May: Mental Health Month

It’s no surprise to many of you that I’m a big supporter of promoting mental health and wellness in any way I can. The month of May is important to me for two reasons.

1. It’s Mental Health Month and I like to see what all of my old mental health promoting pals are up to. I like the read the articles of hope and it reminds me how much work is to be done in the field.

2. My father’s birthday was May 30.

Most of you know that I lost my father to suicide August 2, 2007, making it the worst day of my life. This summer it’ll be four years, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again in August, but May is especially tough for me, especially the last week.

My childhood Mays were spent making the best of memories with my father. There were baseball games that I played and those that we watched on TV on the porch. There was an abundance of grilling and gardening and croquet and walks in the woods by the river filled with talks about every topic imaginable. Memorial Day beach weekends were held at Fort Foster and there was always, ALWAYS a birthday celebration for my father, who was always the MOST excited about his birthday.

Every year around May 30, I miss him more than I could ever express on paper. There are so many things that I never told him that I still regret. There are so many stories I’ve collected in the past few years that I wish I could tell him myself. There are a million questions about life that I could really use him for but truthfully, I just miss sitting in the same room with him. It stings to pick up the phone still sometimes to call him and have to think twice and slowly hang up. It’s still awkward when Katie or I say, “I’m going to call Dad and tell him you said that,” when there’s something worth blackmailing each other for or if it has great entertainment value.

I can still hear him if I quiet the rest of the world and listen. I can still picture him clearly and sometimes, but rarely, I smell something that reminds me of his soap or his cologne or, just him. I know one day I won’t be able to remember these things and that scares me and so I write like someone who could catch amnesia at any moment. There is an emptiness I feel every day in losing my father that I share with millions of others.

Depression, anxiety, bipolar, manic, and suicide are not dirty words and mental illness is as serious as cancer and leukemia and any other terminal illness. Mental health is not easy to talk about, whether you are facing a struggle yourself, or in trying to help those around you that you love. I will tell you, though, that if you don’t help, regardless of what they’re experiencing, worst case is that we’ll just add another number to a terrible statistic. And so, if you have a minute this week, please check out a few of my favorite mental health related sites. The people who back these are some of the finest I have ever met and they all in some way helped me through the hardest time of my life.

Active Minds: http://www.activeminds.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=42 I worked for Active Minds for a year in DC before I moved to Germany. If there was one thing I could ask of everyone, it would be to donate to this great cause. Every little bit helps these students and it’s an amazing movement that deserves far more credit than it gets.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ This line is available at any time of the day, for anyone to call, about anything.

PostSecret: http://www.postsecret.com/ People anonymously send in their secrets. Fantastic and interesting site.

Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN):
http://www.spanusa.org/
While living in DC, I volunteered for SPAN as their Virginia contact. It’s humbling to be able to help people find the resources they need so soon after losing someone.

All it takes sometimes is asking someone if they’re ok and letting them know you care. And for those of us that are left missing someone? It’s good to know there are people out there just like us.

So. Check out the sites, read the articles and donate some money. Then you can go back to reading my thoughts about monkeys, dirt and being strip searched on any given Tuesday.