Millions of people of every age, ethnicity, gender and economic status are affected, and yet diseases like depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD are still surrounded by stigma, shame and silence.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Standard-Examiner asked people living with a mental illness to tell their story. In this first of a three-part series looking at mental illness in Utah, thirteen people share their experiences and hopes for better understanding and acceptance of mental health issues.
Aleatha Child, 23, is a mother of two who first experienced postpartum depression after a miscarriage in 2013. “There are other people around you that can be there to help you."
Lisa Richards, 45, was diagnosed eight years ago with bipolar type II disorder, but she had been living with the symptoms of the disease for years. "To me, that was my normal."
Jeremy Holm, 37, is a bobsled athlete, coach, motivational speaker, published author and graphic designer. Holm was a teenager when he first began to struggle with depression and anxiety. "When I was in high school, the words anxiety and depression were not words that I actually knew. I just knew that I felt different ... and I didn't know why."
Alicia Glascock, 29, is a nurse, mother of three and co-founder of the Northern Utah nonprofit The Mothers' Nest. After the birth of her second child, Glascock began experiencing panic attacks and flashbacks later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. "I had no idea that that was something I could get from having my baby."
Mandi Waldron, 31, is a crisis center counselor and mother of two who remembers dealing with depression as a teenager. Her experiences with mental illness as an adult began after her second son was born. "Depression tells lies. It makes your brain think things that aren't right. ... I reached a point where my depression was telling me that I was doing a disservice to my family by staying alive."
John Boydstun, 54 recalls experiencing psychosis as young as 6 years old. He continues to cope with symptoms related to his schizoaffective disorder by working part-time, going to group therapy and taking prescribed medications. “The thought that I could go out of my mind … people can’t comprehend that unless they’ve been to that point, and it is such a scary thing that you just don't ever talk about it.”
Camille Derricott, 28, remembers a mind-over-matter mentality in her family when it came to mental illness. It wasn't until her late teens that she sought treatment for her anxiety and depression. Derricott has spent the past five years working as a behavioral health specialist, using her own experiences to help others. "Mental illness isn't something to be ashamed of. ... It's OK, and there are a lot of people who understand."
Avery Furlong, 24, didn't have time to be depressed. That's what she remembers being told after the birth of her first child. Watching other mothers seemingly easing gracefully into their roles made Furlong feel isolated. At four months postpartum, she became convinced her husband and baby were better off without her. "I attempted to take my own life ... and that was when I finally got professional help, which is something that I seriously regret not doing from the very beginning. ... It got so much better from there."
Kate Barker, 37, experienced deep depression and panic attacks as she struggled with a crumbling marriage, her identity as transgender and the fear of what coming out would do to her life. “It seems super impossible, like it’s never going to go away, and it might not go away, but it gets better.”
Chris Bodily, 38, is an Ogden artist living with bipolar disorder. He showed signs of the disease most of his life, but went undiagnosed until an attempted drug overdose that led to his hospitalization. "It's kind of hard to realize that that's what's going on because when you're manic, you seem outgoing ... and the depression just kind of hides itself in a lot of things that were going on in my life."
Lindsay Aerts, 34, was three months postpartum when she began experiencing intrusive thoughts of harm coming to her baby, sometimes at her own hand. After reaching out to her obstetrician, Aerts was given medication and a therapy referral. “It was so foreign to me, to be in this vulnerable place of feeling this way. ... It really scared me.”
Jami Norton, 33, felt the postpartum depression hit before she left the hospital after the birth of her third child. Her doctor immediately recognized the signs and put Norton on medication. Nearly five years later, the traumatic birth of her fourth child required an emergency hysterectomy and her newborn son being placed in the NICU. The depression hit harder this time. "I felt like I had to hide it, that if I came out and I was ... vocal about the fact that I was feeling these things, that they were going to keep my baby from coming home."
Sherry Coker, 50, had heard that mental illness ran in her family. A cousin who had struggled with suicide took his own life when Coker was 17. Sexual abuse from other children and further trauma caused severe panic attacks and depression. "I had a sister-in-law who would talk to me until 4 o’clock in the morning, and she would take me off the cliff. … She saved my life. I am here today because of her."
Part 2, May 15: Lack of mental health professionals a problem as demand for services increases.
Part 3, May 22: Mental illness and the Medicaid gap.
Those thinking of harming themselves have several resources available:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
National Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741-741 to be able to text with a trained crisis counselor.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah, 801-323-9900
Family Counseling Service of Northern Utah, 801-399-1600
Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital Behavioral Health, 801-387-5600
Weber Human Services 801-625-3700