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Presentation sheds light on the journey of mental illness sufferers

On Monday, March 24 the National Alliance on Mental Illness presented “In Our Own Voice” in Knott Hall, sponsored by Active Minds. The presentation focused on the stories of people who suffer from mental illnesses. The two speakers, Tom and Ryan, spoke about their journey with mental disease—as they traveled from their “dark days” to finally receiving the appropriate treatment and reaching acceptance for the first time. The two well spoken, intelligent men also expressed to the audience their hope to remove society’s stigma of labeling people with mental illnesses as “crazy.”

Throughout the presentation, Tom and Ryan showed the audience clips of interviews with individuals speaking about their illness, which ranged from bipolar disorder and major depression to schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. After each video, Tom and Ryan would shed some light on their own stories and how they got where they are today. Both suffer from bipolar disorder and know first hand what it is like to feel lost and alone.  “There is no color in the spectrum to explain how dark those days were, “said Tom regarding the beginning of his disorder.  Ryan shared a bit of what he considered to be his rock bottom, after which he went to seek out professional help. “I was convinced I was a diplomat for divine aliens, so I sent a letter to the President and was tracked down by two NSA agents,” Ryan explained.

The majority of the presentation was spent discussing acceptance of a mental disability and ways to live with one on a day-to-day basis. Tom and Ryan urged the audience to remember it is no one’s fault and they are not alone. Coming to terms with a mental disorder and knowing you have to take medication and work daily to keep your disability under control can be a “tough pill to swallow,” as Tom put it. However, it is a necessary step in making the transition from blindness to acceptance.

The two speakers went on to speak about their personal coping mechanisms, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future.  Individuals from the video clips spoke about how doing things like spending time with their family, going to the gym, playing with their dog and playing guitar keeps them healthy and happy. They have learned that it is the little things in life that make the largest difference for their stability and mental well-being.

Tom and Ryan culminated the event by urging the audience to understand that people with mental disabilities are not insane or scary. “I’m happy to say bipolar disorder has not changed the person I’ve always been. I proudly say ‘I am bipolar but I will not let it rule me,’” Tom stated. The audience seemed very receptive to the speakers and offered questions and words of encouragement to Tom and Ryan after the event, as well as a roaring round of applause.

Molli Tierney, a first year student and fellow audience member, spoke fondly of the presentation saying, “I enjoyed hearing the personal stories of the speakers, about how they cope with their struggles and how they work to overcome them.” Tom and Ryan were able to present a lecture that was touching and emotional, while adding humor at times to keep it positive and uplifting. They taught the audience that mental disabilities are not something to be ashamed of, but instead something to embrace.

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Presentation sheds light on the journey of mental illness sufferers