In this world, there are people who inspire you. There are people who help you understand that no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’ve endured, no matter what you’ve fought for, there are others who have done it harder, better, and longer than you. Emily Medina is that person to me. When I first wrote about my daughter’s ordeal, she posted it on her website, IAMstrong foundation and made me feel like I was helping so many others who may be going through something similar. What we have to understand about Emily is that she is a pioneer in the field of ending the stigma around mental illness and about getting people the help they need. You see, Emily’s daughter took her own life. And yet through her grief, through her process of losing her daughter, she has created something so profound and incredible and her strength in doing so is absolutely remarkable.
Emily has been a sounding board, an adviser, and a friend to me since we first met over our children’s similar issues. We chat online and try to make each other laugh and we are there for one another when things get tricky or sticky. Every day I am awed by her strength and insight. I am inspired by her ability to take an incredibly personal and tragic event and turn it into a a way to help others. She is the most selfless of human beings. She is an angel to me in my times of need. I only wish I can offer her words or support and love and help, but she is the one who reassures me, who lifts me up, who makes me feel strong in the face of the battle for my child’s mental well being.
When you look at Emily’s family from the outside, not knowing anything, you see only love and happiness. And this is the tragedy of mental health issues and the suicidal outcomes they all too often produce. It often hides itself because the person dealing with it is too afraid to talk about it for fear of being judged, misunderstood, ostracized. And before we can really intervene, unfortunately it’s too late. Maybe if we let go of the assumptions we have about mental illness, the snap out of it mentality around it, we would be able to save more people because they wouldn’t be so afraid to ask for help. We need support and love and help for those of us dealing with these issues ourselves or with those that we love most. We need people to pick us up and help us navigate this often confusing, difficult and maddening process with grace and love and humor.
Dealing with mental health issues can feel very solitary and isolating. Many of us feel shame and guilt and like we want to hide any issues at all costs. Unfortunately that cost is too great and nobody should have to pay it. We should be able to support each other through these times and to lift each other up and out of the darkness. Emily has done that for me and for countless others. She is a tireless warrior against the stigma of mental health. She is a champion of getting people the help they need in a system that is frustrating and broken. She is a strong and loving mother who will see her daughter’s memory live on in the help it provides to others in need. I am proud to call her a friend. She, like me, knows that silence is not an option. The IAM strong foundation is here for us all, thank you Emily. If you or a loved one is dealing with any of these issues, please know you are not alone, there are people here to help. http://www.iamstrongfoundation.org/