Mental Illness is TOO BIG TO IGNORE
By Bianca Thompson
Mental Health Association Oklahoma Staff Member
I once had a “normal” life as a nursing assistant. Then my untreated bipolar disorder spiraled my life into a manic period where I couldn’t remember what I’d done for days. I can never explain how scared I was for my life as it slipped away.
After I got out of an Oklahoma City mental health crisis center, I had no other choice but to quit my nursing job and move back home with my mom. The amazing part of my story is I’ve actually gained so much since I seemingly lost everything.
Mental illness is too big to ignore because I’m among the 1 in 4 Oklahomans impacted by mental illness. But I also represent the fact that recovery is possible and happening every day, including at the very place that changed my life forever, the Association’s peer-run drop-in center, Lottie House.
I started frequenting Lottie House in 2014 because treatment was not very successful at that point, and I tended to isolate myself at home. I was shy in the beginning, but I eventually opened up and started participating more in the support groups, bingo and karaoke. It was an honor when the staff asked me to become a Lottie House volunteer. After nearly a year of volunteering, I was hired part-time because the staff recognized my potential and saw me as a person not as my diagnosis.
I have this message to everyone who is among the 1 in 4 people living with mental illness — maybe that’s someone you know and love, or maybe it’s even you:
You will have to overcome many obstacles to access care, but there is life after your diagnosis. It may not seem like it now, but mental illness does not define you. For me, it actually gave me a rewarding life I could never have imagined.
TOO BIG TO IGNORE
Between 700,000 – 900,000 Oklahomans are in need of services for mental illness and substance use. Only 1 in 3 of these Oklahomans are accessing the medical services they need to treat these diseases.
Follow our series featuring stories containing information about how you can engage, take action and make a difference.
We have Tulsa & OKC May Events!
May 22: Housing Tour in Tulsa
Learn how we’re ending homelessness in Tulsa!
Join us at 11:45 am to go on a unique housing tour. Meet us at Boston Avenue Methodist Church, 1301 South Boston Avenue. Let’s meet in the church’s parking lot in front of the Jubilee Hall south door. This is your chance to see the Association’s housing and hear from some amazing people who have overcome homelessness.
People often ask us how are we ending homelessness. We’ve found the best way to explain it is to simply show you.
Our tour will take just over an hour and you’ll get to hear firsthand how our housing works and why Tulsa has a nationally recognized housing model. Tulsa is among the elite communities across the country working to end chronic and veteran homelessness, and providing critical recovery supports for people impacted by homelessness and mental illness.
May 22: Cycling Housing Tour in Tulsa
You like cycling? Get in your daily cycling workout and learn how we’re ending homelessness in Tulsa … it’s a win-win!
Join us May 22 at 6 pm to go on a unique cycling housing tour. Meet us in the parking lot of our peer-run drop-in center, Denver House, at 252 West 17th Place in Tulsa.
Hop on your bike for an Association housing tour co-led by our friend, Kenneth. He will help map the route and lead the way. Kenneth has a mental illness and uses cycling to balance his mental health and daily recovery. He is an amazing mental health advocate. We will stop at a few of our properties and take a short tour. This is your chance to see the housing and hear from some amazing people who have overcome homelessness.
May 23 in OKC: QPR Suicide Prevention Training
Join us at noon in Oklahoma City at DC on Film Row community event space. Bring your lunch or buy it at the food truck Murphy’s Cook Shack that will be there and learn how to ask a question and save a life from suicide. During this free suicide prevention training known as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), you’ll learn warning signs of suicide and ways to walk alongside someone as they connect to services. Like CPR, the more people that are trained, the more equipped we are as a community to help someone in need. Invite a friend or family member to come with you!
Give For May is Mental Health Month!
Our #TooBigToIgnore campaign for May is Mental Health Month is an awareness campaign that focuses on some of the dire issues our state is facing. The Association is on the frontlines of working on solutions to these issues and we cannot do it without you! Your gift will continue to help us provide life-changing programs and services for people impacted by mental illness, suicide, homelessness and criminal justice.
We can’t make a difference in people’s lives without your generous support!
NOTE: This is the third of five stories in our May is Mental Health Month TOO BIG TO IGNORE series. These stories emphasize the fact that too many Oklahomans ignore mental illness, homelessness, suicide and the fact that our jails and prisons have become de facto institutions. Oftentimes, it’s only when one or more of these dire issues impact our friends, co-workers and loved ones that people finally take notice. This is why we cannot — and will not — stop making this message heard loud and clear in our communities, the halls of the Capitol, and in every Oklahomans’ living room.