Hands are shaking.
Sweat rolling down my back.
I can do this.
It is not like the topic is foreign to me.
I am preparing to speak for approximately 20 minutes to a Human Services Committee in our State Capitol.
The lady next to me, someone I know, has offered to help me hand out speaking notes to the legislators. I have prepared myself as much as I can, my display is hidden and ready.
I walk to the podium.
Seems surreal. As I grasp the sides of the lectern to prevent an obvious display of my nerves, I began to speak. Rather than opening with my notes, I open with a heartfelt thank you. A thank you to the Family Voices organization in my state, a thank you to our Care Coordinator, a thank you to the facility, so many people and agencies to acknowledge. I hope I don’t leave any out.
I begin with my notes. An introduction as to whom I am. a parent. an advocate. someone who cares and has a vested interest in the process. I wonder fleetingly if this is exploitation of my son, my speaking here today. I hope not. If it is, it is.
I start with a brief history about David’s adoption. His first year. the first 2 years, birthdays. The first five years. the last five years until now.
I hear a sniffle. Almost a cry.
I wonder, am I being heard?
I try to keep my eyes on my notes, I know I should look up, but if I do, I will lose focus and break down. This is a life we are talking about.
I speak about the stress. I talk about the thought of giving up custody. I talk about what I would like to see if I were king.
Before I close. I look up. I note the time. just under 20 minutes. Perfect.
I explain my number one fear for my son.
“My number one fear is that I will answer a knock on my door, to see law enforcement and have them tell me that my son was shot during an officer involved shooting.”
I ask a question of the committee. “Do you want to see what mental illness looks like?”
As I see them nod, I reach down and pull out my display.
a 12 x 20 poster print of my son. Glued to a larger poster board. It is obvious that they are affected. I know, briefly that I have reached these people.
I pass the poster to my helper. I thank her. She turns and shows the image to the audience.
You can feel the emotion in the room.
A little bit, I let down my guard. Nearly done. I ask if there are questions of the committee. and answer them as they come.
I turn to my seat. You can see the emotion that people are feeling. Very few dry eyes.
I think to myself “next time, bring a supply of tissues…”
I know that I will give this talk again.
I wish that it wasn’t necessary.
Will it impact my son?
I don’t know. I pray that it does.
Might it impact others?
I don’t know. I pray that it does.
As the meeting ended, I was asked to present to another group.
I am all about raising awareness so agree, scheduling contingent of course. They will reach out to me in the coming weeks.Tweet #fighting4answrs
We need to continue to raise awareness regarding mental health. Focus on mental health shouldn’t revolve around those with real or perceived mental illness committing violent crimes. Instead, it should be brought to the American conscious much like AIDS or Cancer.
Mental Health encompasses so much more than one illness. It includes ADHD, schizophrenia, Autism, Bipolar, and so many other axis of diagnosis. Much like an MD, doctors can specialize in one area of mental health.
To raise awareness, people need to use their voices. Parents and patients alike need to voice their stories.
Raising awareness begins with one voice in a forest. Who will be that voice? You? Me? Our children?
In my mind, the answer is all of us. We all need to be that voice in the forest, because the forest is a vast wilderness of people who don’t understand what the mentally ill or the people who care for them are dealing with. In order to advocate for change in the mental healthcare system, we need to ensure that people are aware of what is needed.
This past Friday I had the fantastic opportunity to speak to a group of professionals about the culture of care in my state regarding mental health. I spoke about David. About adoption, behaviors, fear, and asking for help. I also spoke about the failures in getting him help. About the frustrations that I feel as a parent in trying to get him the services and help that he needs. The culture surrounding mental health needs to change.
Don’t think that you have a voice?
I bet that you do.
Your voice exists every time that you talk about mental illness.
Your voice exists when you tell a doctor or therapist what you or your child need.
Your voice exists when you share the behaviors of your loved one.
Use your voice.
Don’t know how? I can help. If I can’t help, I can recommend people in your area that can help you.
Need a voice? Contact me, I would be more than happy to speak to your group.