Thank an Advocate Challenge

MHAU thank an advocate challengeI am the founder of Mental Health Advocates United and Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses. Yesterday, I challenged both my group and followers of my page to thank a mental health advocate.  As the day continued, the idea developed into the Thank an Advocate Challenge.

I have taken the challenge on myself and have thanked several advocates including ones I know personally, politicians, musicians, FB page and Twitter page owners that have accounts that deal with mental illnesses.

Please take a few moments to thank at least one other advocate. Make sure you let them know that it is part of the this challenge by simply using the hashtag #thankanadvocatechallenge. In addition, help spread the word about this challenge.

Let’s encourage each other. By doing so, we will be helping and encouraging other advocates, but also those who have a mental illness.

As mental health advocates, it is important that we encourage other advocates to continue fighting the fight.  The discrimination and stigma that come with mental illness is only going to change through education and awareness.  Advocates, working together, can show that there is hope and recovery when you have a mental illness.

Thank an Advocate Challenge hosted by Mental Health Advocates United
1. Contact someone you know who is a mental health advocate and thank them for what they are doing.
2. Use Twitter, email, Facebook, phone, snail mail, etc
3.We need to encourage those who are advocating for us.
4. It would be helpful if you let others know the contact information of who you have contacted in case they want to thank the same person.
5. Share this with your fellow advocates and on your page to spread the word.
6. Use hashtag #thankanadvocatechallenge

If you are looking for some people to thank:

Mental Health Related Facebook Pages

Brandon Marshall NFL Borderline Personality Disorder

Senator Creigh Deeds Politician/ son committed suicide

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness – Mental Health Support, Education and Advocacy

Bring Change 2 Mind

Patrick J. Kennedy Politician Bipolar Disorder

Demi Lovato Singer/ Eating Disorder/Bipolar Disorder

Black Dog Tribe


Psych Central

United States’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Famous People with Mental Illnesses

Keith O’Neil NFL Bipolar

Carrie Fisher actress/bipolar

Congressman Tim Murphy


Mental Health America

Rethink Mental Illness


My Personal Experiences with Suicide TRIGGER

suicide prevention monthToday is World Suicide Prevention Day.  According to WHO, nearly 3,000 people on average commit suicide daily. Suicide rates are at an all time high for veterans. In addition, for every person who commits suicide, 20 or more others attempt to end their lives. About one million people die by suicide each year!

Before I get started, if you are contemplating suicide, there is help out there!  Suicide Hotline   International Hotlines

In honor of this day, I have decided to share my personal experiences. I would guess that most people know at least one person who has attempted suicide or unfortunately lost someone to suicide.

The recent death of Robin Williams has drawn a lot of attention to suicide. Depression is a lonely thing and misunderstood.  We need to raise more awareness about depression, mental illness, and suicide.  We need to talk about it! Therefore, I am doing what I can do to raise awareness and will share not only about two people I know who committed suicide, but also my own personal attempt. (My first experience was when I attempted to kill myself, but will talk about that last.)

My second experience with suicide was when a neighbor/friend was found on the ground near a tall building with marks around his neck.  I remember how devastated I was.  I was shocked to hear of his death and in the way he did it.  He must have felt very lonely.  I had not seen him in awhile, but really didn’t see him as a person who would do such a thing.  It just goes to show we have no idea what people are going through. I wonder now if he had gotten help if it would have changed anything. I did not judge his as I understood that dark, hopeless feeling. You don’t want to hurt your family, but yet the pain is so great that you just don’t see another way out.

My third  experience with suicide was when I learned of a family friend’s death.  He had eaten dinner with his family.  They had a regular conversation and there was no sign of any distress.  His parents had no idea that pain he was in.  He went upstairs into his room and shot himself. I can’t imagine the horror his parents went through when they heard the gun shot and the events that followed. Not to sound graphic, but it is a reality:  I remember hearing about how they had to hire someone to clean up all the blood.  Our family had moved away at that point and weren’t in as much contact as we once had. However, I had fond memories of us all playing together. I remembered his parents as happy people who loved their four kids.  I did see them years later. It was sad to see how much their life had changed. They had to move on, but I know they never got over it. How can you?  They had become alcoholics to deal with the pain and were no longer working due to the depression that overcame their lives.

For the person who kills themselves, it feels like it is the only way out.  Are they being selfish or a coward? Some may think so and I can see their point.  However, I don’t think so.  Oftentimes, they feel like the world would be a better place without them and this is part of the depression.  It is a symptom of the disease that they have just not been able to overcome.  There are a lot of what ifs? and people who loved them left behind. It is really sad that the pain trumped the feeling of wanting to stay alive for the people they loved.

I am not proud of my attempt and have spent 25 years thinking about what I could have possibly put my family through. That is why I have never attempted it again.  At the time, I was not being selfish as I was so deeply depressed my mind was just capable of rationalizing anything. I did not want to hurt my family, but I just did not see any way out  and really believed that they would be better without me.   I know some people think that is cowardly to take your own life. However, as sick as this may sound, it took  a lot of courage to finally decide to end it all.  I still can remember like it was yesterday.

I was sitting at the table and had two bottles of pills laid out in front of me.  I took handfuls at a time and took them with water.  I went into my room and laid down on my bed knowing I would not wake up.  In fact, when I did wake up throwing everything up, I really was disappointed.  The pain was going to continue.  That was how dark things were. Now I think that I was lucky that my life was spared.  I think how much I would have missed if I had succeeded in taking my own life.  However, at the time I was so discouraged and disappointed.

I decided to tell my story to raise awareness, but to show a different side of me that I don’t share very often.  It is a reality that there is a suicide every 40 seconds. We need to talk about it! We need to share with others the devastation that families left behind endure.  It is important to tell the stories of how people who attempted to take their own lives regret it later.  Talking about it can be triggering to others.  However, if we don’t talk about it, the rate will increase.

“Depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy. Depression does not care how wonderful your life is or how may people you’ve touched. Robin Williams seemed to have it all: He was adored by fans, loved by family and friends and had fame and fortune…As a society, we need to hear these collective cries for help, take depression seriously as a public health issue and eradicate the stigma of mental illness. It must be a public health priority.” ~Michael Friedman

suicide prevention day

Sports Used to Describe Bipolar Disorder


Downhill Skiing- You get all the way to the top easily (mania) and then come down (depression) quickly.

Wrestling- It is a constant struggle

Ping pong- rapid unpredictable bouncing

Football- Sometimes with all of your friends and family, you make a touchdown. However, sometimes you fall short.

Basketball-  Dribbling represents small ups and downs that are somewhat normal. However, when the ball is thrown towards the basket it goes straight up (mania) and comes crashing down (mania)

Gymnastics- Scoring a perfect ten is difficult, but can be done. However, most of the time you are working hard to get it.

NASCAR racing- It’s  fast and furious with a lot of crashes along the way and casualties sometimes include by-standers.

Hockey- It can get rough and scoring does not happen very often, but it can be done

Marathon Running- With hard work and persaverence, you can do just about anything

Swimming- You have to dive in to get started

Baseball- With help from your loved ones, you can make it all the way around the bases

Tennis- Back and forth, back and forth (mania and depression)

Pole vaulting- The higher you go, the harder you fall

Archery- It is hard to get it right every time, but when you do hit the bull’s eye, it is a wonderful feeling

Boxing- Even if you are ready for a fight, sometimes you get knocked out anyway

Volleyball- Dig, Set, Spike= Mildly depressed, jolted into mania, crashing into depression

Bowling- Sometimes you do your best and strike out

Canoeing/Kayaking- Even if you capsize, you can get back in the boat and glide a long again

Horseback Riding- If you don’t do everything you can to control the horse (illness), it will take off can go its own way.  However, sometimes even if you try and control the horse, (it gets spooked), you can’t control it

Fishing- You never know for sure what you’re going to get

Cheer leading- You can cheer for others, but you must take care of yourself first

Hiking- It’s simply hard work to up and down the hills

Rock Climbing- It is really hard to get to the top , but with determination you can achieve great things. You might fall a long the way and things might be difficult, but you have to keep trying

Weight Lifting- It might feel like all the weight is on your shoulders, but with the proper training (treatment)  you can lift the weight off

Tug of War- You feel like you are being pulled between mania and depression, but you can win

Camping- You can have a lot of fun (mania), but there is usually a mess to clean up afterwards

Soccer- Even though it takes effort by you and all your team mates (loved ones)  it is possible to get past the goalie and score.

Golf- You don’t always get a hole-in-one, but you shouldn’t let that keep you from still trying


Note: A few of these ideas I got from a group I run called Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses

Picture found at: FreeImages



Why does it take the death of a celebrity to get people to talk about Mental Illness?

megaphoneRobin Williams, a comedian/actor died on August 11th. For the past three days everyone has been talking about him, his mental illness and the sad details of his death.

There has been increase in talk about mental illness (some good, some bad). The amount of talk has increased in leaps and bounds.  It is great that it is a topic of conversation.

However, mental illness was a problem before his death. One  in four people are affected by the disease.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.  How many people knew that before August 11th?  How many people knew that Robin Williams suffered from bipolar disorder? How many people even knew what bipolar disorder was?

I am glad that people are talking about mental illness. However, how long will it last?  If it’s anything like other famous people and their deaths in the past, not too long.

Mental illness needs to be talked about not only when a famous person dies, but all the time.  It does not just need to be discussed among those affected by mental illness, but by everyone!

People need to be made aware that mental illness is something that can be treated, what to look for in others, where they can get help, that there is hope and recovery, and there is no shame in getting help.  Instead, people oftentimes only hear about the horrific things that happen in the news that involve people with mental illnesses. Instead of the media taking those opportunities to educate others about mental illness, they contribute to the stigma oftentimes.

Robin Williams’s death is awful and I am glad that it has brought the talk of mental illness to the forefront. His death deeply saddens me yet I hope that much can be learned by it. My fear is that the talk about mental illness will stop in the near future. The 25% of the population that suffers from mental illness deserves more than that.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Robin’s  family during this difficult time.  I also am thinking about the families of the 30,000 other people who have committed suicide this past year.


Robin Williams a Coward? Apology NOT accepted!

cowardShepard Smith from Fox News: “It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?” he added. “You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

Fox News is pretty much the only news channel I watch. I  have grown to like Shepard Smith among several other people on that channel.  However, this morning, I have been made to reconsider.

What Shepard Smith says shows the ignorance about mental illness that grows rampant in our society.  It is bad enough that there is a stigma and so many people are uneducated about mental illness. It is bad enough that when there are tragedies that the media doesn’t use the opportunity to educate the public about mental illnesses and only likes to demonize the suspect and make people think that all people who have mental illnesses are violent.

Smith went over the top.  I don’t think it is good enough that he apologized.  It makes me sick to think that he is going to get away with it just by saying he is sorry and that “it just came out of his mouth”.  Would it be ok if he said that to someone who died of a heart attack was awful to do that to his/her family because they didn’t diet?  Would it be ok that it was awful that someone left their kids behind because they didn’t do the right treatment and died of cancer?  Would it be ok if he was insensitive and said that someone died of lung disease because they chose to smoke and that he could not believe they would do that to their family?  I don’t think so!

People with mental illnesses don’t choose to have the mental illness just like someone does not choose to have cancer or heart disease.  Maybe it is time that Shephard Smith along with the majority of other media takes a course in compassion and educates themselves on how mental illness affects 1 in 4 people. Depression is not a choice or a sign of weakness and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24. 3

Maybe if they started using opportunities like this to educate the public about how cowardice it is to commit suicide, it would be better to broadcast the suicide hotline, quote stats about mental illness, and educate everyone about the various mental illnesses. They should also read the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

I don’t think that Smith should get away with this. He obviously felt that Robin Williams was a coward or he would not have said it.

Things Shephard could have used the air time for instead of what he said:

There are so many things he could have used the air time for and yet he chose to let everyone know that he thought suicide was cowardly and that people with mental illnesses should be ashamed of themselves. It makes me sick! I am usually a forgiving person, but it will be a very long time before I can listen to Smith again if ever.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please seek help.



International Suicide Hotline 




Suicide, Bipolar Disorder, and Robin Williams

robin williamsRobin Williams, a wonderful actor, had bipolar disorder. This mental illness does not discriminate.  I, a long with many, are saddened by his death.  I feel for his family and the many people who loved this outstanding man.

Bipolar disorder is a horrible disease that is often not discussed due to the stigma attached to mental illness. It needs to be talked about and hopefully over the next few weeks, people will learn more about this illness.

Many talented people over time have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Please see my  Pinterest site for 250 of them or see Famous People with Bipolar Disorder.

“Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on the “Fresh Air” NPR radio show in 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.” 9

Mania is defined by Merriam-Webster as excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood. 2  However, if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, you know that this does not begin to explain mania.

While manic, these are some of the qualities a person displays:

  • They have  a lot of energy usually resulting in little to no sleep.
  • They often have poor judgement. For example, they may spend money they don’t have.
  • They think they can do just about everything (thoughts of grandeur, very high self-esteem) For example, they might think they are Jesus or can run for president.
  • They talk a lot and rapidly. My mom calls this “verbally overproductive”
  • They oftentimes become very religious. (They become obsessed in an unhealthy way.)
  • Racing thoughts: This makes it very hard to concentrate or finish simple tasks.
  • Easily get agitated or irritated
  • They get involved in a lot of activities. This poses a problem later if they get depressed because they are unable to follow thru.
  • Promiscuity
  • They often binge eat, drink, or do drugs. (Many times people are not diagnosed because they self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. 4

Depression is defined by Merriam-Webster as a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. 3

While depressed:

  • Hard to concentrate
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Isolation is common
  • Don’t enjoy things they used to enjoy
  • Lack of energy
  • Change in sleep (usually sleep more)
  • Change in eating habits
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hard to make decisions
  • Sadness often not caused by anything in particular 5

Having bipolar disorder increases suicide risk by 15X more than that of the general  population. 1

Some facts on Suicide:

  • In the United States,  someone dies by suicide about every 14 minutes. 6
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. 6
  • Every day, approximately 99 Americans take their own life.Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • Over 60% of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death. 6
  • Every year, more than 800 000 people worldwide die from suicide (a death every 40 seconds) 10

Although Robin Williams’s death is a tragedy, I hope something good can come from it. I hope more people learn about bipolar disorder and depression and mental illness is less stigmatized so that the rate of suicide goes down because people seek help.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please get help.

The Suicide Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide Hotlines world-wide Hotlines

Suicide Warning signs: 9

Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.





Is it a Mental Illness or a Mental Disorder?

bb wpA few months ago, someone told me that autism was not a mental illness and that when people call it that, they are wrong. Today someone challenged me again that autism is not a  mental illness, but a mental disorder.

Is having a mental illness such a bad thing? I have bipolar disorder and it definitely is not something I would wish on anyone.  However, I believe that mental illness is considered such an awful thing because of the stigma and because people are just not educated about it.

I have a problem with the two people who were so adamant about  autism not being a mental illness.  I knew it was in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but I did some more digging. I thought that maybe mental disorder was not the same as mental illness. Well, I found out from several sources, that it is.

Merriam-Webster defines mental disorder as “a mental or bodily condition marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, and emotions to seriously impair the normal psychological functioning of the individual—called also mental illness”

Wikipedia defines mental illness as “A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a mental  or behavioral  pattern or anomaly that causes either suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life (disability), and which is not developmentally or socially normative.”

American Heritage defines mental illness as “Any of various disorders characterized chiefly by abnormal behavior or an inability to function socially, including diseases of the mind and personality and certain diseases of the brain. Also called mental disease , mental disorder .”

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) lists mental illnesses  “Find out more about a specific MENTAL ILLNESS: Anxity Disorders, AUTISM Spectrum Disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness, Eating Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome”

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation‘s list: 1-in-4 of Us Live With a MENTAL ILLNESS: ADHD | Anxiety | AUTISM| Bipolar Disorder | Depression | OCD | PTSD | Schizophrenia | Other Illnesses

Psych Central has autism listed under “Symptoms and Treatments of Mental Disorders.” I have already determined that the term mental disorder is synonymous with mental illness.

National Institute of Health: There are many different MENTAL ILLNESSES, including depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,  AUTISM, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each illness alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors in distinct ways.

The Social Security Administration lists  mental disorders: Organic mental disorders; schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders, affective disorder, intellectual disability,  anxiety-related disorders,  somatoform disorders, personality disorders, substance addiction disorders, and AUTISTIC DISORDER and other pervasive developmental disorders

Friends of Mental Health/Advocacy: There are many different MENTAL ILLNESSES, including depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each illness alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors in distinct ways.

Internet Mental Health lists Autism as a Mental Health Disorder

Top 10 Mental Illnesses And Their Myths lists Autism as a mental illness

List of Mental Disorders and Conditions lists Autism

DSM-5 List of Mental Disorders under heading mental disorder ( neurodevelopmental disorders)

Teen Mental Health lists under mental disorder (developmental disorders section)

Mental- of or relating to the mind Source

Disorder- to disturb the regular or normal functions of Source

Illness- an unhealthy condition of body or mind  Source

Developmental- of or relating to the growth or development of someone or something Source

Mental illness, mental disorder, developmental disorder.  As a parent, what term would you rather have your child called?  Think about it- How much of your answer is determined by stigma and society?

“It is easy to see why families whose members are afflicted by autism might hope to recategorize the condition.”  However, embracing the mental illness label would be more humane.  Insisting that it is not a mental illness is insisting that that is shameful.” Psychology Today

To put it more harshly, If someone does not think or want autism to be called a “mental illness”, I suggest they call Wikipedia, Merriam Webster, the authors of the DSM 5, NAMI, Psych Central, The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, and NAMI to argue their point. Maybe instead, they could help erase the reason why they feel it should be called a mental illness or mental disorder.

It is not that autism is or isn’t a mental illness or mental disorder that bothers me. What bothers me is that people think it is so awful that their loved one is labeled as having a mental disorder or mental illness.

Note: There were a few places I did not see autism listed as a mental disorder or mental illness.  Some say that it is a developmental disorder. However, I found autism listed as a mental disorder of mental illness in the majority of the places I looked. 

If you want to describe your child as having a developmental disorder:

Developmental disorders is a group of PSYCHIATRIC conditions originating in childhood that involve serious impairment in different areas. There are several ways of using this term.[1] The most narrow concept is used in the category “Specific Disorders of Psychological Development” in the ICD-10 These disorders comprise language disorders, learning disorders, motor disorders, and AUTISM spectrum disorders. In broader definitions ADHD is included, and the term used is neurodevelopmental disorders.  Yet others include antisocial behavior and SCHIZOPHRENIA that begins in childhood and continues through life. However, these two latter conditions are not as stable as the other developmental disorders, and there is not the same evidence of a shared genetic liability Source