I had an opportunity today to deliver a presentation to 400 middle school kids about Mental Illness. I talked about my struggles with bipolar disorder and then went on to discuss how common mental illness is. The kids were amazing! They were engaged and asked very insightful questions.
Before the kids came into the auditorium I turned to one of the NAMI Board Members and said, “it has been my dream for four years to deliver a presentation on Mental Illness in the schools. I guess that dream is coming true today.” As I watched those kids filter into the auditorium I was touched by the fact that one in five would deal with a mental illness. I knew if I could just impact one I would have done my job.
At the end of the presentation the kids asked so many great questions. They wanted to know which was harder for me to deal with “the mania or the depression.” They ask me to clarify what stigma meant and they tried their best to understand other terms.
What really touched my heart was a little girl who came up to me afterwards and told me that on her walk home from school she crosses a bridge everyday. And everyday she deals with suicidal thought that tell her to “jump.” I responded by telling her she mattered and that those thoughts are telling her a lie. “Don’t believe those lies!” I encouraged and as she walked away I hoped she would always remember those words, “you matter!”
So today is the beginning of my efforts to use my gifts and talents and reach out to touch others lives. Those who are impacted by mental illness and those who may be affected in the future.
Today, I feel proud to have taken one small step forward to helping remove the stigma of mental illness. Hoping that the next generation is more informed and educated than I was.
Making a difference one person at a time!