What do YOU say about Mental Illness?

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Our mental health seriously affects our physical  health, so there should be absolutely no stigma around mental health, none at all~First Lady, Michelle Obama

Depression. Bipolar Disorder.  PTSD.  Schizophrenia.

What do YOU think of when you hear any of these illnesses?

Do you remember the first time you heard someone speak about mental illness?

Has the way you have heard others speak about mental illness impacted your perspective?

Most of us hear  about mental illness or mental health in the news when something tragic happens.  A mass shooting, a mother or father killing the kids, or or a murder-suicide.  We hear about it when our parents or other relatives discuss family members that have a diagnosis.  We may talk about it with our friends if one of them opens up about their own struggle with mental health or in relation to a story-line from a TV show.  But what do YOU have to say about mental health and mental illness?  What is the impression YOU convey to others when discussing either topic? Read More


A letter….

At 13 years old I learned the name of the illness my mother had be dealing with for years.  It was written on a court document: paranoid schizophrenia.  It would be almost 20 years before I would actually learn more about the illness and would begin to separate my mother from her illness.  Over the years I have met many people that have a loved one (parent, sibling, child, spouse, or friend) that had been diagnosed with what is sometimes labeled a “serious mental illness.”  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “ One in 17 (adults) lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder”.  If I had the chance to tell someone what to expect, this is what I would say.  (This based off of my experience with my loved one, everyone’s experience will not be the same.)

For those that love someone with a serious mental illness…..

If you love someone that has a serious mental illness I don’t know if anything will fully prepare you for the roller-coaster ride that comes along with loving someone with a serious mental illness.  There will be high and lows, good days and bad days.  There will be feelings of guilt, anger, helplessness, and sadness.  You will begin to enjoy the “simple” moments that you previously took for granted.

You patience will be tested and used up, but you will find more.  You may say some hurtful things, hurtful things will be said to you-you will forgive and be forgiven.  You will learn about boundaries, but you won’t use them as you should in the beginning.  You will become OK with saying “no”, although you will likely feel guilty, say “no” anyway.
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11 Things that made us talk Mental Health in 2016!

What made us talk about mental health in 2016?  The short answer is a little bit of everything!  From senseless killings to hashtags to Solange’s latest album to Myleik Teele’s podcast mental health, mental illness, and self-care are becoming more common for us to talk about.  Even though there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness and self-care, 2016 can be classified as a year of progress!  In no particular order, let’s take a look at 11 things that made us talk about mental health last year!

NYC Well & Chirlane McCray:  ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Road Map for All was released in November 2015 and gave an outline of 23 new initiatives for New Yorkers img_3189mental well-being (there is a total of 54 initiatives outlined).  The NYC.gov site gives data on why these programs are needed, and one of the numbers that stands out is 14 Billion; that is the estimated amount of dollars lost annually because of losses in productivity.  This astounding amount isn’t the only reason NYC’s First Lady Chirlane McCray made mental health her signature issue. In September 2016 Chirlane sat down with Essence and discussed promoting mental health, read it here. In the article, she is open about mental illness in her own family, which many people in the spotlight don’t discuss.  In October 2016 NYC Well launched and it is a free, confidential connection to mental health support for New Yorkers.   

The Veteran’s suicide Rate:  The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in July of 2016 that states on average 20 Veterans a day are committing suicide.  About 18% of all suicides in the United States are U.S. Veterans, however, they make up only 9% of the U.S. population. Throughout 2016 Veterans Affairs had come under fire for various issues related to the care of our veterans, but the release of this number is staggering.  While providing assistance can be difficult if Veterans are not reaching out for help, the VA has increased the amount of mental health providers, support personnel, and established partnerships with community health providers.  

  

The shooting death of Deborah Danner:  In October 2016 an NYPD officer shot and killed img_3185Deborah Danner; she was well known Bronx resident that had been living with schizophrenia for years.  In New York Times article it states that an officer shot her twice after Ms. Danner took a swing at him with a baseball bat.  NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and the Police Commissioner agreed the incident was not handled according to protocol. This is only one of several incidents that led us to discuss the training officers are receiving or the lack thereof.  Ms. Danner’s attorney shared an essay she wrote a few years ago about Living with Schizophrenia  (The essay IS worth a read!)

Dr. Phil’s interview with Shelley Duvall: Shelley Duvall was a famous actress and not many people knew she had been diagnosed with a mental illness until she appeared on The Dr. Phil Show.  Dr. Phil offered to get Shelley professional help, however, many people felt that this interview was exploitation.  Even though Duvall consented to the interview, those that opposed the interview feel if she were well she wouldn’t want the interview to be aired. The controversy of this episode was so serious, to date, we have not been able to find the full episode online.

Kid Cudi:  Black Men’s Mental Health captured the spotlight when Kid Cudi took to img_3187Facebook on Oct. 4th, 2016 and shared his own struggles with depression.  The post, which has 137k shares, states he has been living a lie, living with depression, anxiety, and suicidal urges. He also admits he is nervous about the next steps but he has to do this not only for himself, for his family and fans.

#yougoodman: According to the Huffington Post, #yougoodman began on Twitter during a conversation between @DaynaLNukolls & @TheCosby.  The hashtag was created for Black men to have a safe place to discuss mental health.  This hashtag is significant because men have higher rates of suicide and also because mental health in the Black community is swept under the rug and not discussed.

Kanye West:  In November of 2016 Kanye West went on another rant during a show.  At this point, a Kanye West concert isn’t a Kanye West concert without at least one 20 minute rant!  However days after he abruptly ended the Sacramento show he was hospitalized in  LA, some reports say due to exhaustion other reports say he was placed on psychiatric hold.  There was even a leak of a mental health evaluation that supposedly belonged to Kanye. Although we may never hear from West about why he was hospitalized it reignited the conversation about Black men’s mental health.

A Seat at the Table:  Solange Knowles released her third studio album on September 30, 2016.  This album was described as a therapeutic collection of soulful tunes by VH1.com and some features include Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland and BJ the Chicago Kid.  The interludes on the album from Mama Knowles, Papa Knowles, and Master P make img_3191you really understand that this album is about the Black experience.  A Seat at the Table is Solange’s first number one album in the U.S. and the song Cranes in the Sky is grammy nominated. This song is the most therapeutic song on the album for many.  “I tried to drink it away/ I tried to put one in the air/ I tried to dance it away/ I tried to change it with my hair”, this opening verse makes you want to hear more probably because we have all had issues we have tried to deal with in various ways.  Cranes in the Sky describes a metal clouds in the sky (those things that weigh on us and that follows us everywhere).  

Bipolar Faith:Monica A. Coleman’s great-grandfather asked his two young sons to lift him up and pull out the chair when he hanged himself, and that noose stayed in the family shed for years.  The rope was the violent instrument, but it was the mental anguish that killed him.”  These are the first two lines of the description on Amazon to Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression & Faith.  This book was published in July 2016 is “both a spiritual autobiography and memoir of mental illness” that discusses Monica’s own journey with bipolar II.  What is sure to make her story more interesting is the fact that Monica is a minister and a Professor of Constructive Theology and African-American Religions at Claremont School of Theology in southern California.  Click here to read more about Bipolar Faith and other books written by Dr. Monica A. Coleman.  

Myleik Teele asked a therapist:   Myleik Teele is an entrepreneur and does a podcast when time permits about lessons she has learned in business and in life.  Curl Box is a huge success and Teele is open about her struggles with starting the subscription-based business, previous relationships, dealing with her achievements.  One area she has also been open about is the fact that she has a therapist.   A happy, successful Black woman that discussed having therapist was bound to get a lot of questions from her followers, so she dedicated an entire podcast to questions for a therapist.  Myleik has met all of her podcast guests, so when she ran into Jor-El Carabello again, she asked him to do the podcast!  Jor-El Carabello, who isn’t Myleik’s therapist,  is a licensed mental health counselor in New York.  The interview ranged from ways to find a therapist to advise for a young woman whose mother is suffering from mental illness.  Listen here on podomatic or find it on iTunes.   A couple of Teele’s other podcasts that made us talk about self-care, self-fulfilment, and self-esteem: How I Found Peace & Happiness: A chat with Necole Kane.  Myleik and Necole Kane, of xoNecle, have girl talk about dealing with change and what finding happiness looks like.  The other was a surprise podcast sparked by a listener’s letter.  A Letter for Late Bloomers & Comparison will make you rethink your own success and question the story we tell ourselves.  Check out a listing of all of Myleik Teele’s podcasts here.

TRUMP! Yes, our President-elect Donald Trump made us all discuss mental health and mental illness.  Even though we questioned his mental wellness at times, our main concern was the way he answered questions about our Veterans and mental img_3184health while on the campaign trail.  While he acknowledges the high veterans suicide rate, he also seems to suggest that some soldiers have mental health problems because they are not strong enough to handle things they see during wartime.  His comments upset many people,  but also made us take a closer look at PTSD and the Veterans suicide rate.  Trump becoming our next president is sure to give most of American some added stress and anxiety so he may make the list again next year!

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The story of Alfred Postell

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The photos first caught my attention, then the title of the article.  The pictures were of a Black man, one from years ago and the other present day.  The title: The homeless man who went to Harvard with John Roberts.  I’ll admit seeing a Black face in a major news publication makes me stop my endless scrolling, but seeing this man went to Harvard, probably before I was born, was definitely worth a click and a few minutes of reading.  I wasn’t prepared to  discover the reason for his downfall. Not to give away the entire story (because I want you to read it too), but Alfred Postell was diagnosed with a mental illness.  Even though Mr. Postell was VERY accomplished at the time of his first “break”, he still ended up homeless.  Maybe it is the optimist in me, but I’d like to think if Mr. Postell and those around him at the time had more information on his illness and more resources available he may not be homeless.

I share this story and ask you to read it because any of us could be the next Alfred Postell or we may know him (or her).  I hope this story will show how important it is to, at least, be aware of mental illnesses, and the importance of paying attention to our mental health, as well as our loved ones mental health.  I want people to notice that Mr. Postell is not violent.  This is important point out because the media tends to only cover stories about mental illness  when violence is involved.  Finally, I believe that this story will provide hope; hope to those suffering from any mental illness that you can get support, and people will want to help you.  While Mr. Postell is homeless, the story describes how a local pastor took him in when his mother could no longer care for him.  I know many of us have so much going on in our lives, however ,I ask that you take the time to read about mental illness and mental health whenever possible, encourage others to do the same, and TALK ABOUT IT.  Together we can speak away the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Click here to read the story written by Terrence McCoy for the Washington Post.


Texas set to execute a man that suffers from mental illness

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It’s disappointing that this story has not more media attention until very recently. Maybe it’s because he was permitted to represent himself, that he wasn’t able to have a proper defense. However, the attempts to subpoena Jesus and JFK should have raised some questions. If that was’t enough, being hospitalized 12-times over a 6 year period, due to his schizophrenia diagnosis should have been considered at sentencing. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Texas executed a man with an IQ below 70 . Scott Panetti is scheduled to die today, by lethal injection, for killing his in-laws. It’s stories like this that make me push for increased awareness about mental illness. Below are links to articles about the case, as well as a link the the Change.org petition.

Conservatives Pushback on Scott Panetti Execution (video)

Texas Plans to Execute a Schizophrenic Man Who Tried to Subpoena Jesus

Scott Panetti Death Penalty Update: Texas Prepares To Execute Mentally Ill Man

#SaveScott. Sign the petition.

**UPDATE**With just under 12 hours before  Scott Panetti was to be executed by the state of Texas, an appeals court issued a stay Wednesday morning,  click here to read the full update .


NAMI Walks Atlanta 2014

On Saturday November 1 NAMI Walks Atlanta took  place in Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, GA.  Speak Away the Stigma formed a team and solicited donations.  A BIG THANK YOU to Qiana Leonard, Futuera Patterson, & Tiffany Waits for walking with me and supporting an organization I support.  We solicited donations, and I am proud to say that our team goal was $500.00, but we raised $615.00 from 23 generous supports!  Please take a few minutes to read about why The National Alliance on Mental Illness (aka NAMI) is a great organization.

Informative
When I first got the courage to look up information on mental illness www.nami.org was one of the first websites I found. (I use the word courage because reading about what some mentally ill people go through on a daily basis isn’t easy, when a loved one is going through it)  The NAMI website has information and statistics about many different illnesses. It is easy to read and understand, and is a great place to start learning about mental illness.

Virtual Advocacy
When I want to know what is going on with mental health advocacy, I can go to www.nami.org. No matter if it is a new piece of legislation, Criminal Justice and mental health, Mental Healthcare, and advocacy information by state, NAMI has information about it.  There is a “You Are Not Alone” section that encourages individuals to share their story in hopes of inspiring others.

Support Groups
If you are someone living with a mental illness, a school or health professional or just someone who wants to learn more about mental health, NAMI has a group for you!  The Family to Family class was the first time I was able to speak openly about having a family member with a mental ill and knew that my feelings were understood.  I cried, I laughed, I learned, I met people I could openly talk about dealing w/my loved one without shame.  Three things I took away from the NAMI Family to Family class: 1.  That mental illness can affect ANYONE.  The class had a former college president, whose mentally ill son had recently moved  back home, a woman whose brother had been suffering from mental illness since she was a child and a grandmother whose grandson had just had his first episode.  2.  That there is hope.  One of the instructor’s daughters has schizophrenia, and she was in a period of recovery.  She spoke to the class, and I couldn’t help but believe that anyone with a mental illness may be able to live an independent life with treatment and support.  3. The desire to do more.  I have always wanted to give back to those in need.  After this class and reading about mental illness, I know there is a need for more people to to educated on mental health and mental illness to help erase the stigma associated with it.  There is also a need for funding for mental health care, and I want to somehow make a difference.

In addition to mental illness and mental health awareness, Speak Away the Stigma hopes to be able to help pay for medication or therapist visits for those who cannot afford to get help.  One of my goals is to speak about shedding the shame I had, having a mentally ill family member, dealing with my own depression and taking care of myself before I attempt to take care of anyone else.

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surviving schizophrenia

At about the age of 13 I found out my mother’s diagnosis, it was Schizophrenia. I was reading through some court papers, that I wasn’t supposed to have  been reading, and saw it: “…… has been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia”. I can’t recall exactly how I felt reading it, but I do know I was a bit relived.  For the past 5-6 years I knew my mom wasn’t OK, but I didn’t know what was wrong with her.  I didn’t know why she always heard voices, I didn’t know why she would get so angry when we told her we didn’t see the things that she saw.  I didn’t know why my mother didn’t hug us or tell us that she loved us.  I didn’t understand why she thought the breakfast we made for her on mother’s day, had poison or spit in it.

No one talked to us about why my mom was in and out of the hospital, every couple of years. No one in my family told me my mother had Schizophrenia, I read it in court papers.  Whenever I had a chance , I would try to find out more information about the illness, but at my age I didn’t understand what I read, so I just stopped.  I just accepted that is what my mother had, and to me, she was uncaring, unstable, irresponsible, and angry. 

Despite my feelings, I was always grateful for the values she instilled in us at a young age.  During the years, when her recovery periods were short, we were able to still take care of ourselves.  We knew how to get ourselves off to school, cook for ourselves and do our school work to maintain good grades.  I credit that not only to my mother, but also to my grandparents, and the grace of God.  It would be almost two decades before I would be able to separate the symptoms of the  illness from my mom.  She was not the illness.  She was just the opposite.  During her periods of her recovery, she was a different woman, and I had to learn to remember the confident, hard-working, big-hearted, loving, smart, and somewhat stubborn woman she will always be. Read More


MIAW 2014~Mental Illness vs Mental Health

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In 1990, the United States Congress designated the first full week of October as “Mental Illness Awareness Week”!

Since 1990??  Over 20 years ago?? Unless you are looking for mental illness or mental health information specifically, or you are in the mental health field, you may have never heard of it.

The goal of Speak Away the Stigma is to not only to encourage those who have been affected by a mental illness to speak openly about it, but it is to also bring awareness on the various mental illnesses and the importance of taking care of your mental health.  One question I had when I first began reading more about mental illness was “What is the difference between ‘Mental Illness’ and ‘Mental Health’?”  When you search one, you see results on both.  I have also been asked by a few people  about the difference, and this was my answer (which I always preface with I am not doctor, nor am I mental health professional; this is just the way I look at it): Mental health is about having a healthy mind, just like how physical health is about having a healthy body.  With all of the things your body goes through, it requires some maintenance to keep it healthy; your mind is no different.  Traumatic events, sudden changes, death, LIFE IN GENERAL, happens and these things may affect your mind, and some “mental maintenance” may be necessary.

Mental Illness can be the result of not taking the time for “mental maintenance”, there could be a genetic predisposition, or it could be a combination of the two. (Again I am not a medical or mental health professional, this is information I have read and discussed with mental health professionals over years)  For example, the chances of having Hypertension, Diabetes, and Heart Disease can be increased a result of not taking care of yourself physically,  a genetic predisposition or a combination of the two. The chances of being diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Depression, and Bipolar can be increased by certain factors as well.  Many of us know if Cancer or Heart Disease runs in our family, but do you know if ADHD or Autism runs in your family?  Take some time to speak about your family’s mental health history, was anyone affected by mental illness?

Take care of your mind.  Take care of your body.  Take care of one other.


Schizophrenia + A Daily Routine = Road to Recovery?

That is what worked for writer Michael Hedrick.  In a recent story on a NY TIMES blog, Hedrick tells how after a couple of bumps in the road he was able to develop a routine.  Up at 7am each day and ending his day around 9pm each day, he says the routine “….gave me great comfort to not have to deal with the unexpected.”   This routine allowed for the proper amounts of daily sleep, and because “….I felt much more relaxed and was able to finally wrap my head around my diagnosis.”

Read the full story here: http://nyti.ms/1u45BEM