Three Ways to Become a Mental Health Advocate
by Steve Curran
Mental illness is in the news a lot these days and most of the time it is not good. Usually a tragic event or some celebrity making horrible headlines adds to the already negative view that most people have about those with mental illness, including those of us who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I decided early in my recovery that it was up to me to advocate and create awareness about my disease. I was nervous at first, but the more I talked with others the more comfortable I felt. I started off with my family and then moved on to friends. I first talked about living with bipolar disorder to a complete stranger in my doctor’s office while waiting for my appointment. I took a deep breath, caught her eye, and asked if I could share my story. I stumbled once or twice, but I did pretty well and she was touched. I was now a Mental Health Advocate!
Three ways to create positive awareness about Bipolar Disorder:
- Talk to others! Think of a couple of points you would like folks to know about living with bipolar disorder (your history, depression, wellness, etc.). Most people are not familiar with bipolar illness and will not only be interested, but will also begin to better understand mental illness.
- Write about your bipolar journey. Sit down and put together a page or two about your history. Submit it to your local paper as an article or Letter to the Editor. You can also find many outlets for your story on the internet. If you are a bit shy or if you worry about the stigma, you can do this anonymously.
- Volunteer at The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Alliance (DBSA), two great national organizations that have local chapters across the country. They will appreciate the help and it costs nothing to donate your time!
Putting a face on our disease and letting people know what living with bipolar disorder is all about will have a huge impact on others. Not only will they be learning about important health issue, but you will become even more empowered to advocate. If you are like me, you will also find it very therapeutic.
You and I must be involved in efforts to change public perceptions of mental illness. We know the pain of bipolar and the contentment of learning to live successfully with our disease. We really are bipolar disorder experts and are extremely qualified to speak on this subject.
If not you, who? If not now, when?
About the Steve Curran: Following a suicide attempt in 2006, Steve Curran made it his mission to bring awareness about the disease of Depression. Curran, a Mental Health Advocate and suicide survivor, is sharing his inspiring story of living with mental illness. As a professional speaker and blogger, Curran has touched thousands of lives by offering a unique and intimate perspective on depression. From a suicide attempt and numerous hospitalizations to organizing the triumphant Walk To Washington depression awareness campaign, Curran is on a mission to change the public’s perception of depression and advocate for victims of the disease. The good news is that Depression, even in the most severe cases, is treatable. Curran is proof of that and wants to give hope to others struggling with depression. Visit Depression Awareness at http://depressionawareness.org/
*** I’m grateful to Steve Curran for participating as a guest blogger, for telling his story and for contributing to the conversation about mental health issues.