BringChange2Mind

April 29, 2011

Inspirational Quote of the Week

Filed under: Quote of the Week — Tags: , , — Marc Peters @ 9:02 am

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie

Sorry that we’ve been slacking on the inspirational quotes lately. Hopefully you’ve kept yourself and your friends inspired anyway :). If you have a favorite quote feel free to leave it in the comments!

April 18, 2011

It’s Still a Shame

Filed under: Contributing Blogger — Tags: , , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

Last Friday, I had the rare opportunity for a class session with former

President Bill Clinton. (That’s one of the benefits of attending his graduate school I guess). Surprisingly it wasn’t that great a day. I was exhausted and detached for most of my four hour class that morning. My behavior was off enough for my classmates to inquire to see if I was okay. I’d been doing fairly well lately and working nonstop at school work so I figured I was just exhausted. It took until that evening when I could not get remotely excited for the presidential Q&A for me to realize that I was sliding into a mild depression. I even had a good question prepared. I was going to thank President Clinton for signing the first Mental Health Parity bill into law back in 96. Then refer to his famous (in the mental health community) quote on mental illness:

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.

That is what he said after losing a close friend to suicide. He was right then and he was right now. I wanted to ask him whether he thought we had progressed much in the years since he made that profound statement and what more could we be doing.

What’s tragic is that our society has not come that far in the 10+ years since Clinton left office. The Mental Health Parity Act passed in 2008 made great strides in evening the health coverage playing field. I’m just not convinced that progress in policy have been accompanied by a change in the hearts and minds of everyday people. I have no doubt that things are better now than they were then. However, just because things are better today than they were yesterday doesn’t excuse us from working feverishly for a brighter tomorrow.

I still know people who are embarrassed to tell people when they are seeing a therapist or a psychiatrist. In our “lift yourselves up by your bootstraps” society, heaven forbid someone need to ask for help. I get emails often from people who feel more comfortable talking to me, a complete stranger, than they do their friends and family. Would the world be a better place if people chose help-seeking over isolation? Absolutely. Can we get there? I have no doubt. But we aren’t there yet.

If we are going to get there (wherever that is and whatever that means), we need to pay heed to the first half of Clinton’s quote. We need to realize that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We cannot continue to cower anytime we admit that we’re feeling depressed or anxious or whatever the case may be.

Rather than feeling shame about being different, realize that there are a lot of people out there walking this walk with you. Rather than beat yourself up for what you can’t do, respect yourself for managing the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis with courage and character. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Let me say that again- you have nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe it is a matter of us telling each other that a little more often.

For as outspoken as I am about living with bipolar disorder, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel shame for the way it makes me feel or act. We all need a reminder now and then of how much we are worth, how far we have come and how much more we can do.

March 2, 2011

The New “Normal”

I asked a friend for some advice on what I should blog about and he recommended: “The King’s Speech and how it won recognition for stutterers. We need a movie to do the same for mental health.” Realizing that movies, television and other aspects of popular culture can go a long way when it comes to making something “normal,” I momentarily forgot  that I had not seen The King’s Speech or paid any attention to the ripple effect that it has had in the greater community. I said “Sure! That sounds like a great idea!” Then I set out to educate myself (in this case via The Huffington Post):

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The movie’s kind of like a “Rain Man” for the stuttering world, [Stuttering Foundation President Jane] Fraser said in a phone chat earlier this week. “We have a world-class, superb actor showing us how devastating it is to stutter,” she says. It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing a king who’s leading a country against Hitler.

The foundation has received a flurry of media attention and a spike in donations in recent months.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

In February the Stuttering Foundation of America received $25,000 in donations versus the $10,000 it received in February 2010. “So that’s tremendous,” [Fraser] says. “We’ve seen an increase in new donations. Something like 80 percent from last week, from people that had never donated before.”

So when Colin Firth wins an Oscar for a performance in a movie that moves speech impediments into the social discourse, it works magic. That’s fairly self-evident. For another example, look at how Glee chose to focus a series of episodes on gay bullying after so much had been in the news on the subject. When we can talk about a fictional event as opposed to something actually going on in our lives, it gives us enough distance to tackle an uncomfortable issue t

When a TV show like House decides to highlight the mental health of its title character, it improves the basic knowledge of all its viewers. I frequently get asked whether or not my stay in a mental hospital was anything like Hugh Laurie’s fictional visit and if my counseling appointments go anything like his did. It helps make the intangible tangible to folks who have never had to deal with any of these issues.

Now, we can’t rely on popular culture to completely remove stigma from mental health issues. Sometimes they even do more harm then good. What we can do is monitor for opportunities for discussion and take advantage of them when they arise. It may seem simplistic to believe that adding A Beautiful Mind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story to your Netflix queue to watch with friends will make any sort of a difference, but we need to take advantage of any small chance we get to move this conversation forward. It’s one thing to talk amongst ourselves and support one another (which we should always and forever continue to do). We need to continue to look for any and all ways to reach the people who aren’t already having these conversations and pull them into the dialogue. It’s going to to take everyone we can get to fully eradicate mental health stigma.

I would love to know about any experiences you’ve had watching movies/TV shows with a mental health component to them. Do you think that we could start conversations this way? Share in the comments!

February 23, 2011

Strength in Numbers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of your time.

The past few weeks have been a sort of a hell for me. When I started to write this post, I was still mired in a severe depressive episode. The ripple of effect of that misery hit all facets of my life. The ties with friends fray when it becomes exhausting and uncomfortable to talk on the phone or meet up with classmates. On a theoretical level, I know that the first thing I should do when I’m depressed is reach out. However, it’s often the last thing on my mind. I can usually go against every fiber of my depressed being and call a friend or two for support, but this episode was different.

For one thing, I haven’t yet been able to build the support system during my six months in Little Rock that I left behind after most of my life in Maryland. When I was working for Active Minds in Washington, DC, I had friends in the area to rely on and co-workers who were intimately familiar with the field of mental health. I had it easy. Undergraduate too was easy compared to now. If you think about college, you have friend networks built in and even if there is stigma and ignorance, people are always around. It is hard when you are in a transient point in your life to make local support networks a priority. It becomes even harder as a student knowing that even if you decide to stay put, the people you’ve come to trust may leave.

There are steps to take that I haven’t. I don’t have a local therapist. I’m only starting to think of Arkansas as a long-term home and I found the prospect of building a relationship with a new therapist daunting (especially if I was going to up and leave in a year or two). Something else I realize that I had failed to do was educate my classmates about warning signs and how they can help me when I’m in need. If I had taken those steps, my journey this past month might not have been so awful.

Eventually I did reach out and my classmates were there for me. People have an incredible capacity for compassion if you give them the opportunity. However, if you aren’t in a place where you can disclose what is going on in your life make sure that you can rely on a doctor or a therapist. If you are in crisis, make sure you know that there are places you can call for support without judgment. Keep that 1-800-273-TALK number handy in the case of an emergency. Know that there is incredible strength to be had in numbers when you choose to let someone in. The burden of an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, depression, mania, and anything and everything else on the mental health spectrum is near impossible to bear alone. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to receive help. It’s okay.

All the best,

Marc

February 21, 2011

Inspirational Quote of the Week

Filed under: Quote of the Week — Tags: , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 9:00 am

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

This is one of those quotes that always brings home our responsibility to care for each other’s well-being. Post a quote in the comments that helps you get through the week.

January 26, 2011

The Danger of A Single Story

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

In this video, author Chimamanda Adichie speaks to a TED.com conference about the danger of a single story representing an entire population. This an issue that we often face in mental health. The stories that make the news are always negative. The stories of the thousands upon thousands who manage their disorders and support their friends often go untold. Thankfully BringChange2Mind and other like-minded organizations are working to create a broader dialogue that is more representative of the mental health community.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the video!

Marc

January 12, 2011

The Benefits of Service

Filed under: Event — Tags: , , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

A lot of the country is looking forward to the upcoming three-day weekend: Saturday, Sunday and the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Three days off right? Rather than taking Monday as an extra day for rest and relaxation, I encourage you to consider spending (at least part of the) day serving others. This holiday is meant to honor a man who has become a legend for the service he did for our country. The least we can do is spend one day giving back.

I feel not only a desire to serve, but also an obligation. I would not be where I am today if people had not looked after me. I went through a severe depressive episode in high school. If my teachers hadn’t gone above and beyond to protect me and nurse me back to full health before sending me off to college, I might not be here at all. Their only motivation was love. When I spent most of my college career recovering from a psychotic break, my professors carried me until I was able to walk on my own. I am giving back because I owe it to all the people who’ve made me who I am. I can’t say for sure, but I’m betting that you can think of people in your own life whose service has meant the world to you.

Every day I wake up hoping to serve one person, to make one person think something new, to inspire one person to do something different. It’s then and only then that I feel as though I’ve lived up to what I was called to do. It’s then and only then that I feel as though I’ve made a deposit on paying down my debt of gratitude. However, service isn’t only about giving back. It can be restorative.

“Volunteers have improved mental health, including less depression than those who don’t serve others. While younger volunteers also receive health benefits from volunteering, volunteers age sixty and older benefit more greatly.” – Shirley Sagawa, The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America

When I’m depressed – trapped in the mental prison – nothing pulls me out faster than focusing on the needs of someone else. Serving others can be a tremendous reminder of a world beyond ourselves. Depression is tremendously isolating. I, like most, get trapped in a negative wave of thinking. I grasp desperately for something to hold onto. Service is that lifesaver for me. It can also be a great stress reliever and a way to build lasting bonds and friendships. I’ve found nothing more meaningful than uniting with others beyond a common goal. What do you think keeps me coming back to BringChange2Mind?

I hope that you will consider serving in your community on Monday and throughout the year. If you want to find a place to serve, visit the My Nation page on ServiceNation to find a service event in your area.

Best,

Marc

November 10, 2010

Clouds with a Sweet Silver Lining

“Most days I try my best to put on a brave face. But inside my bones are cold and my heart breaks. But all the while something is keeping me safe and alive.  But so many people are looking to me  to be strong and to fight but I’m just surviving. I may be weak but I’m never defeated. And I’ll keep believing in clouds with that sweet silver lining.” -Kate Voegele, Sweet Silver Lining

I spent this past weekend at Active Minds’ 7th Annual National Mental Health on Campus conference. Active Minds, a national non-profit and BC2M partner, brings together hundreds upon hundreds of students and gives them the inspiration and tools to decrease mental health stigma and increase awareness on their college campuses.  At last year’s conference, I was still working as a full-time Active Minds staff person and didn’t have the opportunity to step back and truly bear witness to some of the incredible things taking place. I knew that the organization covered everything from stress relief tips to model for preventing suicide.  It’s one thing to understand in your mind the change that is taking place, it’s another thing entirely to feel it in your soul.

Marc Peters and Alison Malmon at the Active Minds National Mental Health on Campus Conference

I’ve never lost anyone  to suicide and I pray I never will. However, I’ve met family member after family member and friend after friend, mourning the loss of loved ones to a senseless act of  violence by their own hand. I had never really understood how my former boss, Alison Malmon, could so completely dedicate her life to a cause so grounded in her own personal pain of losing her brother. This weekend, I finally saw that she draws incredible strength from the passion of the students with whom she works. I finally saw not only the tears in her eyes when talking about how much she loves and misses Brian, but the joy in her heart as she looks out over a room full of people so invested in this movement.

From three people at her first club meeting many years ago, to a ballroom full of student activists is a remarkable journey. While I know that there is nothing Alison can do that will allow her to completely let go of the pain that she lives with every single day, I find great inspiration in how she has worked tireless to have Brian’s memory not only associated with a tragic loss, but with a living memorial that reaches students all over the country. From a place of pain, she’s developed for others a place of belonging and a joy for life.

Inspiration for my BC2M blog posts comes from someone or something different every week. This one started not with Alison, but with a BC2M Facebook friend and real-life stranger. She spent Friday at the conference to visit the Send Silence Packing display that features ownerless backpacks representing the 1,100 college students lost to suicide each and every year. After she saw my Facebook status update about the conference, she  messaged me to tell her how much having her son’s story featured on one of the Send Silence Packing backpacks at this year’s conference meant to her and her family.

Her message led me to reflect on my own history with suicidal ideation and being suicidal. One of the things that always keeps me here is knowing how much losing me would hurt my friends and family. Even at my lowest moments, I never want to bring pain to others. I never gave much thought to how I developed that line of thinking, but this weekend I suddenly knew.

Seeing the hurt in Alison’s eyes (and seeing that same hurt in the eyes of all of the countless mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers and friends that I’ve met who had lost someone to suicide) helped save my life. While I grieve with them for the loss of someone special in their lives, I am forever grateful that they have had the courage to share their experience in a way that saves the lives of so many other children and friends. I know that not even the shiniest of silver linings could dim the pain they feel, but I want all of you to know how much your strength means. You may never know how many people you’ve reached. So when you find yourself wondering if it’s worth the agony of revisiting such haunting memories, please know that you reached me.

Thanks for reading,

Marc

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: