Picture yourself and 4 of your favorite people. They could be your closest family members, friends, colleagues, or peers. Now imagine in any given year, one of you will be faced with a diagnosable mental disorder. What is this, what do you do, and to whom do you look to for help? Turns out mental illness more prevalent than most are aware of, and it’s easily hidden or written off out of fear of the repercussions.

Fact is that 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness, and 1 in 25 (10 million) live with serious mental illness which adds up in a given year to 43.8 million having some kind of brush with mental illness. It’s high time to face the beast head-on, but it’s a massive task at hand as it continues spreading it’s deeply rooted effects silently throughout peoples lives, personally, professionally, financially, etc.

This is my first post on my project and I don’t want to throw a bunch of statistics at you. I don’t even want to tell you about my project yet, I’d rather just start out by letting you know you’re not alone. You’ll discover that as you read on. That said, in this context numbers seem to be the only thing that open peoples eyes because it’s an invisible illness. I only wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard lines like “But you don’t look sick”, “What do YOU have to be depressed about”, or “Just get over it”. Ignorance to and invisibility of mental illness is propagating what is a burgeoning, but still very proscribed topic in this country. Stigma is rampant and it’s killing people.

Cue more statistics: 90% of suicide victims suffered from mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Nearly 60% of American adults with mental illness go untreated each year. Approximately 1/3rd of the countries homeless population has serious untreated mental illness, approximately 26% of homeless adults living in shelters live with serious mental illness, it’s the third largest cause of homelessness, and 24% of state prisoners have a recent history of a mental health condition. (Nami.org)

A quick breakdown of how specific mental illnesses translate into numbers for Americans: 1.1% (2.4 million) of adults live with schizophrenia, 2.6% (6.1 million) of adults live with bipolar disorder, 6.9% (16 million) of adults live with major depression, and 18.1% (42 million: that’s California, New York, and Illinois combined, folks) of adults live with anxiety disorders.  (Nami.org)

We know the health care system is broken. The mental health care system is an even bigger offender lacking critical linkage of resources, provisional tools, and comprehensive case management. We are needlessly jamming up the ER and jail systems, costing taxpayers millions, robbing the workforce of approximately $193 billion in lost earnings annually, and literally littering the streets with human beings because people can’t, are afraid to, or simply don’t know how to get help. It’s an epidemic to say the least.

So you might be here looking for resources for yourself or a loved one. After reading all the above, I’m here to welcome you to what is literally the other side of life. A life sadly often half-lived. One that is all too unexplored, under served, and misunderstood. Like any other illness it’s the side of life from which we have no choice but to fight the good fight.

I’m also here to tell you there’s hope. Getting back to the other side; a life fully lived, often relies on “where there’s a will there’s a way”. It may not be the chosen way of those afflicted, but it has to at least be by their will as no one can make someone acquire and sustain care. Forcing someone who can hardly get by day to day to advocate for their own care in a broken system is cruel. The least I can do is help make the acquisition, navigation, and sustainability of treatment a reality.

I had a professor once who said “Throw the biggest possible brick through the biggest possible window.” I’m here to make the biggest impact on mental illness I possibly can, one magical city full of resources at a time.

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