This afternoon’s news about Sinead O’Conner “hits home” for me. According to press reports, she claims to have been living alone for two years, away from her family in Ireland, as “punishment” for being mentally ill, angry and suicidal. She claims to be suffering from three mental illnesses.

The singer was quoted as saying, “I’m only one of millions and millions and millions of people who are just like me, actually, who don’t have, necessarily, the resources that I have in my heart or my purse for that matter.”

Perhaps the most poignant question she asked was, “Why are we alone?”

Reportedly, she went on to say how people who suffer from mental illnesses are the most vulnerable people on Earth. “You’ve got to take care of us. We’re not like everybody.”

“If you have a family member [who is mentally ill], visit them in the hospital. Don’t dump them off in the hospital and bugger off.”

Nine years ago today, my wife was finally admitted to a mental health facility, diagnosed with suicidal depression; severe psychosis; dementia; intermittent explosive disorder, and some signs of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. Her mother was a paranoid schizophrenic. He sister is bi-polar.

Today, at age 69, she lingers in her room most of the day. Before she was admitted to the hospital on August 8, 2008, she suffered through years of countless suicide attempts. She tried to burn our house down multiple times. Often, I would come home from work to find the house completely dark. She would be standing in the kitchen, holding a knife and yelling at me to “Get out! Get out!” Time after time, police cars, fire trucks and ambulances were called out to our house to rescue her after trying to ‘drown her troubles’ by washing down a handful of pills with two 2-liter jugs of Wild Irish Rose wine and a quart of Jack Daniel’s. She would wobble to the large pond in our backyard, intent on drowning herself. Neighbors would watch in horror after calling 911, and – sometimes – calling me to let me know “she’s done it again”.

In nine years, her one son has visited her twice; her other son has come to visit for ten minutes, and then abruptly had to get back to Michigan. Her sister has visited once. Her brother came to town one time to collect an antique chest of drawers, but couldn’t take time to visit his sister, who always adored him. I visit every Sunday. These days, she usually doesn’t know who I am. She’s on a locked ward with about thirty other women. Most of those women NEVER see a friend or family member.

“Why are we alone?”

At one point in their lives, these women were vibrant, caring people. Most of them loved and laughed with their friends, lovers, sons, daughters, family members and co-workers. Yet, today, most of them are simply being ‘warehoused’ like lost puppies in a shelter waiting to be put down.

Experts claim that mental illness will be this country’s #1 health issue in 25 years. And yet, we’re doing precious little to prepare for it, prevent it, or treat it. There, but for the grace of God, go I……..or you…….or any one of three people you know.

It’s time for all of us to step up and let these poor souls know:

“Nothing compare 2 U”