Since 1990, National Mental Illness Awareness Week has been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a time for mental health advocates and patients to join together for various awareness-raising activities. Sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the goal of this week is to transform the way we think about mental illness, which is defined by NAMI as “a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.”
Like any other medical condition affecting a particular organ, mental illness is not caused by personal weakness or character defects, and it can affect individuals of any age, race, religion or income. As an example, some famous people who are known to have lived with mental illness include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Tennessee Williams and Mike Wallace (who was eulogized by one of our members last June). Below is a new PSA ad for National Mental Illness Awareness Week 2012 that focuses on some of these legendary icons, stressing that “you are not alone in this fight.”
In addition to exchanging in-depth treatment evaluations about the effectiveness and side effects of commonly prescribed medications such as Cymbalta, Klonopin or Wellbutrin, our members are connecting and supporting each other daily in our Mental Health and Behavior Forum. Currently, there are more than 39,000 participants and more than 333,000 posts in this highly active forum, where you can find answers, empathy, humor and thought-provoking conversations day or night.
This graphic (which you can click to enlarge) gives you a feel of the many emotions, concerns and thoughts that surround the topic of mental health. But the best way to increase awareness and knowledge, we believe, is to learn from real patients. According to NAMI, one in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year, while one in 17 lives with a serious, chronic mental illness.
To help show what it’s like to live with depression, we thought we’d share some of our members’ candid answers to the question, “What does your depression feel like?”
“My last depressive state felt like I was in a well with no way to get out. I would be near the top, but oops….down I go. I truly felt that I would not be able to pull myself out of this one. I felt hopeless, worthless and so damn stupid, because I could not be like other people, or should say what I think are normal people.”
“It feels like living in a glass box. You can see the rest of the world going about life, laughing, bustling about, doing things, but they can’t see you or hear you, or touch you, or notice you at all, and you cannot remember how to do the things that they are doing, like laughing, and just being ordinary and satisfied with it. You are totally alone although surrounded by people.”
“It feels like walking in a dimly lit hallway (or totally black, depending on the severity) with no exit in sight and no one else around. You keep walking hoping to come to the end, trying to feel along the walls for some sort of door that will take you out of this tunnel, but to no success. At the beginning you feel like there has to be an end or a door of some sort – something to get you out, but as you keep walking, your hopes damper by each step. You try yelling for help, but no one hears you.”
“Depression is very much like feeling as if I have no arms nor legs and (what’s left of) my body is upright in the middle of a road on a cold, dark, foggy morning. I can’t run. I can’t walk or crawl. In fact, I have no options. I have no memory of how I came to be there. I know I’m going to die, I don’t know when or exactly how. There’s nobody around who sees me or understands my situation. If somebody gets close by and I scream, they’ll run away in fear. My family has no idea where I am and I’m alone… except for the headlights down the road.”
This Spring, as you’re out at disease-related fundraiser events, take note of the people in those bright blue t-shirts walking, running or biking by your side.Those are patients like you!
Since its launch in 2009, more than 1,700 people (including patients, friends and family members) have taken part in the PatientsLikeMeInMotion™ program to raise money and awareness for various conditions. Here are some fun facts about PatientsLikeMeInMotion and a video of some of our members who have participated.
2009 Quick Facts
2009 marked the debut of the PatientsLikeMeInMotion program.
Approximately 40 PatientsLikeMe members signed up teams to participate in PatientsLikeMeInMotion and led more than 700 people on PatientsLikeMe teams across the United States.
So, what will 2011 look like for PatientsLikeMeInMotion? That’s entirely up to you!Do you have an awareness event in your area you would like to be a part of? Sign your run/walk/bike team up for PatientsLikeMeInMotion and count on us to support you – both online and off!
Posted by Lori Piscatelli Scanlon | October 14, 2010
Last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week. Did you know there are more than 18,000 patients in the PatientsLikeMe Mood Community? Stay tuned for another blog tomorrow with some interesting tidbits about this community. To warm us up, here is a recent newsletter interview we did with three-star member – marathoner452. Read on to find out what she recently told our very own Amy Morton about what brings her joy, returning to teaching, and what she has learned from the PatientsLikeMe Mood Map.
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(Amy) What brings you joy?
(Marathoner452) My two-year-old niece and four-month-old nephew make me so happy.
During my most recent depression, my niece and her parents (my nephew wasn’t born yet) lived at my house and just waking up in the morning and knowing that as soon as I made it downstairs she’d be chanting my name and wanting to sit on my lap at breakfast and pop the bubbles in my cereal was enough of a reason to live another day.
You don’t remember much from when you’re almost two-years-old. I wanted her to remember me. When she gets old enough to understand, I intend to tell her how she helped save my life.
(Amy) What is your top priority these days?
(Marathoner452) I am working on moving back to live with my girlfriend, who has been diagnosed with depression herself. I lived there for two years prior to moving home a year ago at the crisis point of a severe depressive episode.
This means leaving behind a job that’s brought me to stable over the past three months, working as a job coach with adults with developmental disabilities and finding something equivalent once I move. Friends and family both have expressed concern over living that far away from my strong support network [back home], but I’m willing to take the risk.
(Amy) How does your condition affect your social life?
(Marathoner452) I am by nature a very introverted person, and when my anxiety is heightened by a mood episode, I become even more withdrawn. I’ll even cancel plans to spend time with close friends because even the travel or being around strangers is uncomfortable, and I’ll avoid answering the phone. Kinda ironic that I want to get back to being a teacher!
(Amy) What keeps you coming back to PatientsLikeMe?
(Marathoner452) See above. Online forums such as PatientsLikeMe and web chat are perfect for me – low stress and on my own schedule. Crowds and oftentimes even in-person support groups are too intimidating.
I also find all the charting to be very interesting. Sometimes the Mood Map survey will show me something I didn’t even know, like wow, I didn’t realize I was feeling that anxious. And these days I love when it pops out a really high “function” score. That makes me feel like there is hope for me to lead a stable life.
(Amy) Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Marathoner452!
Posted by Lori Piscatelli Scanlon | August 30, 2010
Ever wonder what your fellow members were up to on their sponsored walks and runs in various states across the country? Last week, PatientsLikeMe launched a Flickr page for the PatientsLikeMeInMotionTM program. Now you can see photos of members just like you in motion! We are excited to share the experience of sponsored teams and three-star members with everyone.
Since its inception in 2009, PatientsLikeMeInMotionTM has sponsored more than 115 teams across seven disease communities. With over 2, 100 participants to date, the program has given many members the chance to demonstrate their PatientsLikeMe spirit as well as connect with others who have shared similar experiences.
It’s always great to see how PatientsLikeMe members are just as passionate offline as they are online. Now, everyone can catch a glimpse our members in action from New York to Ohio to California! The PatientsLikeMeInMotionTMFlickr page currently hosts photos from walks in the ALS, MS, Parkinson’s, Transplants, Fibromyalgia and Mood communities…with more to come. We are proud to feature events such as The National MS Society‘s “Walk MS” series, ALS Association’s “Walk to Defeat ALS” series, Parkinson’s Unity Walk, and events run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (just to name a few). Have photos you would like to submit? We would love to see them. Email us.
Thank you to all the members who have contributed their time and photos to PatientsLikeMeInMotionTM. You continue to inspire others. And thanks to all the members of the PatientsLikeMe community for continuing to share.
At PatientsLikeMe, people with every type of condition are coming together to share their health experiences, find patients like them and learn how to take control of their health. The result is improved care for patients as well as an acceleration of real-world medical research.
Stay tuned to our blog for the latest happenings with our company, our patients and our mission of opening up the healthcare system.