I am excited to share this article by guest blogger Amy Kiel. Amy is a tireless advocate for mental health issues. We first crossed paths last year when she was involved with the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk for suicide prevention. In this post she is once again sharing herself in order to impact the lives of others. I hope her words move you as much as they do me!
Breaking the Silence for Mental Health Month by Amy Kiel
I am writing this post as a sort of confession. As I work with passion daily to share information and reduce the stigma of mental health issues, I suffer from my own shame and fear.
It’s Mental Health Month (originally created by Mental Health America) and I am so thrilled to be a part of the month’s activities. I love showing my support of the many incredible people and organizations that work to share resources, information and help for those who are dealing with the challenges that come with this territory. Another large aspect of the movement is to create awareness and reduce stigma, with statements and actions that require openness and honesty so that others are aware that they are not alone and can reach out for help with ease.
I do this on my blogs, on Twitter and in my writing for WEGO Health. I do this with online activism and by participating in fundraising efforts for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I have given a public speech about my struggles. I have been on local television once talking about depression and suicide prevention efforts. I have been interviewed on the radio, sharing and telling my story. By all counts I am speaking out, except for one.
I hide my writing and my personal story in one place, on Facebook. Truly, it can be found. It is there for people to find if they really went looking, but I don’t share it boldly like I do on other forums. On Facebook I face the fear of my ex-husband and his family finding me out. I support other types of activism there, but not my own. I keep it separate out of the fear that if they find out then they will think I am a bad parent, unfit, or that they will try to take my daughter away from me. As part of me desperately wants to be completely open about all the issues I support and deal with, I don’t securely hide it. It is part of me and I know rationally that I should not live in fear. But that fear, the stigma, has stopped me from being completely open. Or, I have to ask, have I stopped myself?
Breaking the stigma requires breaking the silence. I believe that. Is it necessary for us all to do it? Is it necessary for us to share it with everyone? These questions are hard ones to answer and raise many “what if’s”, but I believe the answer is in the first statement of this paragraph. I believe if I want to really break down the barriers then I have to be willing to stand up for all and in front of all. My journey of awareness has led me here, to this point where I am ready to look fear in the face and tell it to back down, I am stronger.
I don’t know that this kind of action is what every individual needs. I believe we each have our own timing, but for me, during this particular Mental Health Month, 2010; it is my time to go for it.
For ideas and ways to get involved with Mental Health Month 2010 please visit: http://wegohealth.com/mhm2010. This resource has been created by Amy and other contributors from WEGO Health, and its’ members, including NAMI Mass, as a tool for those who want to be involved in this month’s spirit of activism. Use the hashtag #mhm2010 for Mental Health Month related tweets.
Amy would like to invite you to participate in the weekly Mental Health and Social Media Chat on twitter. Just follow the hashtag #mhsm and join us on Tuesday nights, 9pm Central.
You can find Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Abeeliever
You can find Amy behind the wheels of the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) at http://twitter.com/MHSMchat.