Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? It is one of approximately 25 national “causes” observed in May. Unless you or a loved one are directly impacted by any of these causes/issues, they are sometimes easy to overlook.
Even as a mental health provider, it was not until my son Andrew took his life in 2018 that Mental Health Awareness month became prominent in my life. He took his life on May 15. With all respect to the reasons Mental Health Awareness month was started — to bring awareness to mental illness — I do not believe Andrew was mentally ill. He was struggling with life, in particular with the phase of life he found himself in as a young adult.
Yes, his issues were compounded by his childhood experiences, wounds, and scars. If we are honest many of us have struggled with similar issues and histories. Our inner landscape is at times wrought with pain, anxiety, sadness/depression, shame, loneliness, overwhelm, and grief. And sometimes it isn’t shared with those closest to us.
Does that make us mentally ill? In my opinion, it makes us Human.
Unlike most of us, Andrew decided to end his inner pain through suicide. Unlike many who struggle with the overwhelming times of life, he did not share his feelings or reach out for help.
This year, for our Annual Remembrance, the Vida Center, which is the nonprofit we started in the aftermath of Andrew’s suicide, will be sharing a highlight reel of a documentary project we started and, with the community’s support, hope to finish by end of year. One of our messages: Mental Health is important and a big part of how we experience Life, but there is a difference between mental health and mental illness, and the former does not always equate to the latter.
For more information, please visit vidacenter.org.