Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Do You Advocate?

Happy Sunday to all of you Supporting Our Siblings readers!

I wanted to take the opportunity to continue the series of 'How Do You Advocate?'

Anna started the series a few weeks ago discussing her advocacy work and what people are doing in their own communities to spread the word about mental illness and stamp out stigma.

I have a very, very unique story to share. Guy, father of Suzanne, is running 100 marathons in 140 days to raise money for mental health research. Suzanne was diagnosed at the ripe age of 14 but suffered delusions and voices for 3 years before her diagnosis without telling anyone. Her father knew he had to do something.

My favorite part about this story is that Guy felt as if he didn't have any 'special' talents that could serve this community. On his website he writes "I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t paint and I don’t build things. But I CAN run and that will be my building block to create awareness of mental illness and raise money to support the organizations that support those we love." He uses something that he enjoys and something that others might not be able to do in his own way to advocate. This is an example of utilizing your OWN unique strengths to help the people you love that suffer mental health issues.

Guy created a video JUST for our readers, to tell a little about his journey and the struggles he had in dealing with his own daughter's illness.

Please watch the video and then visit Guy's website. For those runners, you know what a physical strain this man is taking on - for those of you who have a family member diagnosed with mental illness, you know how much of an emotional strain he has also taken on. I'd like to welcome you to support him in his journey by visiting his website, donating to his cause, and visiting him on his route to cheer him on.

Here's the video that Guy created JUST for Supporting Our Siblings:

Thanks for your continued support!


Monday, October 25, 2010

A Worldly Issue: Mental Health

I recently read an article about a noticeably high increase in mental health cases in Nigeria. The Chief Medical Director of the General Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Abeokuta said that the rise has been linked to the angst and depression that can often be associated with poverty-stricken nations that live in very harsh economic environments. The CMD, Dr. Ogunlesi, has been spending his time as of late campaigning for an increase in mental health centers across the country. Dr. Ogunlesi has raised the point that to consider general health without recognizing mental health is impossible.

Dr. Ogunlesi suggests, “There is, therefore, an urgent need more than ever before, to develop health care delivery systems which efficiently integrate physical and mental health services.” He went on to explain that the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently recommending that primary healthcare providers address physical and mental health problems. This in turn would call on “government health planning authorities at national, state and local government levels to pay close attention to the importance of this issue in setting up services.”

What I want you all to get out of this information is that it is obvious mental health is a global issue. We often hear of worldly physical issues – dysentery, malaria, etc. This is truly the first time I have seen mental health referenced in regards to a poverty stricken country.

I think the interesting point to make is that mental health is not an issue isolated to the United States. Mental health needs to be addressed all over the world. Mental health often causes physical health issues due to the inability to take care of oneself and/or self-medication by substance abuse.

I encourage you to check out area of the World Health Organization’s website that is dedicated to mental health. WHO has posted a lot of very helpful and encouraging information about where they hope to see the future of mental health. Among this information is their plan to integrate mental health into primary care.

Read it, and let me know your thoughts!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

We're All Human

A few months ago I was doing some mental health research and stumbled across a PSA done by - an organization started by Glenn Close, who has several family members that are affected by mental illness. I clicked on the video and immediately felt tears run down my cheeks. As John Mayer sang his lyrics "fighting like a one man army" the camera panned across the t-shirt of Brandon Staglin that reads "schizophrenia." (Can you imagine, this is probably what my own brother feels like, a one man army, fighting the world - powerful, eh?) I was already choked up, but had not idea how deeply this PSA would affect me. I'd really like you to watch for yourself, but will tell you the spot, in one word, humanizes mental illness. It brands individuals as family members, friends, battle buddies and those suffering from mental illness by, well, their illness.

Because for so long now I have watched my own brother and family suffer through the struggle that is schizophrenia, I often forget that there are people all around me each day that are battling mental illness. They are taking medications and living what we consider a 'normal life.' The commercial does something that I often try to remind others to do - connects those individuals with mental illnesses to a family and friends. It's very easy to call the man mumbling on the corner to himself 'crazy' and 'nuts' when you haven't the slightest clue as to what chapters are a part of his own story. If that were your own brother or your father, would you ever think twice about calling him a name or speaking about him like he isn't there? I can tell you from experience, that you tend to instead feel compassion and a gut wrenching ache for that person and the family that just hopes the best for them.

In clicking around the site, I found countless peoples' stories about how they have been personally affected by mental illness. It was very special for me to watch Brandon Staglin and his mother discuss schizophrenia so freely - to discuss the strange behaviors and the difficulty Brandon had committing to medications. To know that there are individuals that really understand is priceless. How comforting to know that there are others, just like me, that may have been a character in their own family member's delusions. If we can't understand each other, who will? Given hearing others' stories, knowing they have been through the same challenges, I wanted to take an opportunity to tell some of the harder stories. Stories (one of many) that make a lot of people uncomfortable, but is just another day in the life when it comes to having a brother with schizophrenia.

I have often found myself at the heart and root of Brian's delusions. I am out to get him. I am planting ideas and voices in his head. I am trying to kill him. I am stealing from him. I am the product of my parents, who are evil. I am the reason he has failed. He wants me to fail. Ever heard it before? Ever felt like the enemy? More times than not I have to remind myself that Brian is sick. He might resent me, but he will eventually resent me for the 'normal' life I have lived, the opportunity I have endured, not the support I gave him. With Brian's disease has come elaborate delusions and hallucinations that are often accompanied by strange physical ticks, an often lost and blank stare. There have been several times that I've been genuinely scared to be alone with him, worried what a severe bout of paranoia will make him do to me. It's hard to consider someone that was once so bright has a such a long delay in response that you wonder if they even hear you. Advocating and educating isn't easy. It's not easy to discuss the hard stuff - it's easy to talk about the future and the hope. But what about the right now? Who will discuss the scary part? The sad part? The part that makes you angry? We will! I encourage you to reach out to someone close to you and share. How will anyone ever understand if you won't allow them to try?

Please visit and watch their PSA, listen to the individuals' stories and support them in their efforts to bring change to the way people view mental illness.

Looking forward to hearing from you blogosphere! You can reach Anna and I at


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mental Health Issues & Government Funding

I never thought I would be so passionate about mental illness. But here I am, dedicating my extra time
each week to learning, advocating and educating. This week I attended a discussion hosted by NAMI
Austin chapter. NAMI is a national organization that focuses on advocating and educating on mental
illness. NAMI is a great resource. The organization provides educational courses such as Families to
Families and Great Minds Think Alike as well as sponsors several committees that help to advocate for
the mentally ill in the community.

Monday evening’s discussion was one of those opportunities to advocate. NAMI invited two legislatorsto visit with a group of community members and discuss the upcoming 2011 session. There were a lot more community members in attendance than I suspected might be in attendance. (Which
is obviously a great thing – “hey! You’re concerned about mental health issues too? Let’s talk…”)

I’d like to share a few of the things I learned with you all and then tell you how you may be able to help. As we enter into the next session, the state of Texas is facing a 15 billion dollar budget deficit. Surely this comes as no surprise to any of you as our nation is currently in a recession. What might surprise you is that with the next budget cut, mental health services will see its own budget cut of almost 140 million dollars. That’s right folks – if you thought there were limited resources already, be prepared. You might ask yourself, why mental health services? As cuts are made to preventative programs and funding for state hospitals sick patients are turned out to the streets. Left untreated, these individuals are often arrested and put into jails on misdemeanors – the term for this is deinstitutionalization. Once deinstitutionalized who pays for these individuals to sit in jail untreated? Tax payers. Those super expensive property taxes you’re paying each month? Welp, they’re paying for my brother to sit in jail and get even.more.sick. You don’t like that? Me either. To boot, in the next budget cut there will be a defunding of any kind of specialized program in jails and prisons. (This includes those that support
mental health initiatives.)

As we all know that funding preventative programs is much less expensive than continuing to fund a
cyclical process of individuals being turned out to the streets, arrested, jailed, turned out the streets,
arrested, jailed, sent to the hospital, etc. If it is much less expensive, why are we continuing to decrease
preventative program budgets? Well, it’s really easy to let the taxpayers take care of it, isn’t it? That
and it’s very complicated to give legislators cold hard data that shows the money that is being saved. So what do we do to help?

Contact local organizations or Mental Health America and get their help to put together some cold hard facts and numbers. Legislators need facts and numbers to fuel decisions.

Start conversations. No one knows that there is serious concern for this population of individuals unless people start having candid conversations about the issues.

Donate. If you don’t have time, then spare a few dollars. Donating to organizations like NAMI and
Mental Health America give them the opportunity to spend that money and the time you don’t have to
gather research and put together those cold hard facts and data.

Write legislators. Each morning legislators have a team of people that review letters and clippings from
individuals just like you and I. Individuals that are very interested and very concerned. They can’t help if they do not know there is a problem.

Thanks for reading. Look for more postings soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact myself or Anna
for more information or maybe even support.

Best –