LIVING WELL by Francisco Stork

Hard as I try not, I still tend to identify wellness with productivity. Was I able to do the tasks I set out to do today? Was I able to write? Was I useful in some small way to someone today? As long as I have the sense that I owe life something good that comes out of my hands, no matter how small, I hold myself out to be well regardless of how I may feel on that particular day. The hard thing is that some days it is important to be happy with small results.

But I am trying not to equate “wellness” with doing. I would rather know that I am well if I can feel inside of me a sense of gratitude for all that is given to me, for shelter and food and family, for leisure and for the beauty of the day. This kind of wellness is more of a deep faith that life is worth living. What I am discovering is that this kind of faith is both a gift and something you have to seek with your whole being. It is a seed that grows with our attention. So the most important thing I do to be well is that – I attend to this faith and seek to make it stronger. Each morning when I wake up I read from a holy text of one of the world’s religions and I write in a journal any thoughts or feelings evoked by that reading. That is how I water the seed of faith in me and that is what keeps me well.

Francisco Stork is a lawyer and author of six novels including a young adult novel The Memory of Light, inspired in part by his own experience with depression.

To hear Francisco’s message of HOPE in English, please watch the video below:

To hear Francisco’s message of HOPE in Spanish, please watch the video below:

Shadows in the Sun: Healing From Depression and Finding the Light Within

“Mental illness recognizes no borders, yet few books have explored the difficulties of individuals dealing with cultural differences and none has done it better than SHADOWS IN THE SUN. Beautifully written, Gayathri Ramprasad chronicles the devastating impact that depression reeks on an entire family and then brings us into the light with her inspiring story of recovery. This book is a true gift to all those struggling with a mental disorder and those of us who love them. In writing it, Gayathri Ramprasad establishes herself as an international voice of hope.”

– Pete Earley,  author of CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness

The book is available at most major bookstores and Amazon.

Soliana’s Message of Hope: You Can Recover

Let’s Talk

I still remember sitting with my mother in a psychiatrist’s office in Bangalore, India. After seven years of suffering through undiagnosed panic attacks and depression, I had finally tried to kill myself. And, my family physician had referred me to a psychiatrist.

“I pray that no one we know sees us here Gayu” my mother had whispered into my ears, her voice filled with fear.

Within minutes of talking with me, the psychiatrist had a diagnosis – I had been struggling with major depression. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding the diagnosis became a noose around my neck, sentencing my family and I into a life of shame and secrecy. For years, we did not talk about my struggles with family or friends. And, despite access to mental health services, I cycled in and out of depression, suicide attempts and hospitalizations. Eventually, confined in the seclusion room of a psychiatric ward in America, stripped of freedom, dignity, hope and humanity, I finally decided to break the silence and talk about my struggles with mental illness. I began talking with family, friends and even strangers. Looking back, talking about my mental illness was the first step in freeing myself from the stranglehold of stigma and shame. Talking about my mental illness also gave me the courage to embrace my humanity and ask for the treatment and support I needed to recover and thrive.

Depression affects 350 million people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in all countries around the world. It impacts people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, and can have a devastating impact on their ability to earn a living, and their relationships with family and friends. When left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.

Talking about depression and other mental health conditions is the first step in destigmatizing mental illness and encouraging people to get the lifesaving treatment and support they need. Please join ASHA International in supporting the World Health Organization’s campaign  Let’s Talk to promote awareness about depression and encourage people struggling with depression around the world to get the help they need. To learn how you can make a difference, please click here…

Let’s Talk about mental health at home, at work and in the community. Together, we can create a world of understanding, compassion and inclusion where every man, woman and child struggling with a mental health condition will find the love and support they need to create a healthy, meaningful, productive life.

You Can Recover – Jennifer’s Message of Hope

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Marshall, Co-Founder of This is My Brave an amazing community of advocates dedicated to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing our true personal stories through poetry, essay, and song.

Jenn was diagnosed with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder in 2006 at the age of 26. She’s had four hospitalizations within five years – two before any diagnosis was reached, and two more because she was trying to protect her newborn son (postpartum psychosis) and her unborn daughter – and all were because she was unmedicated at the time. Writing her way through life with a mental illness became her way of healing, and her award-winning blog BipolarMomLife has become an inspiration to many.

Jenn created This Is My Brave because she learned first hand how powerful and therapeutic it was to live openly and not hide her diagnosis. She wanted to give brave individuals from the community a platform through which to creatively share their stories of living with mental illness to educate and inspire others. She lives outside Washington, DC with her husband and two children. Jenn is the living proof that people with mental illness can recover and rebuild healthy, meaningful, productive lives. Her work was recently featured in the Oprah Magazine. Jenn wants people struggling with mental health issues around the world to know that they are not alone. There is hope and help. And, regardless of their struggles, they can recover.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Bekha MilesOn August 23, 2015, Bekah Miles sat in her chair, staring. Could she do it? Would she do it? No. Yes. She was so tired of hiding, tired of pretending, tired of her illness. But since that wasn’t going to change anytime soon, maybe it was time to change her approach. To take her life back, if she could. After ten minutes of debating, she did what millions do every minute – she clicked the “post” button. Then she walked away from Facebook, torn between chewing her fingernails down to stubs and shrugging her shoulders and insisting it was no big deal. Bekah’s Facebook post was only intended for family and friends, but within days it had reached millions, starting a national and international conversation about depression.

Mental health issues are a leading impediment to the health and wellbeing of high school and college students. Left untreated, mental illness – including anxiety, depression and eating disorders, can lead to school failure, family conflicts, substance abuse, violence, juvenile & criminal justice involvement, and even suicide. Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Treatment is effective. Yet, because of the shame and stigma surrounding these issues, mental health is not discussed and too many students are suffering in silence. Bekah wants to change that – She wants to share her story to dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness, and encourage fellow students to seek the help and support they need to recover and thrive.

I am delighted to share that Bekah recently joined ASHA International’s Speakers Bureau, and will be sharing her story with  students at Century High School on March 17, 2016, and with students at her alma mater Canby High School on April 1, 2016.

Rebekah (Bekah) Miles is currently a student at George Fox University. She is working on a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Women’s Studies, and is looking forward to graduating in the fall of 2016.

Key Topics:  Depression, Advocacy, Stigma Reduction, Navigating the Health System, Advocating for Change.

If you’d like to book Bekah to speak at your high school or college, please contact Gayathri Ramprasad at gayathri@myasha.org or 971 340 7190.