It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The photo on the left is of Clifford Beers. He’s the person who comes to mind when I think of Mental Health Awareness. His book, “A Mind That Found Itself,” gave the world a glimpse of the way people with mental illness were treated at the time (1908). He changed the way mental illness was treated in America.
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll probably understand that every week is Mental Health Awareness Week to me. Every day is MH Awareness Day. I don’t need any special days or weeks, this is my world. I have basically devoted my life to working with mental illness and addiction. I’ve written books about them, I’ve earned a masters degree in social work, and I spend every day and night working toward this cause. Ending stigma. Finding resources and educating myself. Working on my doctorate. Connecting with people. Whatever the day brings.
I can’t speak for all people who deal with bipolar disorder, or mental illness, although I’ve certainly been expected to do so on occasion. How can I? We are all unique. You can take ten people with bipolar I disorder and put them in a room, and they may have had some similar experiences, but they all are at different places in their lives, they’re not the same. No two people are the same! It’s like putting ten black people in a room and expecting them to have the same experiences. It’s insulting.
We need Mental Health awareness desperately, across the world. It’s very difficult to live in a world where you’re different, and when people know why, they think they know who you are based on a diagnosis. I accept my labels and my DSM codes, because I choose to, but knowing my label doesn’t mean you know anything else about me.
I’ve said this before, but the cruelest times are when I hear other mental health professionals speak of people with mental illness in a derisive tone, or with false information, or pejorative words. I’m going to make a vow today, that I will never allow that to happen in my presence again without speaking up and letting people know that it isn’t okay. I will not be a coward about this anymore.
My life is transparent. I have put it out there for the whole world to see if they so choose. This is how I felt I could make the most difference. By sharing my story, which is one of success, but without a true happy ending. The book had to end, but my bipolar disorder isn’t going to go away. I will continue to struggle. But I have the things I need to survive – love, stability, structure, and support. Now I need to help other people learn how to make their way through the haze and fog that is mental illness to find a similar place. This is my mission.