Wednesday, November 26, 2014
I am a Stigma Fighter
About five months ago I began writing this blog and quickly became connected with people around the world who also blog about issues related to mental illness. Within a day of posting my first entry I was connected to someone through a mutual friend who was also a mental health blogger. She promptly added me to a private Facebook page for mental health advocates who blog about their experiences. It was a bit overwhelming at first to be among all these accomplished writers who were doing great things as mental health advocates, but it was also a wonderful gift. I realized I was not alone in this endeavor, that there are thousands of people all over the world doing amazing things to raise awareness about mental illness and end the stigma and shame associated with having a mental illness.
One of those people is Sarah Fader. She has created a webpage called Stigma Fighters where people share their stories of living with a mental illness. It is very powerful to see people from all walks of life taking a risk and sharing their stories of suffering in order to heal themselves and others. She is trying to take the next step and turn Stigma Fighters into a non-profit organization that would create chapters at college campuses where students who struggle can become part of a community who understands. In order for her to take this next step, she needs to raise $5,000 to become a non-profit and set up some tours of college campuses to get things started.
I was so impressed by her work and I decided to get involved a bit. I donated some money and also submitted my own story of living with mental illness to her page. Stigma Fighters is a community, and I am happy to be a part of it. Around this time I also began following the progress of her fundraising and was surprised and disappointed to see that more people were not donating.
I think people don't realize the severity of this problem, especially for our young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24. As a father of two teenagers this really scares me. Mental illness and suicide are not things that only happen to "other people", it can happen to anyone. There are over 1,000 suicides annually at U.S. colleges, which means an average of three people each day taking their own life on a college campus.
Despite all of this, I still never really hear about it. It's still a topic that is taboo and filled with shame for people. By not talking about this issue, we are teaching our youth that it is indeed a shameful thing that should not be spoken of. Then when youth begin to have symptoms, as many do, they feel ashamed, isolated, and don't know how to get help. They need to know it's okay to talk about it, and they need to have a place where they can get help. Stigma Fighters can be that place. I sincerely hope that this money can be raised so Sarah can continue moving forward with this important work. Without a doubt I know it does and will continue to save lives.
If you are interested in donating here is the link to her fundraising page: http://www.funddreamer.com/campaigns/help-stigma-fighters-become-a-501c3