It's #WhatsOnOurMindsWednesday and this being the first Wednesday of May we wanted to highlight the fact that this is Mental Health Awareness Month. Since relaunching and rebranding It's Just Stuff in 2020 I have been on a mission to advocate as much as I can on behalf of those struggling with mental illness but the reality is I have always been an advocate for mental health awareness.
I've shared the unfortunate story before about dealing with my former husband's adult son who has schizoaffective disorder and threatened to kill me during the months prior to the decision to get divorced in 2015 so I promise you when I say I really do understand mental illness and am extremely empathetic to those who are trying to get through life as best as they can while navigating through an extremely broken system.
In other words, I am 1,000,000% stigma-free and fully support the efforts of all of the organizations and resources listed at the end of this blog to try to help those who I promise never wanted to be mentally ill. So it really is with great pride that I make sure to let my voice be heard not just during this month of awareness but throughout the year and hope you will take a few moments to consider how you can help improve or, at the very least, be more supportive of those needing our compassion. Until any of us walk a day in the shoes of a mentally ill human we will never understand the day-to-day challenges they face.
In the past 12 months since the last Mental Health Awareness month I would say that close to 70% of our clients were and will no doubt continue to suffer from some form of anxiety, depression, paranoia or manic behavior because we as a society don't do enough to help them...and, yes, that does include being more tolerant and accepting of them as people who deserve our respect.
Here are just a few examples of some of what my team and I have encountered...
We've been trying to help a woman who lost custody of her son last June to her abusive ex-husband because the State decided he was better off with the father than with his mother who suffered from depression due to being in the abusive relationship for so many years and let her house get, dare I say, out of control with way too much stuff. I am absolutely convinced if Child Protective Services would have "answered the call" last summer and authorized us to help at that time the woman would have regained custody by fall and she would have absolutely been able to maintain whatever systems we would have put in place for her. She just needed a clean slate. Now, 11 months later we are still waiting for approval. Could we do the work pro bono? Yes and, in fact, we did spend one day volunteering and cleaning up her backyard to avoid a very expensive citation from the county. Could we go back and do everything for free? Yes and probably will but unfortunately, the damage may be done as far as her relationship with her son is concerned. He's been brainwashed by his father to believe his mother is worthless...yes, worthless! As a mother, my heart truly aches for this woman because the system definitely failed her.
A senior client was forced to move from assisted to independent living because her family abandoned her and she was going to run out of money sooner rather than later. She suffers from severe OCD and it definitely contributed to a much more chaotic move. But, again, she didn't wake up one morning and say, "I want to be a total pain in everyone's ass because I am obsessed with cleanliness." The independent living facility never should have accepted her application and she should have been referred her to the local Agency on Aging or Adult Protective Services for support. It took nearly 3 months to get her settled in but should have taken at most 3 days. As a daughter, my heart aches for this woman because I never would have abandoned my mother in her time of need.
I wish I could snap my fingers and make everyone's mental illness disappear but it is so complicated. And the saddest part for me is having to turn a client away if I sense any potential issues working with them. Even as I am writing this I am waiting for a call from a mental health case manager for someone that reached out a few weeks ago needing very basic help with decluttering and organizing. It's a relatively simple job, one that a team member could do in a few hours but I am not sending anyone there unless I am convinced it is safe. If there is one thing I know from my personal experience, it's the warning signs of someone in a psychotic state and in this case, the rambling messages filled with paranoid thoughts is definitely not a good sign.
But if we don't help any of the people mentioned above who will???
Sadly, probably no one which means they will continue to spiral deeper into the abyss that they find themselves in and will never achieve any degree of self-worth. That's really what this is all about. Without self-worth, how can you feel like your life has a purpose or meaning? None of us should be able to determine someone else's purpose or worth and yet that is exactly what the mental illness stigma perpetuates.
Please, please, please...STOP THE INSANITY!!!
And more importantly, find ways to raise the hopes of those struggling with mental illness rather than beat them down and make them feel worthless.
By the way...I don't care what side of the political aisle you prefer but President Biden released a statement last week about Mental Health Awareness Month and outlined the steps his administration is trying to take including a new national strategy that is intended to support and train more providers, improve access to those providers and fight the stigma in general.
Check out any of the resources below to learn what you can do to help and/or support this extremely important cause. And if you happen to live along the Colorado Front Range and you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness and needs our services, I promise, we are here for each and every one of you with open hearts, minds, eyes, ears, and hands in the hopes we can do what we do best...be the conduits for change from chaos to calm. ✌
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Month or to find local resources to help you or someone you know deal with mental illness, here are some good places to start online...
Be well and, always, be kind,
Chief of Chaos To Calm
P.S. In case you are wondering how I maintain my sanity...hey, it ain't easy these days...I am a huge believer in yoga for calming my brain down and was very fortunate to get to attend a Daybreaker event at Red Rocks a few weeks ago where there was an awesome breath work session followed by some yoga, lots of dancing...ON...THE...STAGE...which was soooooooooooo cool and a mini concert by Mike Posner surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the iconic amphetheatre in Morrison CO.
It was a truly amazing experience and while I don't know when the event organizers will be doing another one there, I highly recommend checking out the Yoga On The Rocks series all summer long...if you are fortunate enough to live or visit this magnificent place I get to call home.
If I ever say I am leaving CO I would seriously question my sanity at that point!
Such a magical place. ✌️