In my story and that of others, opportunities to demystify mental illness

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Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Rebecca Lyn Phillips is a published author, speaker and mental health advocate.

I was a super achiever growing up. I attended a private Christian school in Topeka and also signed a book deal with a major Nashville publisher when I was only 15. I also had a babysitting business and was involved in the track, orchestra, choir, and several musicals and plays. I never thought I would be diagnosed with a mental illness, let alone schizophrenia.

“Schizophrenia?!” I thought to myself when they told my mother and me in the mental hospital during the freezing winter of 1994. I thought they were telling me that I was stupid and that I was no longer intelligent. I thought they were telling me that I would never get anywhere and that I might as well turn around and die.

Unfortunately, too many people end up having similar thoughts when they or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious mental illness. It can happen to anyone. I have a good friend who suffers from schizophrenia. He attended Mount Holyoke and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and an MBA from Baker. Her father was a doctor and they were close family.

Yes, mental illness can happen to anyone.

Most of the time, however, we only hear about sanity when a shooting happens or something else that is terrible and disturbing. Words like “crazy” or “psycho” or “crazy” or “schizo” are often used to describe someone who is a bad person.

Most of the time, however, we only hear about sanity when a shooting happens or something else that is terrible and disturbing.

I was filmed in a national documentary several years ago, and short film psychologist Xavier Amador is consulted by many powerful organizations and law enforcement to discuss people who end up doing things while they were psychotic.

Amador, who taught at Columbia and travels the world speaking to professionals in communicating with people with mental illness, is a true advocate for the mentally ill. He was Bethenny Frankel’s advisor in New York. He also had a brother with schizophrenia which he talks about in his book, “I’m not sick, I don’t need help”. It helps people learn how to help their loved one accept treatment even if they don’t think they have a problem.

So many hot topics in today’s society relate to mental health and its challenges – from health insurance, like Medicaid, to housing, to law enforcement, to stigma, to family support . My mom, Claire, helps teach a family support group for our local NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The other three ladies leading the group are courageous and compassionate. This is exactly what is needed to deal with the problems and challenges presented by people with mental illness. Mental illness is not bad behavior or a sin: it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And yes, the brain is a physical part of the body. Everything is connected.

Valeo CEO Bill Persinger holds one of the most important positions in Topeka, trying to figure out how to help those in need, many of whom come to Valeo underinsured or not insured at all. With the implementation of KanCare, the three managed care companies that make up Kansas Medicaid, many behavioral healthcare providers faced the immense and incredible challenge of dealing not with one managed care company, but with three . Medicaid cuts have also not been favorable to providers.

Housing is another huge issue affecting too many people with serious mental health issues. Breakthrough House, another Topeka nonprofit, offers several group homes, but what’s really needed is about 25 group homes.

Breakthrough House staff are doing their best to try to help people find shelter. They also have a clubhouse in the old Social Security building downtown where customers can come for meals and support. They help them find housing, help them in their efforts to find a job, go back to school or do volunteer work.

So, is there recovery for people with mental illness? I’m a big believer in recovery, but it’s more of a recovery journey, not a destination, because there is no magic cure or cure. I keep sharing because without talking about mental illness and its challenges, one cannot understand how to offer help and hope.

The third program is a financial management service where clients get help paying rent and other bills. Financial abuse is also a huge problem for people with mental illness. Too often they are exploited and misused. I have two friends who have buddies who use them for their money and that of their family.

Recent news about Brittney Spears’ situation has raised the topic of guardianship or guardianship, which is when someone with mental illness has someone to make financial and other decisions for them. These relationships can too often become abusive.

Another important issue is law enforcement and how the police respond to mental health crises. Many police departments have crisis intervention team officers who have been trained to learn how to respond to these situations.

I have spoken at the annual Topeka CIT training and shown the documentary I have been in for the past eight years except last year. Too often officers across the country do not understand how to communicate with these people in need and in crisis. The Topeka Police Department is doing a great job though.

So, is there recovery for people with mental illness? I’m a big believer in recovery, but it’s more of a recovery journey, not a destination, because there is no magic cure or cure. I keep sharing because without talking about mental illness and its challenges, one cannot understand how to offer help and hope.

Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, each of us needs to ask ourselves, “How can I reach out to those in need?” How can I help end the stigma and start the conversation about mental illness? »

By starting a conversation in his family or in a cafe with friends or elsewhere, one can dare to care and dare to offer a glimmer of hope. There is hope. There is a way to recover. We just need to open our eyes and be brave. We need to step beyond our comfort zone and step outside our door into the vast world of knowledge and compassion.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.

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