NAMI Walks May 26 To Benefit Mental Illness

by Linda Hoff

He was a beautiful healthy baby. He was bright, curious and happy. He walked early and then ran everywhere. He loved toy soldiers and cars. He laughed a lot and cried a little. He loved to read and was in the gifted program in grade school. He had a few good friends and did well in school. He wasn’t into sports but loved video games. He liked to build things. He had problems with social cues in middle school. He was an “outside the box” thinker. He didn’t fit in. He had a hard time in high school. He went to a private school for kids with social problems. He graduated early. He hung out with a marginal crowd. He worked several part-time jobs. He kept hundreds of little slips of paper with license plate numbers in his car. He showered in his swim suit. His computer had spyware. He took pictures of the people following him. His fridge was full of poisoned food. His friends became his enemies. His life became a living nightmare.

He was hospitalized against his will, twice. He now knows he is sick. He takes his meds every day. He sits and watches TV. He smokes. He makes himself simple meals. He lies in bed and tries to ignore the voices. He thinks of all the dreams he had for himself. He wonders if he’ll ever work again. He hasn’t driven in over a year. He rarely leaves the house. He is easily stressed. His meds make him sleepy and make his legs shake. He cries for the life he could have had. He wishes for a girlfriend. He wishes he didn’t need to take medication. He is trying to come to terms with his illness. He wonders what his life will hold. Will he achieve any of his dreams?

The doctors say he is doing very well. He has only been in treatment for 8 months. He is one of 2.4 million adult Americans living with schizophrenia. He could be the guy sleeping under the highway. He could be using street drugs to self-medicate. He could be the man mumbling to himself that causes you to cross the street. He could be one of the 24% of state prisoners with a mental disorder. He could have been one of 70% of youths in the juvenile justice system with at least one mental disorder. He could be one of the more than 90% of those with a diagnosable mental disorder who die by suicide.

He is one of the lucky ones. He was able to get treatment. He has a supportive family. His family received education and support thru NAMI.

Thousands of members and supporters are the face and voice of the NAMI movement – families, individuals, friends and businesses – who come together to celebrate mental illness recovery, to honor those who have lost their lives to mental illness and to combat stigma, promote awareness and advocate for others. He has a chance that many people living with mental illness are not provided. Treatment works, if you can get it. He helps an old woman who falls in the street. He dreams. He gets up each day and takes his meds. He is an uncle, he is a brother, he is my son.

Linda Hoff, owner of Healthy Beauty Solutions is a proud supporter of NAMI Walks. Date: May 26, 2012; Location: Forest Park, Upper Muny lot; Walker Check-in time: 8 am; Walk starts: 9 am; Distance: 5K or 1 mile. Sign up to walk or donate @ www.nami.org/namiwalks12/stl/lahoff.