Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Together with over 43 million Americans who suffer from a mental illness in any year, I stand up against stigma. As an In Our Own Voice (IOOV) presenter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), I bring the message of the hope of recovery to audiences in the LA County.
In 1998, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and a tendency to develop psychosis. Thanks to the early and effective intervention of my late friend, Zoë Graves, the love of my family, and the treatment given to me by mental health professionals, I have a beautiful and rewarding life today.
Most of my recovery is based on employment. I take my medication as directed, show up on time, and do my work to the best of my abilities. Work not only gives me a sense of independence, but it also puts me in the position to help others in need. I make sure my humble work always contributes to my community and especifically to those who can’t speak for themselves: English as a Second Language students, or adults with disabilities.
I see the scores of mentally ill homeless in Los Angeles and think it can happen to me. Mentally ill women my age are at higher risk of homelessness because it is increasingly difficult for us to find work. We rely on occasional work, and on creativity to keep paying our bills on time.
If I can send any valuable message to my community is to not be afraid of employing mentally ill women over 50, or mentallly ill people of any age and gender. A pay check at the end of the month keeps roofs over our heads, gives us a sense of accomplishment, and doesn’t have side effects. It’s the best medicine this society can prescribe against the symptoms of mental illness.
Give mentally ill people the opportunity to become contributing members of our communities. Employ us.