As an extremely private person and one who doesn't like everyone knowing my business, I'm an unlikely mental health advocate, but I'm a mental health advocate just the same. Sixteen years ago I mentored a 13 year-old girl through a mentoring program at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California where I worked at the time. I wouldn't find out until year's later, that Nicole's mother suffered from bipolar disorder and that is the reason I was asked to mentor Nicole. It was love at first sight for the both of us and I mentored Nicole for several years. The last time I saw Kim, Nicole's mother was at Nicole's wedding seven years ago. I'm so glad I was able to attend Nicole's wedding since I was going through my own mental health recovery at that time. Lucky for me, Nicole and her husband John got married at the same chapel in Las Vegas that Kim and her husband had gotten married in years before. Because I happened to be living in Las Vegas at that time, I was able to attend the wedding.
Doing the NAMI walk opened my eyes. While I knew the statistics before the walk: that 1 in 4 people in this country will experience a mental health crisis, the walk gave me a greater sense of purpose. I felt like I was connected to the community and took my role more seriously. Stigma is a serious problem and we as a society need to eliminate it. Since society is every single one of us, then we not only need to step up but we need to be there for our mentally ill brother and sisters and help them, even when they are unable to help themselves.
Please keep this in mind: when a mentally ill person is acting out, they aren't doing it on purpose. They are at the mercy of their brain chemistry and can't help how they behave. As someone who is close to a mentally ill person, please do your best to leave your ego and judgment at the door and know that the person needs your love and support. Be kind. That's what they need the most.