Category Archives: Mental Health

H.O.P.E: Hold On Possibilities Exist

Guest post by Dana Foglesong, recovery and integration specialist in the DCF Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

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There was a time in my life I felt my only options were death or a miserable existence; death seemed more appealing. I struggled to maintain a life in the community after being diagnosed with a mental illness. My pain was so deep that I had lost all hope. Hope is a powerful, yet tricky thing.  Hope is a necessary motivator to take personal responsibility for your life, to overcome obstacles, and to move forward.

Hope has a way of building momentum to push us through even the darkest days and roadblocks in our lives. A spark of hope was lit within me when I had the opportunity to work with a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist as part of my treatment. My peer specialist struggled with similar intense emotions and experiences, but was living successfully in recovery with a family, job and home. He was living proof that possibilities existed for my life despite a diagnosis. Through his support, encouragement, and strengths based coaching, I was able to reclaim my life.

Today, hundreds of people in recovery from mental health and substance use conditions work within our systems as peer specialists. I am one of them. We are often on the front lines of engaging individuals who have been labelled difficult to reach. We see the person first, not the illness. We help our peers focus on their resiliency instead of fragility. We provide support from the perspective of having shared similar life experiences and intimately understand the pain, loss and desperation those experiences bring. We are able to say with confidence, “I am the evidence that you can recover, so have hope and hold on.”

During Recovery Month, my hope is that we start changing the narrative about people living with mental health and substance use challenges. Recovery is achievable no matter the person or condition. The evidence is all around us. Peer Specialists are just one example. Perhaps you are someone who has overcome great challenges related to mental health or addiction issues. If so, I encourage you to share your story. Your story of recovery may be what sparks hope in someone else to keep fighting for a better future. If you are someone who is lacking hope, I encourage you to reach out for support. In the midst of the storm it can be easy to believe the lie that we are alone and that no one cares.

The truth is there is hope, so hold on because possibilities exist.

I’m living proof

Guest post by Wesley Evans    

Wesley Evans PhotoI was once paralyzed with fear and hopelessness. It is common for those living with mental illness to live a life without hope. I spent years trying new medications, along with a string of doctors, fading in and out of various programs, never engaged or inspired. Not being able to hold down a job, I was eventually told to apply for Social Security Disability because it was likely that I would not be able to work again. By this time I had resigned myself to the thought and belief that this was how my entire life was going to be. I had given up the shred of hope that existed in my youth.

After years on Social Security and an unstable life, I found a community support group for people like myself, living with a mental illness. I suddenly found myself surrounded by my peers. I was surrounded by people who wanted to be well and move forward in their lives. After finding and attending the support group weekly, along with the right medications, I began to make progress. I found that along with them I began to improve. I began to see hope after years of hopelessness. Little did I know I was laying the foundations of a solid support system.

In this network of my peers, I found an opportunity to help others who were living the life I had lived. In 2006 I was among the first Certified Recovery Peer Specialists in the State of Florida.  For nearly 10 years I have been working in a field that I love, assisting others who were trapped and struggling to navigate the mental health system, like myself. I have found a passion, a purpose, to help others who live with mental illness and to be a voice for the voiceless. I have built a great life for myself, one that I am proud of.

Recovery from mental illness is possible. I’m living proof!

 

Only now do I understand

Guest post by Mary Bowers. Ms. Bowers is a volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Tallahassee Affiliate.
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My daughter Brook ended her life at the age of 31, just days before the 15th anniversary of her high school boyfriend’s death by suicide.

At the time, 16-year-old Brook had insisted no one understood what she was going through — the grief, the guilt, and the shame. Only now do I understand.

Two weeks after Brook’s funeral, I went back to work. When the longing to see her just one more time was more than I could bear, I took a sick day or two. There was a void that filled my heart and many unanswered questions consumed me.

After a few months had passed, I began attending grief support groups and I continue to do so today. Participating in those support groups with other survivors of suicide loss — the fostering of trust and understanding — made the difference. They knew what I needed when they gave me a sense of hope and helped me preserve my dignity.

Only one in four survivors seek help after the suicide of a loved one, and when they do, often times many months or years have passed. Forty-nine percent of survivors of suicide loss consider killing themselves. But healed survivors can find meaning in their lives by contributing to the community by helping others, especially those who have confronted similar losses.

This lesson is very important and together we can spark a meaningful change focused on suicide postvention.

With the Inaugural Bluebird Run and Walk for Brookie B, we hope to ignite a coordinated postvention program to support the bereaved and prevent further suicides. NAMI-Tallahassee has started the conversation. We offer you the opportunity to join us in our compassionate journey. For Bluebird Run and Walk for Brookie B information see www.BluebirdRun.com.

To get involved in NAMI-Tallahassee’s suicide prevention efforts, contact her at bowersb@centurylink.net. If you are in crisis or know someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24/7.

Without Notice

suicideToday, September 10, is annual World Suicide Prevention Day. Health organizations around the world use this event as an opportunity to promote awareness of this preventable cause of death. In 2013, there were almost 3,000 suicides in Florida and almost 10,000 hospitalizations for non-fatal self-inflicted injuries. Why does this happen so often close to home? 

Without notice, many of our loved ones suffer from and we may not know how to cope with them. If we educate each other about the warning signs, we can try to help save lives in the future.

Here are some frequent warning signs:

  • Talking about hurting themselves.
  • Looking for ways to harm themselves.
  • Having an uncharacteristic focus on death, dying or violence. Talking or writing about death
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, or self-hatred.
  • Self-destructive behaviors – such as increased substance use.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or a loss purpose.
  • Getting affairs in order – saying goodbye.
  • Anxiety or sleeping problems. 

Suicide prevention is crucial in every age group, but especially in adolescents. This is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24. School interventions, bullying prevention, limiting access to lethal means, screening for behavioral health issues, teaching intervention skills and promoting positive coping skills are all efforts being implemented in Florida schools, doctors’ offices and community organizations.

Help is available. If you or your loved ones have concerns, visit or contact these resources:

Standing Tall

Guest post by Brandy Ingram, youth coordinator at Federation of Families.  This is part two of her blog post series. The FOF is an organization focused on the issues of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs and their families.

As a follow-up to my previous post, here are two more stories of hope from the children in our leadership program. Their struggles are real and their recovery inspiring.

Joshua,* 18 years old

My story, well, I was a young kid my family moved. I was thinking that was gonna keep me out of trouble, but everything went downhill when I met some new guys.  We used to go and steal the rich kids’ bikes and sell them. We would split the money between all four of us.

When I was in the fourth grade one of my friends got 35 years in prison for murder.  When I was in sixth grade, one of my best friends that I was close to got sent away because police found drugs and guns in his mom’s house.

I got into robbing people, selling drugs, stealing cars and breaking into houses and then I got caught. I got sent to a program and they told me I have something wrong with me called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and don’t know if I really believed them, but I learned that I didn’t want to be a victim and that I had to change for the better.  I have accepted God as my savior, so now I am older and trying my best to stay out of trouble, even though I get mad a lot.

Note: ODD is a condition in which a child displays uncooperative, defiant and hostile behavior for more than six months. The behavior is often disruptive to the child’s daily life, interactions and activities.

Leila*, 16 years old

Hi, I am Haitian American.  I have at least 20 brothers and sisters, half of which I don’t get to see today.  Life for me has been a struggle.  Dealing with my mother’s death two days before her birthday has taken a huge toll on me.

When I was 11, I was sexually molested, causing me to feel very insecure about myself. Things happen and life goes by, but sometimes it’s just hard for me to spread my wings.  Since then, I’ve kept my guard up, not letting anyone in, trying to figure out what lies within.  After that, I fell into a deep depression, causing me to harm myself in various ways.

But that all changed when I started going to Federation of Families.  It helps focus on the mental health and well-being of both child and parent.  Not only did I have a shoulder to lean on, but a helping hand when times were hard.  Federation of Families gave me hope, courage, and a chance to make the right decisions in my life.  In a nutshell, life has been hard for me, but in the end, Federation of Families will always stand tall for me.

*Names changed for privacy.