September, October and November host a slew of mental health milestones. The month of September celebrated: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMSHA) Recovery Month, Self-Awareness Month and little known Self Improvement Month. I’ll take it! We also paid homage to suicide awareness and prevention, the worthiest of causes. I certainly felt grateful to be alive.
October has a number of big ones too: October 8th coming up is National Depression Screening Day, October 10th World Mental Health Day and lastly, October 11th-17th is Mental Illness Awareness Week. That’s a lot to celebrate and why not? We’re wonderful!
Naturally this causes me to think how far we’ve come. When I began my first book I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolarmental illness was still a taboo topic. People excitedly asked me the title of my book and usually I saw the excitement level drain as their reaction wavered between faked enthusiasm and apprehension. Their smiles would invariably fade; you could sense stigma in their strained faces. I was though, too, often surprised to hear someone tell me they had a loved one with mental illness. It was total shock. I had no idea how surrounded I was!
Today, thankfully, I see and feel less shame though we all know it still exists. I feel it’s due to our combined advocacy efforts. Gratefully, memoirs are popping up like wildflowers. In fact, the first words of my Publishers Weekly review were “in this commonplace but candid mental health memoir”. Although “commonplace” wasn’t the starting word one would hope for, I became thrilled over time for it meant that we were finally talking openly about bipolar disorder.
We began to see commercials on TV too. For the first time pharmaceutical corporations were marketing depression drugs specifically targeting “bipolar depression”. Those were first. I don’t know about you but I nearly fell off my chair hearing the word bipolar being spoken openly! Then I heard “suicide” on a public service announcement and was pleased (elated is not the word for suicide), yet I was happy we were talking about it. Captain Chelsley “Sully” Sullenberger appeared on a commercial speaking of losing a family member to suicide. Although tragic, I was thrilled mental illness was bubbling to the surface no matter what the circumstance.
Blogs were sprouting like mushrooms and Twitter was on fire. People were getting out their anger and #nostigma retweets were the order of the day. We were all, collectively, and still are, advocating for change. Federally, with the parity laws initiated by the Kennedys before they left office, we began to see a shift in Washington too. Even Washington.
There was a movement and it continues.
We are finally getting somewhere.
This week we should celebrate not only how we do take care of ourselves, but our scientists and professors for their advancements in treatment and research. Let’s thank our non-profits and tireless advocates for all they do. Thanks to all of the private donors who are advancing the treatments of tomorrow through funding, often due to their personal ties to mental health. We should also applaud our doctors who save us, our therapists, psychologists and social workers who listen and provide guidance.
We must acknowledge and be thankful to our families and friends who take part in our care, especially when we need them to. There certainly are a few. Truly, there are so many to thank for our well-being, even more than we realize. It really does take a village not only to raise a child, or to keep people like me with bipolar disorder afloat, but anyone with mental illness treated and at times safe when the hospital timer dings “time’s up”.
Today, I say have a happy and healthy day. Be well. Take care of yourself as best you can and know you made it through another set of mental health milestones. My hat is off to you!
Wendy Williamson had her first manic episode while studying at Virginia Tech, eight weeks before graduation. It was then she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I. After being downsized from corporate America, Wendy wrote her memoir of honesty and hope entitled I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar. She co-wrote her second book: Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder with author Honora Rose.
Wendy writes for BPHope.com and The The Huffington Post. She has written for: BP Magazine, Bipolar Disorder for Dummies: 2nd Edition and The Two River Times. Her book has been reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and National Alliance on Mental Illness’ The Advocate. Wendy is the founder of The Red Bank Writers Group and has been interviewed on over forty radio stations worldwide. Catch up with Wendy on Twitter and at her website.
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