Mental illness in the United States of America is an ever-increasing issue that affects millions of individuals in various ways and to varying degrees of severity. While it's true that mental illness can sometimes be treated with great success, including the near eradication of symptoms in certain patients, sometimes symptoms are so debilitating that the individual in question is unable to work or otherwise provide for themselves. For these individuals, symptoms may never fully disappear.
Let's keep talking about behavioral health for everyone. But let's stop talking about recovery for serious mental illness and start celebrating people whose brain disorders cause them to live with health challenges comparable to those experienced by cancer patients. The word we need, in the face of so much loss, is hope. Mental illness is not a choice. But hope is. Even in the face of tragedy, today I choose hope.
My mental illnesses are diseases, just like my cancer, and need to be treated in a similar way. If I, myself, can't share my story then it indicates that I also have stigma so I discuss my mental health issues openly just like I do anything else. I have found that when I share my story, I have an impact.
This month marked the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. In a report on State Mental Health Legislation in 2014, NAMI noted that on the first anniversary of the tragedy last year, Americans could see progress flowing from both the White House Conference on Mental Health and state legislation. This year, progress has slowed.