Showing posts with label young adult. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young adult. Show all posts

Friday, February 8, 2013

Disclosure and Relationships

By Linea Johnson

This blog also appeared on Strength of Us, an online social community from NAMI designed for young adults living with mental illness.

Having hard conversations in a relationship is never easy, but when you add a mental health condition to the list it can be even harder. This blog is going to talk about how to maintain healthy relationships when your friends and partners already know of your mental health condition, but may know nothing about it in your life. To learn how to disclose read this post on dating and disclosure.

Once you have disclosed your illness it is important to start building a safe space where you and your friends or partner can discuss personal things. In order to build a safe space you need to work on disclosing personal information about your condition that may help them better understand your struggles and needs. This can be done in small steps whether it is building the strength to feel comfortable telling them when you have doctor or counseling appointments or being honest if you have to pick up medication for your condition. These are small things in your life that will begin to give them an idea of how this is a part of your life, but also that you are willing to take the time to take care of yourself.

[Check out Linea talking about finding hope in her video for NAMI's You Are Not Alone.]

The next step is getting to the point where you can discuss how much you want to talk about your illness and how you want to do it. You may just feel comfortable letting them know you have a diagnosis, but may not yet feel comfortable telling them all the gritty details. It is important to not only talk about your illness but to lay some ground rules for how much you feel comfortable sharing. It may be good to tell them that they can ask you questions but that you may not feel comfortable answering them all.

The important place to get to is to be able to tell your loved ones when you are having a bad day due to your condition and to let them know how they can help you. By being honest you can begin to be yourself on the days when it is hardest to cover up your illness. This can make it okay for you to have a bad day without having to act strong or to act like what you may see as your version of “normal.” In building a safe place where you can begin to tell small things about your needs you can finally start feeling comfortable being yourself and build stronger lasting bonds with the people in your life.

Linea is a recent graduate from Seattle University, with a major in English and Creative Writing. She is a national speaker and author of Perfect Chaos, a memoir that captures her experiences as a young adult with bipolar disorder.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mental Health Survey: College Students Speak

By Dana Crudo, NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center program manager

As I imagine most young adults feel, I started my first year of college with nervous anticipation. Going away to college provided a fresh start on a new life but also the pressure to make the most of the opportunity. Also, although I had an exciting future ahead of me, I still had the weight of my past with me that made campus life difficult.

Growing up with a parent with bipolar disorder and brain damage had left its mark on me—I still often experienced anxiety, feelings of powerlessness and isolation while away at school. I still struggled to cope effectively and find people who could understand. I learned quickly that no amount of distance from my family situation could change how I felt or the fact that my childhood didn’t quite match up with those of my peers, which I realized more and more as I socialized with new people my age.

I found hope while reading a campus newspaper article about student depression that mentioned NAMI on Campus, student-led mental health campus clubs. I knew immediately I had found an invaluable resource that could help me and others at my school.

In my junior year of college, I created NAMI’s University of Arizona campus club. Through it I established a wonderful supportive community that really made a positive impact on my life. The club empowered me to learn more about mental health and how to support my family while maintaining my own health. I saw directly how valuable peer support, self-advocacy and knowing you’re not alone can be.

Through our club’ campus-wide mental health awareness activities, student-run discussion group and our partnership with NAMI Southern Arizona (one of many local NAMI Affiliates nationwide), I learned about the issues that all college students face when it comes to mental health and how I can help address these issues.

As I enter my seventh year working for NAMI, I have learned a great deal about the mental health needs of college students. NAMI just recently published a national survey report on the experiences of college students living with mental health conditions. The report is a blueprint for what students want. Here are some highlights:

  • Sixty-four percent of students who stopped attending college are no longer attending because of mental health related reasons. The primary diagnoses of these students are depression, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Seventy-two percent of students experienced a mental health crisis on campus. Yet 34 percent reported that their college did not know about their crisis.
  • Fifty-seven percent of students did not access accommodations through college disability resource centers, often citing that they were unaware such services and supports existed or did not know how to access them. Forty percent of students did not access mental health services and supports at their school.
  • Thirty-six percent students cited stigma as a barrier to accessing their college’s mental health services and supports, making it the number one reason students don’t access treatment.

Students emphasized the critical need for the following services and supports to be available on campus:

  • Mental health training for faculty, staff and students.
  • Suicide prevention programs.
  • Peer-run, student mental health organizations.
  • Mental health information during campus tours, orientation, health classes and other campus-wide events.
  • Walk-in student health centers, 24-hour crisis hotlines, ongoing individual counseling services, screening and evaluation services and comprehensive referrals to off-campus services and supports.

As the survey shows and as other countless research findings have shown, mental health issues impact college students and they need our support. Most will experience these issues for the first time in their lives while attending college—catching them by surprise and leaving them ill-prepared to handle these issues on their own. They are not seeking help because they don’t know where or who to go to or they fear being negatively perceived by their campus community.

Every young adult deserves an understanding, helpful and supportive community like NAMI on Campus to turn to when life gets hard.

That is why NAMI has launched a new NAMI on Campus initiative and our commitment to college students. The NAMI on Campus website includes new resource sections to:

  • Learn more about college mental health.
  • Get involved with NAMI on Campus clubs.
  • Access resources for students, faculty and staff.
  • Connect with others.

Most of all, we want to hear more from college students—you! What resources, tools or information do you need to address mental health issues at your local college communities? How can NAMI help? Please feel free to email me at with suggestions.

Through my own life and my years working with young adults, I have seen firsthand how just one meaningful connection can really change the course of someone’s life. Working together, we can make these connections for every young adult in need. Let’s get started!



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Vote for Mental Health Care (and More)

By Logan Stewart

This is my first presidential election and I’m very excited to have a say about who is going to lead our country.

I’m 21 years old, just graduated from college with a degree in psychology and I have been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, most recently bipolar disorder. As a teen you feel like you don’t have a choice because parents and teachers decide everything for you. Finally, I get a chance help decide who is going to run the country. It’s also not just about who will run the country, but also what happens worldwide because the U.S. president has such a big influence internationally.

When I was a child my parents made a point of taking me to the polls every election. I registered as a voter on my 18th birthday. I just filled out the application at school and popped it in the mail. It’s really easy—you can even fill it out on line, print and mail.

When I went to vote for the first time, a few months after I turned 18, it was exhilarating to have a say. I was surprised that the line went so quickly, about 15 minutes and casting a ballot took maybe two minutes. I just pushed the buttons for the candidates I wanted to vote for and I was done. And the people at the polling place all clapped because I was a first time voter. I felt so proud.

It’s really easy to find out which candidates align most with your views. There are websites all over the internet where you can research each candidate.

On the League of Women Voters or Project Vote Smart websites, all you need to do is put in your ZIP code and read candidate platforms. You can also read articles and blogs from their supporters and critics. If you want to find out what to say or questions to ask about mental health issues go to NAMI’s “Mental Health Care Gets My Vote” website.

The youth vote was influential in the 2008 election and also will have an impact in 2012. Candidates who are elected in 2012 will have a say on issues young people are concerned with, like gay rights, education, abortion and health services.

The 2012 election is important for young voters who care about mental health because we are still in a recession and services need funding. Many people don’t realize how greatly mental health services affect the well-being of our entire nation. If we can help people with mental illness through peer support groups, hospitalization, medication and community services, not only do we help individuals, but then they can go back to work and the whole community is stronger. When you are in your early 20s—in college or not—it can be a stressful time for people with emerging mental illness. We need service to stay in school and go on to be part of running the country.

Health care reform affects young voters because the Affordable Care Act currently allows people age 26 and under to stay on their parents’ health insurance. If that were repealed, young Americans will have to find their own health care, which is becoming more and more expensive. Without insurance young people with mental illness would not be able to find a doctor or pay for medication. There would be more hospitalizations the person could not pay for, which would also be a drain on the economy.

Casting an informed vote is really simple, especially with the internet and the technology we have now. It’s not hard to reach the candidates. By writing to them you are helping influence and create a country that is run the way the people want it to be.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

At the Intersection of Racism and Stigma

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Join the celebration and spread the word. Mental health recovery is a possibility for people of diverse backgrounds. To learn more about the Month and get ideas of how to celebrate it visit: Jessica Gimeno has partnered with NAMI to help us celebrate the month and target teens and 20-somethings. We are happy to share her story.

By Jessica Gimeno

My name is Jessica Lynn Gimeno and I am from Des Plaines, Ill. I come from a large Filipino family where I’m blessed with an endless parade of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. A typical gathering for Easter, someone’s birthday or “just-because” means that at least thirty of us are present.  

While I had a happy childhood, it was not without its hardships that came from racist experiences and an occasional “darkness” I could not put into words. When I was 5, I had a kindergarten teacher who asked the minority students to perform menial tasks like fetching her slippers. As the only student who would not comply, that woman hated me. In academics, my parents instilled in me a Trojan work ethic. My mom told me I had to work twice as hard as my friends to be taken seriously because of the color of my skin.  

As a child, I faced dark moments when I questioned the meaning of everything in life. They were like flashes of grey in an otherwise cotton candy childhood. As I got older, moments of emptiness stretched into hours and in my teen years, I would feel sad for weeks at a time. And then I’d feel great for months until I inevitably felt bad again. I worked incredibly hard when I felt fine to compensate for times when I was too depressed to concentrate. 

When I was 18, a friend with bipolar disorder died by suicide. This prompted me to research the illness and I realized I had it too. I saw a doctor and got a second opinion, which all confirmed that I did indeed have bipolar disorder. Getting a diagnosis finally brought freedom from years of sleepless nights and crying spells!

For 10 years, I have been committed to medication and therapy. This, prayer and support from family and friends are responsible for my success. Despite fighting bipolar disorder and polycystic ovarian syndrome, I graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with two majors. As a student, I co-founded a depression support network and spoke to hundreds of students about getting help. I also found 30 students psychiatric help and assisted them in finishing school. Sometimes I meet people who have a low opinion of people with mental illnesses, but their prejudice just motivates me to be a better advocate.

In 2008, when I was 24 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular autoimmune disease called myasthenia gravis. I was given a 50-50 shot of living. Since I already beat depression, I knew I could fight this beast too. Today, I wake up in pain every morning because I have three physical illnesses. But every day I put on my “Rocky” boxing gloves and pray for strength.

I work for a wonderful nonprofit, The Balanced Mind Foundation, which connects families whose children have mood disorders with mental health resources. I host Flipswitch, a weekly podcast & blog that helps teens & 20-somethings understand depression and bipolar disorder. Last year, in honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month I did a series of interviews with people of different cultures called the “Minorities & Mental Health Series.” In recognition of my work, this year I won second prize in the National Council’s 2012 Awards of Excellence.

If you’re a minority facing mental health stigma, here’s what I’ve learned: At the intersection of racism and stigma, there lies a funny thing called hope.