If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When? Advocate for Mental Health

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. 



If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When? Advocate for Mental Health — 5 Comments

  1. WOW – OMG – Yes Steve has touched so many lives. And I have had the honor of knowing him and being touched and so empowered by that knowledge. I somehow was guided to the web site on the Walk to Washington D.C. for Depression Awareness in October 0f 2010. Meeting Steve in Washington D.C. and walking with him on The National Mall and talking out in the bright warm and beautiful shinning sun in a regular voice and volume about my personal life long struggle with depression —– WOW. At age 60 I was engaged in my “rebirth” in knowing and accepting that I know a way to walk that can be supportive and helpful to others move from following their depression to becoming the leader in that dance. Steve asked me to think about bring to Houston the Walk for Depression Awareness, well to be perfectly honest with you I had to take a little while and consider all that that involved. After pondering his request for about a long, very long nanosecond and said yes. After the Walk to D.C. his board wanted to open their arms and be more inclusive so the name was changed to Walk for Mental Health Awareness and Houston became the first chapter. We held our first walk here on October 15, 2010 and Steve came down to be with us. What I wanted to share with Steve then but was not able to do – point out to Steve the power of one. Due to his personal being and the power that he shared with me – we had 130 walkers at our first walk and 300 last year and have raised $30K for 501.c-3 agencies/groups here in Houston that offer mental health services/support, and we had 21 exhibitors in our Mental Health Expo, we were able to get our City Hall illuminated for three nights in lime green, Congressman Patrick J.Kennedy produced our Welcoming remarks.Our fb page has over 800 likes. We have grown into a two day event when we added our luncheon last year, which was totally underwritten by The Menninger Clinic. This year we are working on adding our “Mind & Soul – A Celebration For All” (a joint adventure with the Houston Blues Museum) which will close out out Friday night. I plan to do my best to see that Steve’s vision of a national walk for mental health awareness happens……. The National Walk for Mental Health Awareness is learning to walk…….Steve Thank You! We are passing forward a “Positive Public Dialog” on living with a mental illness/disease. We are doing it now and are asking you to join us when you are able to. (the truth is that you already are ((if I know how to type a heart here)

    • Thanks for your post Patrick. Steve is such a heroic advocate for mental health and brave to tell his own story. His voice is transformed to many when he passes on the messages about mental health and advocacy to others, like you, who become advocates too. I can feel the voices growing louder every day!

  2. My name is Suzanne Young , I am from a little town,Dassel MN I have Manic depression/Bipolar and have been struggling with it all my life from 6yrs till now 41, I struggle everyday. I am going to a funeral for my first cousins only son who commited suicice over the weekend he was only 20 years old and suffered from depression. I want to tell the world about our disease I am so passionate about this,my community needs to be educated and aware of this disease so we to can help those that struggle. I want to shout to the world that this is like any other disease, I need help to get awareness out to my community about depression before we lose any more. Please help me become a advocate in my community.

    • I’m so sorry for your struggles, Suzanne. I hope you know you’re not alone in your pain. One in four suffer from some form of mental illness and you’re so right, people need to be educated and made aware. That’s why Max and I wrote our book. It’s when you put a personal face on mental illness that people can see the person behind the illness, people who are just like everyone else. I think the best way you can advocate is to tell your story too, whether it’s through letters to the editor, speaking to church groups, or anyone else who wants to know what these illnesses are really about. I became an advocate after Max was diagnosed with bipolar disorder because I was angry at the failures of our mental health care system and the difficulty we had finding help as a result. My advocacy began with my local NAMI, where I taught, ran programs, joined the board of directors, and eventually became president. I believe NAMI is the place to make your voice heard.

  3. ental health describes a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder.From the perspective of ‘positive psychology’ or ‘holism’, mental health may include an individual’s ability to enjoy life, and create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.::.’

    Have a good week

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