May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Although May is coming to a close mental health awareness does not stop on May 31st. Statistics show that 1 in every 5 people have or will experience some form of a mental health episode in their lifetime. Mental health issues range from situational depression to anxiety disorder or from PTSD to schizophrenia.
And even though I know the statistics, I can say in my life experiences, I have never met a person who hasn’t experienced some sort of life altering mental or emotional episode.
Dealing with a person’s psyche is such a delicate place to tread because triggers can be lying in wait and then, in a moment, like a scab that has been picked too soon a rawness is exposed.
Last week my daughter and I attended “This Is My Brave” in Bentonville, AR. This Is My Brave is an international movement. The mission of This Is My Brave is to end the stigma of mental illness. On their website they say, “One day we will live in a world where we won’t have to call it “brave” when talking about mental illness. We’ll just call it talking.”
In August of 2016 Oprah Magazine ran an article highlighting this beautiful movement. You can read the article HERE!
If you would rather listen than read, my incredible friend, Becca, has a podcast at imperfectlyperfectpodcast.com. Becca was able to interview Amber Brown, co-producer and co-director of This Is My Brave, Bentonville. In the episode, Hashtag Mental Health Awareness, Amber shares with Becca how she became involved with This Is My Brave and what it has meant to her. (While you are there subscribe to the podcast, you won’t be disappointed!)
This Is My Brave Bentonville was held at Waterway Christian Church. During the evening eleven people ranging in age and socioeconomic status stood and, yes, bravely, told their story of living and surviving their mental health journey. Everyone in the room laughed and cried and at some point saw themselves in the stories being shared.
Sharing creates empathy. Empathy creates intimacy. Intimacy negates the impotency of disconnect.
It would be easy to think the evening was heavy and bleak but one would be wrong to think so. The stories were often hard to hear since trauma was a catalyst for many of the issues but in each story there was hope and inspiration for a new day or a new opportunity. The underlying theme was definitely LIFE!
My husband and I both come from a lineage of mental health history. We both have struggled with our own issues and unfortunately we passed this on to our daughter. When her genes were coupled with a traumatic event from her childhood she entered the perfect storm for a lifetime of two steps forward and three steps back. I am proud to say she has pushed, fought, endured and persevered to a place of understanding and of constant learning and regrouping.
Our daughter has seen the effects of suicide when my brother took his life in 2005. She has also seen the lifelong effects of wrongly treated mental health issues with a lifetime friend of mine who eventually Xanax’ed her way to a stroke and death in 2013.
Thankfully the culture of hiding and keeping quiet is fading away and many of us are standing up and speaking our story. Just like when a child is afraid that something is lurking in the dark under their bed or in their closet the best solution is to shine a light on it. The same is true with mental health.
By sharing our stories we are taking back our power and perhaps even gleaning tactics for navigating difficult times.
I am a mother, sister, daughter, friend and care giver who has experienced the tsunami like devastation of dealing with mental health, and yet, I also see hope and life and love and laughter in the midst of it all.
What can you do to be part of the solution? First and foremost changing your perspective is a great place to start. Simply telling someone to “suck it up” or “get help” doesn’t solve anything. Asking for help is the hardest part and it is also just the beginning. There is usually a long road ahead with finding the right medications and doctors and therapists.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in every community. Educating yourself by watching a TED Talk or reading a book is another empowering action that can be taken.
If you feel you don’t have the time to volunteer, which is understandable, we are all in different seasons of life, may I suggest a donation. You can go here and donate to This Is My Brave.
My approach is simple…I believe in everyday kindness. I believe in smiling at someone or complimenting them in some way. Life is hard enough and we never know what is going on in someone’s mind and life. Perhaps the action of kindness is just what the world needs more of.
Remember, Kindness takes action. Kindness is a verb.
Be you. Be beautiful. Be imperfect.