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:

We are delighted to launch LIVING WELL!

Dear friends,

For nearly a decade of my life, I struggled to free myself from the death-hold of depression. For years, I worried, “will I ever get better?” “will I ever be well again?” It wasn’t until I met other people living and thriving despite their struggles with depression that I began to believe that I too can get better and live well.

Over the last couple of decades, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible people around the world, men women and children living with mental health conditions, who have taught me that living well with a mental health condition is possible. At ASHA International, we are delighted to launch LIVING WELL  – a series of blog posts highlighting these people and the multitude of pathways they pursue to live well.

Please read the blog posts, hear their messages of hope, and share it with your friends, family and social networks.

Wishing you wellness,

Gayathri Ramprasad

Founder & President, ASHA Interantional

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.

Health Benefits of Social Connectedness

Gayathri and Dad

 

On June 8th, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Mental Health America Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. Later that night, I called my parents in India and learned that my 81-year-old father had a fall and was unconscious for a few minutes. He had survived esophageal cancer recently but was struggling to breathe. So, I decided to cut short my stay at the conference, return home to Portland immediately, and rush to India to see my dad. Unfortunately, by the time I landed in St. Louis en route to Portland, I learned through a social media post that my father had passed away. My whole world collapsed. Riding on his favorite Java motorbike as a little girl, I had thought my father was invincible…I still wanted him to be. He was my hero. The man who twirled me around until I broke into giggles, the man who had taught me to dream big and work hard, the man who called me “Princess” and treated me like one. Heartbroken, I collapsed in my seat sobbing, as the plane taxied.

I am deeply grateful to the love and support of strangers on that plane who helped me get off the plane and board my connecting flight to Portland. I am deeply grateful to my husband and daughters who helped me get on a plane to India within hours of landing so I could be with my mother and siblings to grieve and celebrate my father’s life. And, I am deeply grateful to our extended family and friends who held us in their embrace, and helped us get through the difficult times. Together, we smiled through our tears, chanted my father’s favorite yogic chants, and a dear friend and professional singer presented a house concert with his favorite songs. I miss my dad terribly and will cherish his love forever. And, I am most grateful for the network of friends, family and strangers who continue to strengthen me on my journey forward.

As Emma Seppala, Ph.D. writes in her article Contentedness & Health, social connections improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being, boosts immunity, and lowers level of anxiety and depression. Over the years, I have learned that social contentedness also helps us build the resilience we need to navigate through life’s ups and downs.

I invite you to make time to nurture and enjoy your relationships with family and friends. And, enjoy the many health benefits of social contentedness.

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: Robyn’s Message of Hope

Since the first time I met Robyn at the Aleternatives Conference in 2015, I have been in awe of her sense of adventure and huge heart. Although she just turned 50, she has lived and worked in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, propogating the power of peer support around the world. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she has never let other people’s perceptions of what she can and cannot do deter her from living the life of her dreams. When asked what has helped her recover and thrive, she said, “the love and support of her global network of family and friends, her dog, and meaningful work.”

Robyn is the embodiment of the quote: “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” Thank you Robyn for bringing hope and healing to people struggling with mental health issues around the world. You are a HOPEBRINGER!

 

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.

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.