|Annmarie Timmins, age 9 (left), with her brother on vacation|
in Franconia Notch, N.H.
It takes courage for people who live with mental illness to tell others about it.
Some people tell no one. Some are selective— telling only a few family or friends.
Others “go public,” embracing maximum vulnerability, particularly if it extends to the workplace.
Two spectacular profiles in courage have arisen this week.
One is Lisa Halpern, who wrote “What It's Like to Have Schizophrenia,” published in the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal, It’s an incredible story that details on how she became lost in her own reality and then came to terms a with diagnosis.
“I learned so much, I decided I wanted to help others who'd been through a similar nightmare,” Lisa writes. “Now I have a full-time job working with people who have mental-health issues. I teach, arrange events, speak to groups and mentor patients. I want them to know that recovery is possible.”
The other is Annmarie Timmins, a reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.
The newspaper recently published a four-day series, “In Crisis” about the state’s mental health care system. Some reader comments questioned whether the number of people living with mental illness is really as high as “about” one in four adult Americans.
In response, Annmarie wrote a personal story: “I'm one of the 26 percent with mental illness.”
“I have been hospitalized twice for ‘suicidal ideation’ most recently for eight days in 2009 with a diagnosis of ‘major depressive order and anxiety disorder,’ according to my records,” she wrote.
“I take four medications a day and have my counselor’s name and number in my emergency contacts on my cell phone.”
It was the first time Annemarie had shared her story publicly. Not even many of her family knew.
“I cannot believe what changes this story has begun even within a couple of days,” Annemarie later wrote in an exchange of emails with NAMI. “I've heard from hundreds of people from all over the country who said the piece has encouraged them to ask for the help they need. I've had lawmakers write to say the piece put a new face they hadn't seen on mental illness. My own family members have written to say they too struggle with illness but never knew how to ask for help.”
“I think that bodes well for all of us who struggle. Out of nearly 400 responses, I have not received a single critical or unkind note. I wish I could spread this support to everyone who is struggling.”
She already has.
By sharing their stories, Lisa and Annemarie have already inspired and given support to more people than either of them can imagine. The inspiration extends not just to the 26 percent who live with mental illness, but to our larger communities as well.