No matter what age, color, or religion, anyone can live with mental illness
Richard has lived with mental illness since he was a teenager. In high school, he experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. In his early 20s, he moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles, where he lived a happy and fulfilling life until he leased his first apartment and became isolated and suicidal. In response, Richard started to self-medicate with alcohol and marijuana. When he reached out for help, he didn’t get the support he needed.
Mental illness does not discriminate. No matter what age, color, or religion, anyone can live with mental illness.
“I had jobs where I asked my bosses for some time off because I was depressed and burned out and needed help,” Richard says. ’Every time I mentioned my depression, they all asked the same thing, ‘What are you depressed about?’ and they were hesitant to give me the time I needed. It goes to show that a lot of people are ignorant and uneducated when it comes to mental illness.”
Now back in Massachusetts, Richard is getting support from his family, feeling better, and using his experiences to help others. He received training through NAMI and Boston Medical Center and now works as a peer specialist at Boston Medical Center, facilitating groups of individuals struggling with addiction and other issues. He also works on a mental health hotline. He will soon begin classes at Bunker Hill Community College, working toward a certificate in human services.
I’ve shared my stories at work. I’ve also shared my stories through writing and performance. It’s important for me to let people see that anyone can be affected by mental illness and that support is out there if you ask for it.
One of the main reasons Richard shares his story is because, as a minority, he knows his peers might not seek treatment.
Statistics show that Hispanics and African-Americans seek help at significantly lower rates than other Americans do, and I want to show people that it’s okay to ask for help. Also, I know the stigma especially affects men, so I want to show other men that asking for help doesn’t make you weak.