Thursday, July 14, 2011

Loughner Video and NAMI Schizophrenia Report

Please check out this news clip from Anderson 360 with Dr. Drew and Sunny Hostin.

Also, NAMI released the results from a survey on attitudes and awareness among the general adult public, as well as among caregivers and individuals living with illness.
Please read the report on the NAMI website. Shizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An EMS Call - Is it really so 'crazy'?

Hi Readers,

I'll start by telling you a quick story:

Last night while riding with a friend to her house, I glanced in the side mirror of her car and watched a homeless woman fall from the curb into the middle of a crowded intersection in Austin. If anyone knows Austin you know that when I say crowded, I mean crowded. It was late but there were certainly a fair amount of cars on the road. I instantly felt a terrible sinking feeling and thought I might be sick. I saw car lights coming around the curve quickly and noticed that the woman had a heavy backpack on her back (unable to get up) and two dogs in tow. I did what I assumed anyone would do - I got out of the car, helped her out of the street and posted her up in an area that was further from the curb. The woman quickly confessed, "Sorry, I've had too much wine." Who am I to judge? I told her it didn't matter to me and that I just wanted her and the dogs safe and far from the street. When I felt like the woman was in a safe location, I jumped back into the car with my friend and went along my way. "What next?" I asked my friend. "Call 911" she responded. I thought to myself, well sure, what else am I supposed to do? They teach you that you should render aid in the event you think someone is in trouble, right? Regardless if she was intoxicated, I didn't think it was appropriate not to call. As far as I was concerned her and the dogs being in the middle of the street wasn't safe for anyone.

Fast forward to 8:15 am this morning. Here I was, in the car again, ironically, on the same path that I was last night when the above encounter happened. Then, I changed the radio station. I'll admit, I love a good talk radio. The hosts were discussing one of the top stories of the day as seen in the Austin American Statesman - "Austin-Travis County EMS aims to match habitual 911 callers to social services." My ears perked up as the program host said "well, rest assured the majority of these habitual callers are those crazies that think someone is in their attic or there are ghost footsteps outside their bedroom door." I'll be honest, I'm already a bad driver. This, folks, this did NOT help make the streets of Austin any safer. If I wouldn't have been so close to work, they would've heard from me. Tonight, I dove into the story a little more and will share with you some of the details they were discussing.

A new program hit Austin in 2009 that hopes to to cut down on unnecessary EMS calls by matching the aforementioned frequent callers with the social service that best fits their need. The article elaborates, "EMS officials are trying to cure it with help from mental health professionals, clinics, nonprofits and hospitals interested in reducing the strain on their emergency rooms. But just one Austin-Travis County EMS paramedic among 352, Cmdr. Andy Hofmeister, is assigned to a program to tackle it.

The Community Health Paramedic Program, begun in December 2009, mirrors efforts around the country to match frequent EMS callers to services that address their needs. After an ambulance responds to a frequent 911 caller, Hofmeister will follow up — at the person's home or the hospital — to try to get to the nub of the trouble.

Usually, it's a combination of mental, physical and social ills. A diabetic has missed doses of her medicine. She also has schizophrenia and can't afford the right foods. Now she needs to go to the emergency room, but a hospital trip could have been prevented." From what EMS officials can tell, the program is doing its job. Officials followed 10 frequent users since the beginning of the program and noticed that after the appropriate service was provided to the user their EMS calls dropped by 79%. No doubt, this is fantastic. Where my concern comes from is that these individuals with mental health issues are expected to get services from mental health programs that will likely see a budget cut of $134 million dollars. So tell me this readers, how can these individuals seek help from programs that are seeing budget cuts. State hospitals already lack bed space for many with mental health issues in Texas but we expect them to house more. I understand, I really do. We desperately need to find a solution, but if no one will take them, if no one has the budget to help them, then, what now?

You can see why I felt so angry listening to the radio hosts this morning. I understand that there is no fixing the world, but isn't it evident that if you fix one part of the machine, you're breaking another? Readers, I pose this question to you - If our family members or friends shouldn't be calling 911 and can't be checked into an institution because there is no vacancy, what should we instruct them to do?



"Mental health programs hit hard in proposed budget cuts"

"Austin-Travis County EMS aims to match habitual 911 callers to social services"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Read

I just finished reading a book called The Quiet Room – A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness. This book gives you a very intimate look in to the life of Lori Schiller who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her late 20’s and spent a total of four years in the hospital. Lori has been through cocaine addiction, suicide attempts, and multiple medication changes. Her symptoms began to surface during college at Tufts University.

The Quiet Room was different from other books of an individual’s account of mental illness because it had writings from Lori’s parents, brothers, former roommates, and doctors that treated Lori in the hospital. As a sibling of a mentally ill individual, it was important for me to read about other family members experiences. Lori’s younger brother was constantly scared that someday he too may be in the same place Lori was, that someday his mind might become sick. I know that these are feelings that I have had before and that my younger brother has experienced or will experience.

The book also gives you a patient’s perspective of her relationship with her parents. While in the hospital Lori struggled with having her parents visit. Lori says:
“much as I loved my parents, I felt like I was on stage for them too. I fought so hard to seem normal before them. I didn’t want them to know how sick I was. I didn’t want them to see me out of control. From the moment they arrived my struggle to keep control battled with my fear of losing control. I knew how much my illness hurt them. I knew how much they suffered for me. As much as I could, I wanted to keep the worst of it from them. I wanted them to be proud of me. I didn’t want to cause them heartache.”
I can imagine that other patients feel this way too. This passage reiterates to me the need for strong family support and letting the patient know that as a mother, father, sister, or brother you will be there for them no matter what.

Lori’s parents offer another perspective when they were struggling with separating drug addiction from illness. Lori’s mom Nancy writes:
“We couldn’t separate out her illness from anything else that might be affecting her. Lori’s moods were so unstable that she had initially been diagnosed as manic-depressive. She slept so little that her eyes were often bloodshot. And she was taking so much prescription medicine that there was hardly a time when her hands didn’t shake.”

Finally, Lori’s doctor who helped get her stabilized gives the reader a good description of schizophrenia, a disease that can be difficult to understand. “Schizophrenia is like a persons brain breaking. For the thing that has broken is the person’s ability to relate to another person. The thing that breaks is whatever it is that connects people to their environment, that allows them to recognize another person as someone outside of themselves.”

“People with schziophrenia are locked out of the outside world, and locked inside their heads with nothing but these wild, out-of-control thoughts emotion and thoughts. In people with schizophrenia the normal emotions – or push back into the recesses of our minds – run amok. Emotions that would normally be comfortably catalogued as unacceptable take on a life of their own as voices that seem more real than the real world outside.”
Throughout The Quite Room Lori struggles to accept the fact that she is sick. She also struggles to realize that she will never be the same person she was before her illness began. Doctors work with her not to get her back to where she was but to get her to a place where she can function.

I will not spoil the book and reveal what the quite room actually is but I encourage anyone looking for a summer read to get this book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Give Me Peace Love

While I was avoiding studying last week and reading Yoga Journal magazine I stumbled upon an ad for Peace Love Studios. The ad featured a watch and said PeaceLove Changing The Face Of Mental Illness. I immediately went to the website to learn more about PeaceLove. PeaceLove is “a growing community of mental health advocates and artists creating conversations of acceptance, understanding, and hope.” Everyone at PeaceLove has “found common purpose in spreading understanding around mental illness.” PeaceLove uses creative expression to spread understanding of mental illness. They are using art to build a symbol of hope and acceptance. Founder of PeaceLove, Jeff Sparr,and artist does not put a face on his paintings because he says “that is mental illness, it has no face, it could happen to anyone.”

Find your own peace!

This video is very moving and tells a lot of different stories. I encourage all readers to check it out and share with your family and friends.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Goat

Hi Readers
Sorry our posts have been so sporadic lately. School and work have been very busy for me and Becca.
Wanted to share a new campaign with all of you called Dear World and the Story of Beatrice Biira from Uganda. Dear world is a platform for individuals no matter what race or background to write our future. You are in charge of your own future and we can all help write the future of this world. Supporting Our Siblings is going to take part in writing the future of mental illness.

Beatrice Biira credits a goat her family received when she was 9 years old to the reason she was able attend school and Uganda, earn a highschool scholarship, and to come to the U.S. for college. Although a goat might not have gotten you where you are today, you are here. Now you can continue to mold the future and change our world. Check out the websites, read Beatrice's story, and take inspiration from her goat.


Thanks Anna

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Danger of a Single Story

A few weeks ago, Bring Change 2 Mind blogger Marc Peters posted a video from TED talks by Chimamanda Adichie. I wanted to share this video and more importantly the message the video presents to our readers. Chimamanda Adichia is a novelist and MacArthur Fellow. Her work is inspired by events in her native Nigeria. In the TED talk Chimamanda discusses the danger of the single story. Her discussion of the single story relates very closely to the experiences of the mentally ill. Chimamanda’s messages is that a single story about a person or culture creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is NOT that they are untrue but that they are incomplete and make one story the ONLY story. A single story shows a group of people as only one thing over and over again and that in turn is what they become. We risk a critical misunderstanding when we only hear a single story about a person or a culture.
So when we only have a single story about mental illness that is what the mentally ill become. If we only know mental illness as violence than every mentally ill individual is perceived as violent. This in turn leads to more stigma associated with mental illness. This is why we also must share our stories about mental illness. Please share your story on our blog. Or if you don’t feel comfortable sharing on the blog then email Becca and I at Keep Reading. Keep Learning. Keep Advocating.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Talk Therapy

Jacob Berelowitz  a graduate of NYU Master of Social Work and created a TV network called Talk Therapy Television.  “Talk Therapy Television was created to disseminate information about mental illness and its treatment options to the public through media and thereby promote the treatment of mental illness.”  Talk therapy television is working to promote the treatment of mental illness.  Everyone at Supporting Our Siblings, Becca, readers, our followers, and myself are all working towards decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness and educating the public about mental illness.  Talk Therapy Television is just one example of an amazing effort being made to enhance the lives of those suffering form a mental illness.
Talk Therapy Television is not the only thing Berelowitz has created.  He also came up with the idea to put mental health facts on the back of grocery receipts, a Mental Health Quick Facts Campaign.  This idea then emerged into a Quick Facts website.  The facts about mental illness are now on receipts in major grocery stores in New York City.  “An average of 25,000 shoppers every day are handed receipts with Quick Facts printed on them.”
The New York Daily News then wrote an article about the quick facts campaign.  The online article has a pole that asks individuals if people are undereducated on mental health issues.  So go online and VOTE!
Berelowitz came up with the idea about Quick Facts campaign while shopping at the grocery store.  He is an example and inspiration to both Becca and me.  He shows us that if you have an idea don’t hesitate to act on that idea.  Thank you all for following our blog.  This blog started with an idea.  And our ideas continue to grow and we both hope some day to have careers and working with the mentally ill daily.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Camouflaged or Not, There's No Hiding

Hi readers, it's Becca. I'm ashamed to even admit how long it has been since I have written a post. Unfortunately work has been keeping me busy and exhausted - sigh - albeit still not good enough reasons to keep from keeping up with SOS!

I am back and I have an interesting article to share with you! My good friend Leslie gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift this year, a subscription to New York Magazine! I have anxiously been awaiting my weekly magazines to show up and three weeks ago I received my first one. NY Mag turns over some fabulous material, no doubt about that. In my most recent issue there was a particular story that struck me titled "Soldiers."

The article gives a quick review of the mental health system as it applies to our military troops. This is something I'm fairly educated on given my Mom works in the mental health system as a contractor for the government. One thing she has addressed, and the article does as well, is the stigma that still exists in their community. (That of course, is not to say that a stigma does not still exist in a greater community.) I suppose I am more astonished that it exists in the military community given the degree of trauma these folks are put through that may be deployed, may have a deployed family member or may even be coping with issues at a base here in the US. We've been in battle for ten years. Ten. Years. Granted, we see a lot of coverage on our nightly news segments, those of us that have not been to the Middle East during this turmoil can not begin to imagine what these brave men and women go through.

With this said, I want to share with you this passage from the article: The author of the article speaks to a five-star general named Chiarelli. Chiarelli recalls, "When I was growing up in the Army, if anyone wanted to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist they'd have to go to the fifth floor. So nobody wanted to go to in the elevator and press five. So now we have behavioral-health people in the primary-care clinics. You don't have to go to the fifth floor. But I know the stigma's still there." When I read this passage, I thought to myself, "Really? You just got home from war - from seeing things that other couldn't dream of and you're worried you might need something for anxiety?" Obviously, I could never understand but that doesn't mean it didn't make me feel for every soldier that has had to address a mental health issue in such an environment.

What DOES happen when a soldier comes home to return to "normal" life and attempts to deal with anxiety, depression or PTSD? Well, the article sites the "normal" life of a 24 year old in the Army. A footnote on a page in the Army's suicide report describes the following, "At 24 years of age, a Soldier, on average, has moved from home, family and friends ad resided in two other states; has traveled the world (deployed); been promoted four times; bought a car and wrecked it; married and had children; has had relationship and financial problems; seen death; is responsible for dozens of Soldiers; maintains millions of dollars' worth of equipment; and gets paid less than $40,000 a year." I'll be honest, just reading that gave me anxiety.

The article goes on to share statistics about the increased number of suicides, the use of anti-depressants and other mood altering drugs and the different types of treatment options available. It was important for me to share this story with you all because it continues to show that no one is immune to mental health issues. It is also important to note that even while troops are being pulled from the Middle East and front-line battle is fewer and further between, there are still many, many suffering from war. I encourage you to donate to mental health research in hopes that we can find the right balance of therapy, medicines and care that will serve the troops just as they have served our country.

Glad to be back and writing! As always, comments, notes and post ideas are always welcomed! Visit to read the whole story!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Failure of Our System

Becca and I have yet to comment on the Arizona Tragedy and its relationship to the failed mental health system in America. We are both deeply sorry for what has occurred in Arizona and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, the victim’s families, and the Loughner family.

Since the tragedy occurred almost two weeks ago I have watched, listened to, and read countless stories and reports on the incidents. Almost all of these reports touch on mental illness. I wanted to share with our readers two reports that I found very informative. One is a television program on CNN called State of the Union another is a radio program on NPR called the Diana Rehm show featuring Pete Earley, a NAMI father and author of Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness; Lisa Dixon, M.D., leading researcher and NAMI scientific advisory council member; E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., of the Treatment Advocacy Center and Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI Medical Director. Candy Crowley also spoke with Pete Earley on Sunday December 16 on her State of the Union Show on CNN along with two members of congress.

I encourage all of our readers to watch/listen to both of these programs but I would like to give you all a summary of the important highlights and points made by these professionals.

Pete Earley is an individual that has inspired and continues to inspire Becca and me on a daily basis. Earley’s son has schizophrenia. Earley points out that as a parent you are faced with some very specific challenges. Earley says: “We cannot sit back in the face of a tragedy like the one in Arizona and say ‘what is wrong with those parents?’ or ‘why didn’t they help their son?’ The truth is that the parents often do not have a lot of options with the mental health system currently in place in the United States.” We are in a state of profound public health crisis. It is difficult and sometimes nearly impossible to access mental health care in this country. We do not have a culture where it is accepted for people to get mental health care and we are closing hospitals and treatment facilities. In our country we are weak on prevention aspects of mental health but we know that treatment does work. However, we do not make treatment readily available to individuals who need it most.

Individuals who develop serious mental illnesses are often not aware that they have a biological process going on. A psychotic person does not know they are psychotic and he or she does not see their delusions as delusions at all but as reality. When you have a person that is not aware that they are becoming ill the family and the community must step in to help.

Pete Earley has been faced with many difficult experiences as the father of a child with schizophrenia. He has had to tell his son that if he won’t take his medications than he will not live in his house. His son decided he would rather be homeless than take medication. In another incident, Earley was forced to call the police when his son became violent. The police tazored his son and Earley was left with a son who blamed his father for the events. Earley points out that psychosis isn’t acting out in the way Jared Loughner acted. In fact, only 1% of individuals with a serious mental illness are violent. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression are illnesses and there should be no shame in having these illnesses. The real shame should come from not treating these illnesses.

Dr. Lisa Dixon points out that we are unable to prove that a person is dangerous before they commit a dangerous act. However, we must look for risk factors that could cause a person to commit an act. Substance abuse is a huge risk factor and should be taken very seriously. Judgment is impaired with psychotic illnesses. Parents must follow their gut instincts and if they are waking up early in the morning feeling anxious about their child’s behavior then they should first speak with their general practitioner.

Dr. Torrey, President of treatment advocacy center, pointed out that the system has failed completely, we are dealing with a broken system and the tragedy that we saw in Arizona is the result of a broken system. The vast majority of people with severe mental illness are not violent or dangerous, only about 1% of individuals with serious mental illness are dangerous and these are often the people that need involuntary commitment. I feel that this cannot be said enough.

Dr. Torrey gave a plan for parents: First call your state mental health agency and research commitment laws in your state.
Next, look at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association website. Finally, research the National Alliance on Mental Illness and more specifically see how your state compares on their grading the states.

Finally remember: Mental Health is part of health, the brain gets sick and it is part of the process of health.
Become a partner to those with mental illness. It is an illness so it can happy to you. Listen to your loved ones and learn as much as possible about their illness.

You can watch the CNN State of the Union clips by clicking on the following link:

And listen to the NPR program by clicking on the following link:

Sunday, January 16, 2011


As long as I can remember I thought I wanted to be a doctor.  Now that I have completed my undergrad my focus has shifted a bit but is still in the health care field.  I am working towards a masters in public health and then will continue on to a master of science in physician assistant studies.  I am currently working as a medical assistant at a cardiology clinic to get some direct patient care experience.

Every day I am amazed by the ignorance and intolerance health care professionals have towards the mentally ill.  I guess it was my own personal ignorance to think that individuals in health care would be compassionate to all patients.  I cannot count the number of times I have heard “oh that patient is crazy” or before going in a room I hear “Mrs. So and so yeah she’s crazy.”  I constantly ask my co-workers to please stop using this phrase.  I have even gone as far to bring in copies of NAMI stigma busters.

Friday another thing happened.  A patient’s insurance company due to patient noncompliance had denied a medication.  After speaking with the R.N. about the situation we decided it was best to first call the patient.  So I dial the patient’s number and begin talking with the patient.  While I am on the phone the nurse passes me a little note, which reads:  “this patient is schizophrenic.”  She was just letting me know while I was talking with him.  But the truth is that no, the patient is not schizophrenic.  This particular patient has schizophrenia.  As we have said before at Supporting Our Siblings:  an individual is not their disease, they are a person who also suffers from a particular illness. 

But what difference does it make if the patient has schizophrenia, or coronary artery disease, or diabetes?  Would this change the way I speak with the patient and what I try to do to help the patient?  No, it won’t change anything.  So why are we so quick to point out a person’s mental illness?

I let this situation resonate in my mind for a day and then began to write about it.  While I was writing I was browsing the familiar mental health sites and blogs I look at least every week.  I came across a very riveting post by Guy from A Father’s Journey.  Guy previously made us a short video for our blog.  He is running marathons across the country to raise money for mental health awareness.
In his post:  Mental Illness:  The Last Great Stigma, he compares the progress that has been made in other social sectors to progress made in the stigma to combat mental illness.  Guy ends the post saying:  “say no more.”

We all must say “no more” and not take this stigma anymore.  Please join Becca and I in our fight to say no more.

Thank you for all you do,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

If Only I Would Have

Per Anna’s suggestion, I just began reading Elyn Sak’s book Center Cannot Hold. Elyn is a successful author, lawyer and advocate for mental illness. Elyn was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia and has shared her story in the aforementioned book. I’m currently only a couple of chapters in but found one excerpt particularly interesting to share with you all.

Elyn discusses the onset of delusions and paranoia as a young girl and the attempts to change said behavior that followed. This excerpt reminded me of my own brother’s attempt to control or change what was going on in his mind by manipulating his diet, schedule and the people he interacted with. I understood what he was doing – simply trying to change the terrible thoughts in his mind by discovering what exactly it was that was doing this to him. Unfortunately, those affected by mental illness cannot do anything to prevent the onset of the illness. Studies have proven aspirin can prevent heart failure, dark chocolate can prevent cancer and a healthy diet of greens and lean meats can prevent obesity. Wouldn’t life be easier if preventing mental illness was as easy as a bowl of peas a day?

As a family member of someone suffering from schizophrenia I know how easy it is to blame yourself or your loved one for the disease. As a parent you may say you could’ve done something different. As a sibling you may think something you said made their delusion worsen. As a significant other you may feel that they just ‘need some space.’ I want to reiterate that mental illness is a chemical imbalance. Unfortunately at this time, there is no way to prevent or anticipate the onset. How can you help? Advocate. Educate yourself. Speak out! Talking about the illness can be therapeutic for you and can do more to help raise money and increase research in the world of mental health.

If you’d like to tell your story, let us know! We here at SOS would love to hear your story and be there to support you and your loved one.

Continue to follow our blog! Want do you want to know more about? Send us suggestions at and we’ll provide the information YOU have been looking for.

Until next time, keep advocating!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

People NOT Numbers

            Statistics are a way of bringing a problem in a given population to light.  Statistics are also a way for individuals to constructively understand an unseen trend in their area.   The National Institute of Mental Health is a good resource for mental health statistics.  The goal of the organization is to “transform the understanding and treatment of mental illness through research.”  In order to transform mental health in the United States individuals must understand the scope of the problem.

            Statistics can also be very frustrating for a mental health patient and their families.   As a family member I know that these individuals are NOT just numbers, they are people we love.  Without forgetting this fact, I would like to discuss some of the statistics presented by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bipolar Disorder
o   2.6 % of U.S. Adult Population
o   Most prevalent in 18 to 29 year olds  -This is the time when you are supposed to be going to college, falling in love, starting careers, and enjoying life.  But for many Americans this is the age when their minds begin to unravel.

o   1.1% of U.S. Adult Population
o   60% of adults with schizophrenia used a health care facility in the last year – The 2010 census reports U.S. population has reached 308,745,538 people. If 1.1% of these people are schizophrenic then about 3,339,200 people suffer from schizophrenia, granted this number is probably too large since the NIMH estimate is based on the adult population.  The U.S census website at did not have information about the U.S. adult population.

Years of Life Lost
In almost every book I read with the subject of mental illness there is a discussion about years of life lost among mental health patients.  These years could be lost to illness itself, complications of medications, loss of productivity, or suicide.
Here are the stats:
o   Missouri 2000: meant no. years of life lost 27.9
o   Texas 1999: mean no. years of life lost 29.3
o   This is the difference between 25 and 50 or 50 and 75
o   A lot of life happens in 25-30 years time

o   In 2007 suicide rates were 11.26 per 100,000 people in the U.S.
o   More than 35,000 people died by suicide in 2007
o   Suicide was ranked 4th in the top 10 causes of death in 2007 for individuals age 18 to 65
o   For all age groups suicide is ranked 10th in 2007 out of the top 15 causes of death

 Many individuals battle mental illness every day, yet it is still stigmatized in our society.  I just finished reading The Center Cannot Hold:  My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks.  Elyn is schizophrenic and has dealt with psychotic episodes for over 20 years.  She also has had breast cancers.  After experiencing both cancer and psychosis Saks writes:  “When you have cancer, people send flowers; when you lose your mind, they don’t”

Let’s send our own sort of flowers:  tolerance, education, and advocacy.  Help bring support to all the individuals dealing with mental illness all over the world.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.  We appreciate your continued support and spreading the word about our blog.
Email Becca and I at or follow us on twitter at

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stand Up For One Thing: Unconditional Love

I am sure many of you have heard the story of the courageous mother speaking out on behalf of her 5 yr old son who prefers to dress in sparkly, princess outfits than what many would call 'boy clothes'. Months ago I read this brave mother's testimony via a blog a friend had posted on her Facebook. I watched the mother, Cheryl Kilodavis, on the Today show this morning promote her new book and discuss her son's interest in dressing more feminine. As I watched I thought to myself "isn't it funny how societal views can deeply impact our way of thinking and our classifying what may be 'right' or 'wrong'"?

People are very quick and eager to judge an individual's perspective that they might not understand. I found myself wanting to jump off my bed and raise my coffee to the air and yell "Go get 'em Cheryl, change societal views!" Then I realized (albeit I have several friends that aren't 'conventional' and have fallen in love with someone of the same sex and support them wholeheartedly) I wasn't passionate about this story because this little boy might be gay or might just love girls' clothing and is chastised for it. I was passionate about this story because someone was defending an individual that society doesn't understand.

This past weekend I flew to Chicago to see my dear friend Aly. On my flight I sat next to a young woman that from the minute she sat down was very...well, chatty. Sure, I'll admit that in most instances I like to put my headphones on, open my book and enjoy an hour of uninterrupted "me" time. The woman started with "why are you flying? Well, I'm headed out of town because I need a break. My husband has a mental illness and we have two young kids and I'm just done. I can't do it anymore." That was my cue. I closed my book, put my iPod in my purse and settled in for an opportunity to talk about mental illness; I knew we had been seated to each other for a good reason.  The woman began spouting out frustrations and emotions that were all too familiar. I said, "I understand, my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. I won't lie to you, it's an uphill battle that you just can't stop fighting." Her response? "You understand. No one understands, but you really understand." I had that gut wrenching feeling in my stomach that made me want to burst into tears. I bit my tongue, the only thing I could do to allow this woman to tell her story and keep myself from crying. We shared stories, frustrations with hospitals, medications, laws and family members that just don't get it. I provided her with names of websites, support groups and urged her to keep talking. She was so open, so willing to share her story, even when she didn't think I understood.

My point in sharing this story with you, readers, is that it's easier to stand up for someone when you understand where they may be coming from. Moms all over the nation aren't standing behind Cheryl Kilodavis because their sons also prefer a tiara to a football; they are standing behind Cheryl because of her message: that we must provide unconditional love and not allow societal notions to shape our own perspective and understanding.

Readers, continue conversation! Purchase books! Watch movies! Urge your friends to learn more about mental health issues. There are so many amazing resources today that no one knows about because we're hesitant to talk about mental health. I encourage you to sit down on a plane, strike up a conversation, and make a connection. Allowing someone an open ear is worth so much.

Interested in more articles and research? Check us out on Twitter!
Got an extra ten minutes? Read Cheryl Kilodavis' story as well:

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Laura Burke an artist who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005 will be the keynote speaker at the 2011 Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance National Conference. She shares her spoken word poetry and her journey through mental illness in “Superman a Visual Poem.” Click here to watch the video: