The Mental Health Collaborative “believes that with education and awareness, we can work together to decrease stigma and open the door to conversations about mental illness”. Everyone has been affected by mental health either personally or by someone close to them. The Better Together Team wants to highlight the importance of getting help and how a story can help normalize stigma. Here are a few stories::
Story 1: In 2008, I dropped out of university, left a great job and moved to England to be with my husband. I found it hard to find a job I loved and find my purpose. I felt like I lost myself. After 3 years I became very depressed. I started cutting myself as it was the only way to feel control. Thankfully, with the help of a therapist I was able to recover. The therapist helped me realize what was important to me. I wanted to be back in the USA with better weather and more work opportunities. We moved back to Florida in 2013. My husband and I now have an amazing life and career in Texas. If it wasn’t for the help of a good counselor, I am not sure where I would be.
Story 2: My mother suffered from mental illness her entire life in the form of depression and anxiety. My first memory was when I was in middle school, in the middle of the night my mom was taken by ambulance to the hospital, she had attempted suicide. This was the late 70’s/early 80’s and mental health was not something you talked about. I remember as a family we had to go to counseling, I was a very shy child and did not say a peep. We lived in a very small town in a rural area and there weren’t a lot of choices in healthcare. My mother felt comfortable with a local doctor that was not a specialist and over the years became addicted to pain meds and opioids and had several more suicide attempts. I believe not having access to proper mental healthcare led to her using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism instead of talk therapy and monitored use of antidepressants. Raising awareness for mental health issues and erasing the stigma surrounding mental health can hopefully make it easier for those who need help to find it.
Story 3: After my second child's birth, I went through a major depressive episode. I lost interest in life almost immediately after returning home from the hospital. Symptoms grew worse over the days to come. I didn't feel like eating. I had trouble falling asleep almost every night and woke up several mornings unable to return to sleep. Always having had high energy, I suddenly had low energy. I had trouble staying focused and was less able to focus on my family.
I sadly showed all nine symptoms of major depression: depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, weight loss, insomnia, restlessness, loss of energy, extreme guilt, trouble staying focused, and thoughts of suicide. Luckily, my doctor diagnosed me with postpartum. However, many aren't so lucky. Feeling afraid and ashamed, they suffer without the benefit of a support system putting their lives at risk.
Story 4: My maternal grandmother struggled with mental illness for the second half of her life. I saw how it affected my mother’s relationship with her and the rest of her siblings, even as a young boy. Things got to the point where my mother had to step in to get my grandmother the help and medication she needed. This was wildly unpopular amongst the family but ultimately was the right thing to do. I’m extremely proud of my mother’s ability to recognize that her mother needed help and decided to do something about it when no one else would. There was a noticeable difference in my grandmother’s demeanor after receiving help. I believe this gave the entire family the ability to spend more quality time with her before she passed at the age of 62. I’m grateful that mental health isn’t such a taboo thing anymore and that there are programs such as Mental Health Collaborative to be able to provide assistance to those struggling.
Story 5: Mental illness is part of me, and I remember feeling it as young as 8 years old. Over the years, I’ve been labeled many things. As a preteen/teen, I was dramatic, sensitive, and sad. When I got older, the labels became diagnoses like depression, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, and bipolar disorder. That last one stuck, and stuck hard. It was a frightening diagnosis, but it fit and made sense. When I was diagnosed as bipolar, I realized I had never been properly treated or medicated. Family Doctors and Obstetricians had given me many medications that were counterproductive, and even dangerous. Things are very different now, as I have taken charge of my continued recovery. Over the past few years, I have assembled a remarkable team to help me fight my mental illness; including a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a support system. Each person is invested in my health, and when I have a crisis they are all there for me in important ways. Like anyone else with a chronic illness, I have good days and bad. On those good days, I try to take time to celebrate my victories.