How to support a loved one struggling with mental health issues

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When I fist started struggling with anxiety, panic attacks and depression at eighteen, my family and I had no understanding about mental health issues. Unfortunately, neither did the doctors, many of whom told my parents that I was just being a “drama queen,” a “typical teenager.” “Tough love” was prescribed and doled out each day, which only alienated me from my parents and turned them into strangers I feared. Eventually, I began feeling like a pariah in my own home, and began to crumble without their love, understanding and support. Over the years, our home which was once a fortress of love, became a prison from which I couldn’t escape.

It wasn’t until I had survived through seven years of hell and tried to kill myself, that my parents finally took me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression for the first time, and began to treat me. It took two more years of failed suicide attempts and hospitalizations before my family and I finally began to educate ourselves about mental health issues. A caring intern at the hospital told my family that it wasn’t enough for me to educate myself about depression, it was critical that they educat themselves about mental health issues, if they wanted to support me in my road to recovery and wellness. Fortunately, my parents did, and have since grown into the greatest support system in my life. Over the years, they have also reached out to others struggling in the community.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders.

I sincerely believe that families and caregivers can be the greatest support system to a loved one struggling with mental health issues. But, they often don’t know how to help. They are often confused and overwhelmed in encouraging a loved one to seek the treatment and support they need. Please see the infographic below developed by NAMI and HealthCentral for some ideas on how to support a loved one struggling with mental health issues. Please share this blog post with your friends and family. You never know whose life you can change, perhaps even save.

How to help a loved one

You Can Recover: Khatera’s Message of Hope

As a little girl, Khatera moved with her family from Afghanistan to the U.S. Growing up, she felt like an outsider and was overwhelmed with the responsibility of interpreting and advocating for the survival of her family. Over the years, she struggled with ADHD, anxiety and depression. Today, Khatera is a mother and mental health activist. She wants to let people struggling with mental health issues around the world know that “no matter what your struggles are, YOU CAN RECOVER.”

SEE MORE RECOVERY VIDEOS

DO YOU HAVE A RECOVERY STORY?

Stories have the power to inform, inspire and transform lives. If you have a recovery story, please  submit your story today. Your story will educate people about mental health issues, eliminate stigma, and give HOPE to people struggling with mental health issues, and let them know recovery is possible.

The post You Can Recover: Khatera’s Message of Hope appeared first on Shadows in the Sun by Gayathri Ramprasad.

You Can Recover: Khatera’s Story

As a little girl, Khatera moved with her family from Afghanistan to the U.S. Growing up, she felt like an outsider and was overwhelmed with the responsibility of interpreting and advocating for the survival of her family. Over the years, she struggled with ADHD, anxiety and depression. Today, Khatera is a mother and mental health activist. She wants to let people struggling with mental health issues around the world know that “no matter what your struggles are, YOU CAN RECOVER.”

SEE MORE RECOVERY VIDEOS

DO YOU HAVE A RECOVERY STORY?

Stories have the power to inform, inspire and transform lives. If you have a recovery story, please  submit your story today. Your story will educate people about mental health issues, eliminate stigma, and give HOPE to people struggling with mental health issues, and let them know recovery is possible.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Suicide: Experts Share Tips for Parents

How-to-Talk-to-Your-Kids-About-SuicideA year ago, a dear friend lost her brother to suicide. Overwhelmed with grief, she didn’t know how to talk to her 9-year-old son about his uncle’s death. As a mother and mental health advocate I understand how difficult it is for parents to talk about suicide with their children. But it is critical we do. Given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages 15-24, and the third leading cause of death among children ages 10-14 year old, it is time we take the time to talk to our children about suicide. And, here is a valuable article to help us…

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Shadows in the Sun listed on Buzz Feed’s List of Books

 

Thrilled to share that my memoir, Shadows in the Sun was listed as number 2 among 31 Books That Will Help You Better Understand Mental Illness And Disorders on the Buzz Feed website.

It is an honor to be included with many of my favorite authors. I sincerely pray that my story will bring hope and healing to people struggling with depression.
 
 
 
  

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The You Can Recover Project

Aida and Gayu

I was born and raised in India amidst ancient traditions and a large loving extended family of twenty –three – grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. My happy childhoo, however, gave way to a traumatic adolescence. By the time I was 18, I was debilitated by generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks. At 23, as a young mother in America, I struggled to free myself from the death-hold of depression. Over the years, my life became a blur of doctor visits, medications, hospitalizations, ECTs, and failed suicide attempts. Like millions of people struggling with mental illness around the world, I eventually gave up hope for recovery. I felt alone, afraid and ashamed.

But, in April 1989, a stranger came to visit me in the most unlikely of places, a psychiatric ward, and gave me the gift of HOPE that changed my life forever. Her name was Aida. In the short time we spent together, Aida held me in her arms and shared her struggles with depression, and her relentless pursuit of recovery. Although Aida’s visit was short, she gave me the gift of HOPE that has sustained me for a lifetime.

On October 10th, in celebration of World Mental health, my nonprofit organization, ASHA International, launched the You Can Recover Project. 

YCRP logo - JPEGThe You Can Recover Project’s mission is to give HOPE to people struggling with mental health issues around the world, and inspire them with personal insights on how to recover and rebuild a healthy, meaningful, productive life.

I sincerely hope that the stories shared in the You Can Recover Project will give HOPE to people struggling with mental health issues around the world, and let them know they can recover, just as Aida’s story inspired me to recover and rebuild a healthy, meaningful, productive life.

To learn more about the You Can Recover Project and share your recovery story, please click here…

The stories featured in the project is evidence to the fact that while mental illness has no barriers, hope and healing have no boundaries.

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Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference

I am delighted to share that I am featured in a powerful, must-read book for advocates around the world, no matter our cause. Read it and share it with the advocates in your life. Thank you!

If you are tLiving Proof Book Coverelling your story:

  • To change minds
  • To raise Awareness
  • To touch hearts
  • To influence policy
  • To save lives
  • To make a difference

Living Proof is your guide.

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The healing power of art

Art helps us expreslittle girl with braceletss our deepest selves even when words fail us.

Years ago, I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. The only thing that kept me alive was the daily visit by my daughter and husband. While I desperately wanted to see my daughter, I was deeply troubled that she would be traumatized by her visits to the psychiatric ward. And, so each day, I created a little gift for her – a necklace, a bracelet with beads, stained-glass Christmas ornaments, or a teddy bear made of yarn. My daughter is now a young woman and it warms my heart that she cherishes these gifts I made for her and remembers her visits to the hospital with fondness not fear.

I offer my deepest gratitude to the occupational therapist in the hospital who taught me that even amidst pain, I could create objects that brought joy to another person.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jeffrey Sparr, Co-Founder of Peace Love Studios and was inspired to learn how he uses painting to combat anxiety. Jeff is a man on an audacious mission – a mission to make mental illness cool. Not cool to have, but cool to support.

Art heals. Art makes us whole. So, go ahead and tap into your creativity and enjoy the healing power of art.

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Let us talk about mental health

 

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On a beautiful sun-kissed evening in June, my dear friend Michele gathered a group of friends in her beautiful garden for an evening of friendship and conversation – about mental health. As the hummingbirds fluttered from bloom to bloom, we savored blueberry scones, topped with fresh raspberries and cream, grateful to be alive and in each other’s company. One of the women’s friend had lost her nephew to suicide a couple of days earlier and she couldn’t make sense of why a bright young man who had graduated from college two days before, had chosen to take his life. How can any of us make sense of a loss like that? Yet, we wondered how powerful if would be for family and friends to gather together and talk about mental health issues as a normal part of the human experience, and to help and support each other in our collective quest for health and well being. Perhaps then people struggling with depression like the young man would no longer feel hopeless and isolated. Perhaps he would have found comfort and strength in knowing that he was not alone in his pain.

As the young comedian and activist Kevin Breel said in his heartwarming TED talk: “We need to stop the ignorance about mental health issues, stop the intolerance, stop the stigma, and stop the silence, and we need to take away the taboos, take a look at the truth, and start talking, because the only way we’re going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together.

I agree with Kevin. We are #StrongerTogether.

If you are struggling with a mental health issue, or you are a family member or care provider, please ask for help. It is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

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Alone we struggle; Together we thrive.

As a person who struggles with mental health issues and a mental health advocate, I have learned over the years that alone we struggle; together we thrive. Yet, the stigma surrounding mental health issues deters most of us from seeking help. Instead we isolate ourselves from the very people that can help us, and soon become imprisoned by shame and secrecy. It takes courage to overcome our fears and ask for help from our family, friends and community. And, when we do, more often than not, we discover the love and support we need to recover and rebuild a healthy, meaningful, productive life.

If you are someone living with a mental health issue, or a family member or care provider, please ask for help. It is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness.

A few years ago, a concerned husband called to ask for help with his wife who was struggling with severe obsessive compulsive disorder. I am honored to share their story of struggle and strength with you all today.

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