health?
PJL: I have hemophilia, a chronic illness. It’s with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not just with me in the clinic or during the time that I’m injecting medicine into my body. It’s with me when I’m thinking about going out to an event, or even just for a walk with my dog; it’s with me when I’m thinking about carrying heavy grocery bags or traveling out of state with my wife.
When I think about my financial health, it’s with me. When I think about professional opportunities, it’s with me. When I think about family planning or when I used to think about dating, it’s with me. Mental wellness is a multifactorial state, but given how pervasive a chronic illness is, it’s impossible for it not to regularly and, at times, aggressively influence one’s mental health.
CS: What advice would you give to those with hemophilia as far as how to manage it and deal with the emotional strain?
PJL: Emotional strain, mental illness, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, guilt, shame… These are all intimate, intense, and very individual experiences. Broad sweeping advice is difficult to, well, it’s not difficult to give, but it’s hard for it to matter much. We’re fortunate in 2020 that there’s such accessibility to resources and that there is a heightened awareness around addressing mental health, which has led to many specific resources being created to help people in different positions with different challenges.
For example, there is a website called Mental Health Matters Too (MHMT) founded by a licensed professional counselor Debbie Dale of Riva (who is also a consultant on Let’s Talk). Through MHMT, Debbie created and curated mental health resources specifically tailored for people affected by hemophilia, von Willebrand disease and other inherited bleeding disorders.
So, for someone like me, there’s a custom-designed resource hub intended to help me find the resources best suited for me. Ultimately, an individual has to willingly engage with the resource, helping create the path whereby a motivated individual gets to the tailored resources that she or he needs.
So as far as advice, I guess the advice is to not give up and to appreciate that if you can identify symptoms, if you can listen to the signs reflected to you by a trusted loved one or professional, and if you can move all that information toward something like a diagnosis, then there’s something specific to address.
When there’s no diagnosis or when we’re too scared to get labeled with a word like depression or anxiety, so we avoid diagnosis, then our ability to meaningfully address the problem is greatly hampered. We cannot address that which we cannot first name.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our conversation.
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