Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fighting Mental Illness in Youths

It was little things happening that alerted Nancy that something was very wrong. But, as a mother, she didn’t want to acknowledge something could be wrong with her son. Craig was 21 years old when he put a gun to his head and ended his life.  He was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic, but by then it was too late. **
Nancy began working for the Mental Health Association in public speaking and education when her son died and is involved in a program called “Options” where she goes into schools and educates teachers and students on symptoms of depression and avoiding suicide. “I do this, she says, “because I won’t be part of the shame attached to mental illness.” She is doing her work to bring attention to mental illness…that it does exist, but at the same time, it is responsive to treatment if a proper diagnosis can be made and the freedom to talk about it is there.
Laurie and Lee Maxwell lost their eighteen year old son Dan when his inner pain became too great for him to bear. Dan was plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without a diagnosis, without relief, before he took his life.
Through their experience with physicians, psychiatrist and psychologists, medications, and dietary changes, the Maxwells vowed to turn their tragic journey toward helping other young people who suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
This couple founded DMAX Foundation with two goals. The first goal is to create a community of caring and conversation. Speaking up to combat stigma and negative stereotypes, helping friends and family increase understanding and demonstrate compassion for youth suffering from this pain. The second goal is to reduce the sense of isolation and hopelessness for kids and parents going through tough times by fostering the recognition that mental health issues should not separate “us versus them” and that all of us occupy a place on the continuous spectrum of mental health.
It is a fact that college students are stressed out. This past year it was reported that 20.2 million were stressed out at college. It is estimated that there are 1 in 4 students with diagnosable mental health problems. Almost 40 percent of those students will not seek help. They are too scared to talk about their emotional issues because of the stigma and discrimination.
The DMAX Foundation’s primary initiative is to create DMAX Clubs on college campuses for students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. For information about starting a DMAX Club or how it could help a college near you deal with the epidemic of mental illness on campus, reach out to April Matt at
These two parents and many others encourage learning more about depression, mental health challenges and emotional troubles and what to do if you or anyone you know needs help.
**You can read Craig’s story in my first book, “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye.”

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