Ryan was your typical teenager before his life would change forever. At 14 he started experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. He would have feelings of despair and sadness, feel tired and slept a lot, had frequent loss of appetite, extreme anger and aggression but neither him nor his family recognized these as symptoms of a serious mental illness.
“I was raised in a household where we never talked about our feelings and everything was swept under the rug. As long as everything looked good from the outside, all was fine.”
Denial meant that instead of seeking help, Ryan dealt with his symptoms using drugs and alcohol. At age 18 it would all become too much and he would make his first suicide attempt. Ryan was very lucky to survive.
“It was not until I was 23 that I decided to take control of my life. I was expecting my first child; it was time to ensure that I would be there for my son. Once I was clean and sober my symptoms came to the forefront again. My family knew that something was wrong, but I was still in denial. It finally took me hallucinating at work during a manic episode and being sent to the hospital by my employer to seek out help.”
Forced to go to the hospital, Ryan was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He now had an answer to explain the symptoms he had been experiencing, but this would not be the end of his challenges. This would be the beginning of a lifelong battle to overcome the stigma surrounding his diagnosis.
“One of my family members told me shortly after my diagnosis that ‘It is all in your head and it just takes will power.’ I can assure you there is no amount of willpower to overcome a mental illness. But this belief prevented me from getting help and staying on my meds.”
The inability to accept his diagnosis would lead Ryan to attempt suicide 3 more times before he turned 30.
“I was very lucky to survive suicide. It was a very difficult time in my life but I am so glad I was able to make it through. I would not have met my wife, Karyn and my newborn son. I was truly given a second chance. I feel so grateful to be here and to share how stigma almost cost me my life. I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire those facing similar mental health challenges to speak up and get help before it is too late. We need to realize that stigma kills.”
Bipolar disorder changed Ryan’s life. Stigma almost ended it.
Unfortunately, Ryan’s story is more common than we think. Today in our community stigma is preventing people of all ages from seeking help. Each year families in our community lose loved ones to suicide, but many of these deaths can be prevented with education and early support. Ryan was lucky to survive 4 suicide attempts, many in our community have not been so lucky. Stigma is the cause of too many deaths. We must change the way we view mental health. We must educate our youth, our workplaces, our seniors, and our entire community by talking about mental health. We must fight stigma with education! This is a battle we can and must win!
We Need Your Help
As a leader in mental health in Vernon since 1958, CMHA makes real change in our community. We are working hard to break down stigma but we can’t do it alone.
Help us break down the stigma. Help us share more personal stories, provide more education that stigma kills and establish more programs and services to meet the need in our local community.
Your gift this holiday season will go directly to saving lives through education workshops, outreach and awareness, and increase our reach in breaking down the stigma of mental health illnesses. We want people to get help as soon as they need it. Together we can make sure those facing mental health challenges in our community know they deserve support and healthy lives. Your gift can make sure people get lifesaving education and services before it is too late.
Together we will save lives!
Thank you for taking action to ensure no more families in our community lose loved ones.
Julia Payson, Executive Director