If you haven’t yet seen this recent Newsweek article about John Cleaver Kelly’s story, I highly recommend reading it. I think it does a good job of depicting the torment and suffering OCD can cause. How could it not? John committed suicide. Articles such as this one are so important because we are still fighting an uphill battle in regards to the public’s understanding of OCD. As a case in point, this morning I came across an article on OCD- “Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” Sigh.
John’s story also highlights the fact that proper treatment for OCD is still astonishingly difficult to find. John’s father, a physician, made sure his son was admitted to the best hospital, but they didn’t know how to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. This would be a ludicrous scenario if we were talking about anything other than a brain disorder (I’m not using the term mental illness here, because I believe there should be little to no distinction between “physical” and “mental” illnesses, but that discussion is for another post). Imagine going to the hospital with acute appendicitis, complications from diabetes, or a heart attack, for example, and being surrounded by people who don’t know how to help you. As I said, it’s ludicrous.
Additionally, I would have liked to have seen more of an explanation and discussion of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy in the article. Because finding the proper treatment as well as qualified therapists can be so elusive, I feel it can’t be emphasized enough that ERP is the first line psychological treatment for OCD, and it is evidence-based. This needs to be stressed not only to those suffering from OCD, and their loved ones, but to all health professionals as well.
For me, the most encouraging part of the article was learning about the creation of the JCK Foundation, whose main goal is to “raise public awareness about the paralyzing effects of OCD.” This is done through speaking tours, public events, and a yearly softball tournament in memory of John.
In Dobb’s Ferry, where John grew up, awareness of how serious OCD can be has skyrocketed. The JCK Foundation aims to spread this awareness throughout the country. This is an amazing undertaking, one that John Cleaver Kelly, no doubt, would approve of. And while many of us might not have the opportunity to be involved in foundations, we can still do our part, one by one, to raise awareness about OCD and its proper treatment. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”