Mental illness and addiction have affected one side of my family for generations. The stigma attached to both of these afflicitons (although often one in the same) have silenced those suffering and their families. Mental illness is a disease; addiction is often seen as a choice, but so frequently lies alongside mental illness as a means to treat, medicate, and heal. Where there is inadequate care for mental illness, there is suffering. Where there is suffering, there is an attempt to alleviate that pain, and if you’ve experienced or witnessed mental illness, you know that the pain is real. It’s brutal to watch someone suffer with their own thoughts, emotions, and choices.
It would be even more brutal to be the one directly suffering.
In honor of World Mental Health Day and my late brother Jake, who walked a well lit path of depression and addiction, I’m speaking up and out. We are losing our children, parents, distant relatives and friends to these afflictions. Some 91 people a day overdose in this country and those are only fatalitiy statistics. I’m not ashamed that my brother suffered, I’m heartbroken and helpless. My brother was the most loving child, the most loyal friend to me. He found himself knee deep in pain in his adulthood, but he never failed to tell me he loved me or reach out. His afflictions caused everyone great pain, as they do, but I remember him telling me very lovingly that if he could wake up one day and choose differently, he would. I belive him. His heart was pure gold.
I still don’t know what proved life-ending for my brother. And while I know he is at peace and no longer suffering, I would give anything to have him here with us, at peace and no longer suffering. It’s crucial that we end the stigma and offer compassion to those afflicted. #WMHD2017