Mental Health Awareness Week Reaches Into Local Communities
By Barbara Mayer
(May 10, 2015)
How does one navigate the mystery of a troubled mind?
Where can one find some magic key to free a tortured heart — as life demands continuing on in spite of emotions flailing about, where no answers seem available — or even existing at all?
Where are the answers when some of the questions rise from helplessness — to even threatening a sense of hopelessness?
How do we bring help to those caught in the web of mental illness?
Also, what do we do when we find ourselves suffering from some form of mental illness – all the while trying to keep up with a demanding world?
All hard questions. Yet there are answers and ways of coping and of healing, all of which exist beyond the narrowness of stigma and self righteous prejudgment.
Please allow me to share the story of “Robert” now in his fifties and one of our neighbors in the Verde Valley. Robert suffers from anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Brought to America at age 10 from a war torn country, because of cultural differences and trying to fit in to a new place, Robert was diagnosed with depression during his early teen years. With little help available then, he developed his own coping skills and created new beauty in the landscapes and scenes his artistic skills help him paint.
Yet, in spite of the poor and sometimes actually cruel things he survived in those early days in various kinds of mental health facilities, Robert has found assistance and understanding from “… good, caring people” around him now in the Verde Valley. There is hope here, he says. “There is no cure but I go on in spite of everything.”
Describing how his illness impacts his life, however, Robert says he often feels disengaged and isolated, and describes his mental condition as “… feeling like a drop of water, lost in a bowl of oil. “
Now it’s our turn to step up. In whatever way we can –be it changing our thinking, acting or believing, we can no longer turn away from anyone who feels like a drop of water lost in a bowl of oil. We are better than that, and this Mental Health Awareness Week will help us get some answers and grow in our own sense of being truly human.
In a week-long series of films, panels, community conversations and informative events, the Mental Health Coalition of the Verde Valley is presenting a comprehensive and open sharing of Mental Health issues in Mental Health Awareness Week – May 11-16.
Recognizing that society has allowed stigma to create barriers around effective treatment of mental illness, it is now time to break the barriers and create a society which cares and seeks healing for all. Speaking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a report shows a lack of understanding when it comes to the disorders which can leave sufferers feeling isolated and hopeless. Only 25 percent of people with mental health issues feel people are caring and sympathetic toward their struggles. This –when we think society is advancing in the fine art of truly being human!
Consider attending one or all of the 12 FREE events listed on forms available to you through flyers around town, and in ads which have run both in the Red Rock News and Kudos. Carrying details and time, place and day of each event, these ads will be of great help. Or go to www.mentalhealthcoalitionvv.org for more information or call 649-1035. Also, it is good to know that through the generosity of area sponsors, every event of Mental Health Awareness Week is free to the public.
You are also invited to stop by Tlaquepaque for a community gathering and portrait ceremony honoring those who suffer or who have been lost to mental illness on Saturday, May 16, From 10:00 -11:00 AM. Become part of the portrait of Sedona, the Verde Valley, and all of us who care to make a difference in living beyond stigma, replacing it with compassionate energy for all who suffer from mental illness of any kind.
The world is changing in many ways, and one needed and important change is to erase the stigma of mental illness, becoming instead a society which cares and refuses to ignore or condemn.
Barbara Mayer is a poet, author and facilitator who lives, works and shares the Spirit in Sedona, Arizona.
A Personal Story for Mental Health Awareness Week
Sedona AZ (May 10, 2015) – I have been labeled as SMI (Seriously Mental Ill) by the state of Arizona because I choose to have some state sponsored services. I have Medicare, but it excludes some mental health services.
I have lived with a mental illness that I can trace back to 16 years of age. I did not seek help from a doctor until I was 28. The stigma of mental illness was all around me. I parked 5 blocks away from the psychiatrist’s office on my first and subsequent appointments. The psychiatrist diagnosed me as having Clinical Depression. I said, “How can I be depressed? I have a husband, good job, car, house, lake cottage, boat and it’s all paid for.” It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medicine will help. I tried many medicines and nothing helped.
I was seeking the magic “pill.” I went to Mayo Clinic, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, University of Minnesota Clinic, Vanderbilt University, and an Ottawa Clinic in Canada. These different medicines are by trial and error. Most medicines take 4 – 6 weeks to help. I changed medicines many times trying to feel better. However, my many years of medicines and depressions have played havoc with my cognitive skills, memory, ability to learn new things, and problems with my kidneys.
But the day one side effect was dry mouth. I’ve had dry mouth since I took that first pill. This has played havoc with my teeth. After I left my college teaching position, I had no dental insurance. I chose to move to Arizona and I subsequently go to Mexico to have dental work. I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years on dental care.
When I moved to Arizona, a new psychiatrist changed my diagnosis to Bi-Polar II. I now know why it was so difficult to cope with my changing moods. I have deep, dark periods of depression with suicidal thoughts followed by a slightly elevated mood.
Yes, it has not been an easy life. My teachers’ union had to fight for my rights to continue teaching over 22 years. My college President said I was an embarrassment to the College. However, I was awarded “Unsung Hero Award” for my assistance and dedication to students by the Student Senate. Thankfully, I had a great job with lots of support from my colleagues. Many in my family are embarrassed, too. Now, I have my family of choice which includes NAMI Sedona, my church, and other friends.
All in all, I have a good life. – human being labeled Seriously Mentally Ill