Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Journey of Mental Illness: From Silence to Pride

May: a month of blooming flowers and warmer weather, when most of our attention goes to the summer months approaching rather than to the awareness focus that has been given to May; mental illness.
Most of us may not realize the prevalence that mental illness has in our own community; however, it is more common than we could imagine. From ADHD to schizophrenia, any mental illness can affect any person, regardless of gender, race, social-economic class, etc.
From a King County youth’s perspective, here’s a personal story on how mental health has affected their life.
“It started when I was really young, you know? It’s like I had to deal with things other kids didn’t. I guess I was just a little different, not in a bad way though… I was 13 when it got really bad, and I know what statistics say, “one in ten youth will attempt suicide” and “one in eight youth suffer from depression” all that kind of stuff."
"I just didn’t want to be a statistic.
            “The school I was going to found out a while later, I think I was early into my freshman year when a teacher noticed. I probably should have anticipated some type of intervention sooner or later, I just expected people to be too awkward about it. It’s a really “off-limits” thing to talk about you know? There’s this shame that goes along with self-harm and depression, like I can’t be sick with something you can’t catch. Anyway, freshman year a teacher pestered me a lot about it. They were my health teacher, and I guess getting up in front of our class and preaching about the warning signs of suicide made them look at me. My teacher pulled me out of class to ask me if I was “okay”. I didn’t really know how to answer, and I, at the time, I was really embarrassed about it. It took a while, but we did end up talking, and they got me some help, you know, therapy and stuff.”
“I think it was how uncomfortable I could see people getting whenever I talked about things, my mental state and all, that made me hide it."
            "At first I assumed everybody would have their up’s and down’s, that everyone else was in my situation, until they started looking at me like I was messed up. Turns out I wasn’t the only one though. That same year I got help, four teens in my district died from suicide. People tried to hold prayer circles and stuff for them, but you could tell it upset a lot of people. I think it was after the third suicide that people really got the slap-in-the-face. Like, no not all these kids are messed up and diseased, and most teens will need a little help at one point or another, heck, most people do!”
            “I really didn’t like it having to get to that point, but I guess that’s where my community was. I hope people realize how common it is, I feel a lot more comfortable with myself by now. And yeah, sometimes I’ll surprise people with how open I am about my past, but I think society needs a little shock now and again, just so they realize who they’re living around.”
            “With 1 in 5 teens considering suicide, and almost 1/2 of teens having some kind of mental disorder, people need to talk about it more. No more shame that your friend is dealing with depression. No more embarrassment that you have a kid with a panic disorder. No more hiding these people from the social ideal. Even the CDC [Center for Disease Control] can recognize that “17% of people are in “optimal” mental state”.
I just wish people could be proud of others for who they are, regardless of mental state. I’m proud of myself.”
-Local youth, aged 17

If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental illness, it’s not something to be embarrassed about, but help is available. See the list below for King County specific resources! 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Greater Seattle
802 NW 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117
Phone: 206-789-7722 206-789-7722 | MH Line 1-800-782-9264 1-800-782-9264 | Public 206-783-9264 206-783-9264

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the largest organizations in the U.S, devoted to mental health advocacy and awareness. They provide free education about mental health, and advocacy and support groups for those suffering from mental illness and their loved ones. The NAMI affiliate in King county offers peer support for those suffering from mental illness, public education programs about mental illness and, training for healthcare providers that teaches about the difficult realities dealt by those living with mental illness. The work that NAMI does is so important due to the inadequate services that the American healthcare system provides for those living with mental illness. A study conducted in 2005 by Harvard healthcare policy professor, Ronald Kessler found that 60% of Americans with a mental disorder got no treatment for their disorder.

Youth and Family Services (Kent)
 Provides a multi-systems approach to providing support, education, and resources to youth and their families. They have a big focus on diversity and providing culturally relevant services.
Youth Eastside Services
 Youth Eastside Services provides a variety of services for youth and their families around emotional distress, mental illness, substance abuse, bullying and violence, LGBTQ issues, young parent training and resources, education, mentoring, and counseling.  

Seattle Counseling Service
1216 Pine Street, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206-323-1768 206-323-1768

Provides sliding scale fees for counseling and a welcoming environment for all. They specifically work largely with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Seattle. 

For those of you interested in reading up on this important issue, Teen Link recommends:
Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness by Pete Earley. This book, about a father who tries to find help for his son who is diagnosed with a severe mental illness, illustrates how inadequate the American healthcare system can be for those with mental illnesses, and how difficult it can be for those with mental illnesses to find the proper care they need.

Also, Teen Link is open every night from 6-10pm. We are here to support you wherever you are at and however you are feeling. We are anonymous, confidential and Most importantly, non-judgmental. And, we are teenagers too… we get it. We know what it’s like to feel like no one gets us, or to have family/friend stuff, or to just feel like no one cares. We are just here to support each other and to listen. So, give us a call.
1866-TEENLINK (833-6546) or visit our chat service at http://www.866teenlink.org/

1 comment:

  1. Today I shared this entry on my FB wall. This issue is more important now than EVER before. Rest in peace, J. I'll do my best to see that you will never be forgotten.