Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Will End The Mental Illness Stigma

In light of recent events surrounding the tragic death of Sandra Bland, the focus on mental illness is stronger than ever. Despite the various types of mental health services many still don’t know where to turn for help leaving them to battle it alone. There are over 50 different mental illnesses and over an estimated 61 million people from at least one of these illnesses daily. Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was established in 1990 by the U.S. Congress in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and increase awareness about mental illness. It takes place every year during the first full week of October. During this week, mental health advocates and organizations across the U.S. join together to sponsor a variety of events to promote community outreach and public education concerning mental illnesses such as major depressive order, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Different events during the week include art/music events, educational sessions provided by healthcare professionals, advertising campaigns, health fairs, movie nights, candlelight vigils, and benefit runs. I had the wonderful opportunity during Houston Pride celebration to meet and briefly chat with C Patrick McIlvain the founder and director of The Walk For Mental Awareness Houston. So of course when he so graciously obliged for a brief interview I jumped on it quick fast and in a hurry. Check out his interview below. 

#1: So tell me how the walk even came about?  
The Walk for Mental Health Awareness - Houston aka The Walk Houston came out of The Walk to Washington D.C. for Depression Awareness - October 7, 2010. We are a fundraising venue for Houston area non-profits that offer mental health services/support to their clients. It is the walkers who do the actual fundraising by asking their friends, family members, and network of associates to sponsor them to take part in the walk. Through our first four walks we have raised & returned to our "Walk With A Purpose" Teams $72,000.00. We do retain 10% for process/handling fees. And if you have a "friendly" dog - we are a all welcoming Dog friendly walk if on a leash & you pick-up after. We even have the "Pup Tent" just for doggies. Somehow I was guided to the website for this walk from St. Louis to Washington D.C. 
When I read some of the personal stories that folks posted - it felt like I had just discovered a large lost section of my family. I know then that I had to be a part of this walk somehow someway. I know that I could not be gone from Houston & my volunteer commitments for the entire duration of the 80 day walk but I could be part of the last four day. So I was able to get some of my very good friends to sponsor me (it was required if 1 wanted to be a part of the last 4 day needed to raise $1,500.00) that I did. When I got to Washington D.C., Steven Curran - the walk originator - asked me if I would be interested in starting a chapter in Houston of The Walk for Depression Awareness......after thinking about it for a couple of nanoseconds I said "YES". Just after the walk to Washington the Board of The Walk for Depression Awareness - St. Louis meet and wanted to be all inclusive of mental health/illness so the name was changed to The Walk for Mental Health Awareness.  The first walk in Houston was held Saturday, October 15, 2011. So our #PositivePublicDialog began as we walk and talk to #EndTheStigma and to #EndTheIndifference to talking about mental illness out in the bright sunlight of day, just where the conservation belongs. It is time that we started #TakingOurDignityBack. 

2: I love how there are 3 days of events can you let people know what they can expect attending each event?  
"3 Day, 1 City A Life Changing Weekend" is how we ID ourselves. It should be noted that we take place during World Mental Health Week, the first full week of October. And most years 1 of our 3 days falls on 10-10th. which is World Mental Health Day. Our first event (our kick-off even) is held on Thursday of WMHW and that is the start of our Positive Public Dialog by illuminating our City Hall lime green (the cause color for mental illness) for 3 nights.This event is free & open to the public. Just join us at City Hall - on the Reflection Pool side. at sunset. Our second event is our Pass It Forward / Positive Public Dialog Luncheon, it is held on Friday of WMHW. This year our guest speaker is Elizabeth McIngvale, PhD., LMSW founder of Peace of Mind Foundation - bring a positive pubic dialog to folks who are challenged with OCD. There is a $30.00 fee to attend the luncheon and tickets can be purchased by going to our website: Our third event is the main event our 5k fun walk with post Mental Health Expo. This year it is on Saturday, October 10, 2015 and held in Stude Park (sometimes called Studewood Park)1031 Stude Street @ Studemont and starts at 8AM. There is a $25.00 registration fee for folks age 12 and up - until day of registration when the fee goes up to $30.00. One can register by going to our website - 

#3: Why is mental health so important?  
Because of these top reasons: 
  1. 1 and 4 adults - approximately 61.5 million American's experiences mental illness in a given year   
  1. About 2.4 million American's live with schizophrenia  
  1. Approximately 6.1 million with bipolar disorder  
  1. 14.8 million with major depression 
  1.  42 million Americans live with social anxiety disorder 
  1. Serious mental illness cost America $193.2 BILLION in lost earnings per year 
  1. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of deaths in the United Stated & expected to become #1 by 2025 
  1. 90% of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders 
  1. Although military comprises less than 1% of our population, veterans represent 20% of suicides nationally, about 22 Veterans die each day from suicide. 

4: What advice for those who want to help in being part of our Positive Public Dialog on talking about mental illness but not sure just where to start? 
Start by educating yourself as much as you can about the true facts about living with a mental illness. It is time to stop the 5000 year old social stigma that is still so yoked to us. Look to groups like National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), Mental Health America, Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) - they all have Houston chapters. Join them - support them so their positive public message can be shared far and wide also join The Walk for Mental Health Awareness - Houston. 

This interview was not only delightful but educating. I agree that the stigma of mental illness must be broken. We as a community must stop just sweeping it under the rug or trying to come up with the easiest solution. As a person who suffers from at least 2 of the 50 something mental illness I can say nothing about it is easy. Nothing about the day to day life is ever an easy path. Some days are good but dealing with anxiety and depression such as I do you see more bad days than good. Although currently on a pretty good medicine regiment and I do go to therapy twice a month, that is still a progress versus my history of my battle. It took me so long to have the courage to go and reach out for help because I lived under the stigma of religion (pray it away) or the lack of education within my particular community (African-American) which is rarely discussed. Hence why although personal opinion something still seems strange within the Sandra Bland case, I can share within her mental battle, not exactly but similar. Which is why I am now forming my team for The Walk For Mental Awareness Houston and I am willing ready and able to do my part to end this stigma. Not just for me, not just for Sandra Bland, but those women who don’t get media coverage or young teenage girl that doesn’t know how to handle the pressure and trials that come with being a teenager in America today. For that veteran who can't forget what he saw and experience while going to battle for his or her country. For the first time mom who feels she is parenting all wrong and has little to no help around. For them I will #EndTheStigma don’t forget to visit

Peace And Blessings

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