This is my story, but it's also Alex's story...
When I was a freshmen at Fayetteville, my younger brother Alex committed suicide. He suffered with depression for several years. If you were standing on the outside of his life looking in, you never would have guessed how troubled he was. Alex battled depression for so long, but eventually the illness wore him down completely, and he took his own life on December 19, 2015.
The day Alex took his life changed my life forever. I really spiraled downward, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and in the dark. I began having extreme panic attacks that landed me in the ER four times. Then I began to accept the gravity of my own situation, I spoke up and got the help I needed, and Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas and Youth Home, Inc was there.
Once I got my own illness under control, I made it my mission to do whatever I could so that no other family would have to experience what my family experienced when Alex died.
Many people are afraid to speak up because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. However, mental illness affects everyone, it does not judge or discriminate.
Never Give Up!
After losing Alex so tragically, I made it my mission to do whatever I could so no family would have to experience what mine did. I know firsthand that people who suffer are not the labels often assigned to them. Alex was a son, a brother…just a great kid but he had an illness. I know that just because you may not understand the illness, doesn't mean what they're experiencing is invalid.
Our family is grateful for Youth Home and the support they have shown us and are so glad they are working to eliminate stigma.
We know that, though Alex was a client of Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas and was surrounded by love and understanding, many afflicted with mental illness do not seek the help they need due to a real fear of being labeled.
"He’s bi-polar,” “He’s crazy", "Just looking for attention", "Drama King/Queen", "He’s schizo", and "You're just sad, Get over it"
How often have you ever heard these phrases to describe someone? How often have we all used them? Remember, phrases like these perpetuate stigma and needlessly lead to suffering. Working together, we can end the stigma surrounding mental health and save more young lives like Alex.
After my brother's suicide, I want people to see the damage that can happen if they choose to stop fighting. I want people to understand that although mental illness is not tangible, it is just as serious as any other illness and should be treated as such. No one chooses to have mental illness, just as no one chooses to have cancer. So just as communities rally around those with cancer and other illnesses, we need to do the same for anyone with mental illness. The fight against mental illness is long and hard, but by ending the stigma, we are making it just that much easier.
If you are suffering with a mental illness, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Don't be afraid to talk to someone about what is going on - help is available. For those who have a loved one who suffers from a mental illness, be patient, don't give up on them. They need your love more than ever.