The Adversarial Nature of Mental Health Advocacy

In addition to being a writer and speaker, I am an advocate for persons living with mental illness. Advocating, in its purest form, is essentially debating. It requires me to engage a person, institution, or society as a whole and try to convince them that they are wrong. It is an adversarial relationship. They are looking to continue without changing and I am looking to get them to change. There are many things people don’t understand about mental health advocacy, but there are couple big ones.


Mental Illness is Not an Invisible Illness

Working as a speaker and writer in the mental health field, I hear a lot of things over and over. Stigma, for example, comes up a lot, as do various analogies for different diagnoses. Obviously, I don’t agree with everything I hear, but sometimes I don’t realize I disagree until years later. This is the case with mental illness being an “invisible” illness. When I first heard this, I thought to myself, “That’s true. Mental illness is invisible. It can’t be seen by the naked eye and there is no definitive test.”

Today, however, I feel much differently. Mental illness is not an invisible illness – and I can prove it.


Is Self-Care Vital for Family Members of the Mentally Ill?

Any discussion about mental illness isn’t complete without discussing the caregivers. There are three primary types of caregivers, and they all play an important role. Medical professionals, mental health advocates (including peer supporters), and family members (which includes close friends) are instrumental in providing care day in and day out for people struggling with mental illness. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on family members who are caring for their mentally ill loved ones.

Whether someone provides care one hour a day or 24/7, there is one universal and important truth that needs to be taken very seriously.


Crying, Depression, and Being a Man

Society has the backward notion that men aren’t supposed to cry, even when depressed. Sure, men get a pass at their daughter’s wedding or the funeral of a loved one, but even then we are expected to cry in a manly way. We are expected to choke back the tears and fight the emotions instead of displaying them. This denial of our basic emotions does nothing to make things betters and, in fact, makes things worse. Now we have the emotions we are feeling and guilt about our reaction.

Even as I write this, I want to tell you I am a 275 pound, six-foot-three inch tall, big guy. I feel the need to tell you my favorite sport is hockey. I watch boxing, UFC (mixed martial arts), and football. I play the drums, and I was raised in a blue collar neighborhood by a father who drives an 18-wheeled semi-truck.


Why Do People With Mental Illness Self-Sabotage?

There is a lot of talk about why people with mental illness self-sabotage. The other day, while reading online, I saw this quote: “I am afraid of two things equally – success and failure.” I took notice when I read it because it sums up my entire life and the topic of self-sabotage comes up a lot in support groups I have facilitated. It isn’t surprising that many people fear failure.

Fearing success, however, is an entirely different psychological quagmire. Why would someone fear being successful? What could possibly be the downside of success? The answer is a lot more basic than you might think.


Suicide Prevention Should Be Taught Everywhere

Do you ever wonder what you would do if your house caught on fire?  Do you see yourself rounding up the children, pets, and photo albums and hustling out the front door?  Maybe grab a cell phone to call the fire department and then wait for help to arrive on the front lawn? Most people don’t wonder about this. They have an actual plan.

What if I told you there was an epidemic in this country that is largely ignored by all levels of society?  This epidemic is eight times more likely to kill you than a home fire, yet the vast majority of the country is not talking about it at all.


Snarky Answers to Annoying Questions About Mental Illness

Like many people living with mental illness, I get asked a lot of questions. Many of them are well thought out and lead to further education about mental illnesses and a better understanding of those of us who live with them. But a select few of the questions aren’t well thought out. They are, in fact, dumb questions. As a professional, I answer them with a smile on my face because that has a lot of value. But inside my head, I always come up with much better answers. Fun answers. Snarky answers . . .