Talking about mental illness first step to recovery
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Brenda Scott, executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at Mt. San Jacinto College and manager of NAMIWalk Inland Empire, led a special presentation representing NAMI and the importance of discussing and destigmatizing mental illness at the Oct. 3 meeting of the San Jacinto City Council.
For the last 50 years, the first week of October (Oct.1-Oct. 7) has been considered Mental Health Awareness Week and was acknowledged by the San Jacinto City Council.
“The City Council of the city of San Jacinto hereby proclaims that the first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week in San Jacinto, to increase public understanding on the importance of mental health, and to promote identification and treatment of mental illness,” read Mayor Scott Miller Tuesday evening.
Scott shared the long, tragic history of mental illness in her family and how it affected everyone involved.
“My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was young. There were four of us children at home. When I was 14 years old, my mother, who had had been in and out of mental hospitals, took her life, and she died on Christmas Eve,” explained Scott. “There was a lot of stigma that our family felt about mental health. I swept it all under the rug and didn’t want to think about it until my brother, when he was 22-years-old, took his life.”
Scott said that her family was hesitant to discuss the hardships they endured due to mental illness and the stigma that followed. The trauma only continued as Scott described the teasing she experienced because of the challenges and suicide in her family.
“It wasn’t until I started having challenges with my own son, that I realized that I needed to know something about mental health,” she said.
Scott attended a 12-week class by NAMI called “Family to Family” (which has now been implemented in the San Jacinto Unified School District), and came out of it learning that she had a lot of work to do.
“We need to be able to stand up and say, ‘I have a mental condition, just like I might have cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes.’” Scott says that mental illness is a condition, but it can absolutely be recovered from or managed.
“Many times, that’s what causes these conditions,” said Scott. “People don’t feel that they can reach out and get the help that they need. They bottle it up inside, and they don’t want to get the help because of the stigma [associated with mental illness]. And things get worse for them.”
On Sunday, Oct. 1, TV’s “Supergirl” stars Chris Wood, with support of costar/girlfriend/Supergirl herself, Melissa Benoist, launched the “I Don’t Mind” campaign, which encourages people to talk openly about their mental illness. Fully 100 percent of the campaign’s proceeds from T-shirt and hat sales will go directly to NAMI.
“I think that’s awesome,” stated Scott in response.
Scott explained that mental health conditions often appear in creative people, such as artists, writers, musicians and actors. Approximately one half of chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, and three-fourths of conditions appear by the age of 24. One in five adults will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime; one in 17 adults are currently living with a mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
“When I found out about NAMI, I felt like I had a place where I had a family that understood what I was going through,” said Scott.
Classes, support groups for individuals and families, and school presentations called “Ending the Silence” are all provided by NAMI.
Scott also announced the 12th annual Inland Empire NAMIWalk, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 28, starting at Diamond Valley Lake Marina.
To learn more about mental health awareness or donate to the cause, visit www.nami.org or https://idontmind.com.