As we approach the Annual NAMI Maine Walk on September 25th, I want to take just a moment of your time and remind everyone why being an active part of our community is so important.
Those of us who have experienced a mental health challenge understand how fundamentally mental wellness can impact our bodies and daily lives. Whether it is a point-in-time crisis brought on by a traumatic event or a lifelong challenge, the quality of our mental well-being cannot be overlooked or ignored. The stigma that is still present in our society silences so many of us. In that silence, we are literally robbed of our parents, children, siblings and friends.
Our community knows the impact that mental health has on our daily lives. We are too familiar with the horrible shortage of specialists, community-based services and even stabilization beds in Maine. We are the individuals using these services and the families desperately hunting for them when our loved one is hurting.
I am the parent of an amazing 13-year-old boy. I share his struggles along with his successes. Jacob lives with autism, anxiety and major depression. He is brilliant, funny, political and tormented. His thoughts of suicide began in the second grade, where he had moved from a contained classroom to a general education environment. While his social interactions were almost nonexistent, his intellectual gifts stunned his peers. I still recall the first time the principal called to say that my son was threatening to end his own life. Jacob was 8-years-old.
Jacob knows that his mind works differently, and will tell you everything - sounds, light, touch, emotion - are all simply too overwhelming. Thanks to the internet, he will stress that "statistically-speaking" people with autism do not graduate from college, live independently or get married at rates remotely close to their neuro-typical peers. He tells me that he wants to die because it is just too hard to be different in this world.
As members of the NAMI community, we work to fight against the stigma through changes that are both small and global. We work so that individuals like my son know they are not alone. Without the resources and support from the NAMI Maine community, I am not sure how I would find the drive to keep fighting the battle for my son’s life each day. On the local, state and national level, it is the people in our community who will change this world by sharing their stories and fighting like hell!