By Tawnua Montanden
Mental Health Association Oklahoma Creating Connections Participant 

My journey is TOO BIG TO IGNORE because I was once trapped in darkness and couldn’t find my way out. All alone I struggled with homelessness, mental illness, substance use and personal traumas that are hard to talk about.

Even after I moved into a safe place to live, my mental illness built a barrier between me and the outside world. For too long all I did each day was zone out watching other people live amazing lives on TV.

That was not the life I wanted, so I broke through the barriers of mental illness and found my way to the other side. That’s when I discovered the Association’s Creating Connections program. It empowers me, and other participants affected by mental illness, to get out of the house and head into town for a fun day of going to the zoo, bowling, getting our nails done or any number of awesome excursions. Because we’re together, none of us are afraid. Instead, we make new friends and look out for each other.

The best way Creating Connections changed my life was the day I met my best friend, Shannon. Like me, she understands how hard it can be to live with mental illness and feel so alone. We do a lot of things in life together, like going shopping and to concerts, but most importantly I have someone by my side who really understands me.

My favorite Creating Connections outing is the annual Fashion & Talent Showcase. We get to pick out an outfit we can keep for going to church or job interviews or to simply make us feel special. They do my hair and makeup so I feel beautiful when I get to strut on the Fashion Show’s catwalk.

It’s a very memorable night where it’s all about you for one day. It’s just awesome.

So, yes, my journey is TOO BIG TO IGNORE and the best way to sum it up is through a poem that I’ll perform at the Fashion Show called “My Journey.” Listen to it below! 


May 11: Attend the Fashion & Talent Showcase

The 15th Annual Fashion & Talent Showcase — My Journey — is May 11 in Tulsa. The reception starts at 6 pm and the show begins at 6:30 pm at First United Methodist Church, 1115 South Boulder Avenue. This showcase is about giving people impacted by mental illness a night to shine. It’s the most inspirational event of the year! Plus, it’s free.

Learn More


May 15 in Tulsa: QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Join us at 6 pm in the Pecan Room at Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 East 93rd Street in Tulsa. 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!

Sign Me Up!


NOTE: This is the second 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.


If you would like to learn more about mental health visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website here.


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