Mental health does not discriminate. At some point in your life, you may suffer some kind of mental illness. And you wouldn’t be alone.
There is a stigma around mental health. And that needs to end now.
You don’t have to suffer in silence or be terrified to let anyone know that something is wrong. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate against you based on your gender, race, or even age. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or how successful you are. Mental illness is real and you likely know at least one person who’s struggling.
We’re going to have a real conversation about mental illness and the devastating toll it takes on families. We’re also going to tell you that there is hope and help.
If you’re hurting or someone you know is hurting – reach out. There are resources and people available to help you through this dark time.
Carleigh is 15 years old. She’s doing everything a typical teenager does and, on the day we talked with her, she was spending some time with her dog. It was a bright spot at the end of the day for the accomplished teen who has spent years working on herself.
Carleigh was adopted as an infant from China and her family as overjoyed with their beautiful girl.
“We brought Carleigh home in December 2004, it was amazing. Within a month my sons we asked each separately how they felt about their sister and they both said they felt like she had always been with us. Which gave me the chills,” said her mom, Beth.
Life was happy and a whirlwind of activity. But that changed by the 4th grade.
“I felt like crap constantly and it was only one child, but that’s all it takes,” Carleigh said.
It started with a bully when a mean note was passed to her at school.
“She came home from school one day and said she had gotten bullied, she wanted me to do nothing about it, but i immediately called the school, had them dig out the note this girl had given her, they said they were going to take care of it, things settled down for a couple months. I thought it was taken care of,” said Beth.
But it wasn’t over. Carleigh was just ten when she took a drastic step.
“I went to the bathroom and I took her prescription medications, and I just popped those,” Carleigh said. “I was just kind of waiting to see what happened.”
When asked if she wanted to die, Carleigh said she thinks she “didn’t really know”.
The pills she swallowed were allergy pills and she was rushed to the hospital. She was physically okay but her mental illness battle wasn’t over.
Carleigh’s depression and anxiety would continue and she eventually started cutting herself. She still bears those scars today.
“Mostly just self-hatred and anger at myself, like why did I do this? Why did I put that amount of pressure on everybody else? I think I was just self-blaming for everything that I did and the emotions that I put on everybody else,” she said.
But Carleigh’s story doesn’t end with self-harm. Here’s how she got the help she needed and how she wants other teens to know that it’s okay to not be okay.
MEN AND DEPRESSION
Six million men in America are diagnosed with depression every year. Those are the men who actually seek help.
It’s no secret that men don’t open up very easily. An estimated three million men suffer from daily anxiety and death by suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death for men.
The stigma surround mental health is crippling and preventing many men from seeking help.
“We live in a society where they are taught if they express their feelings, that’s a sign of weakness. We know that’s not true, to a man that may be true, I’m a male, I should be able to figure out my problems and solve them on my own,” said Dr. Carol Van Dyke.
That’s a story Joe Harris knows very well. He said it started when his mom got sick in September of 2017. Two months later his dad was sick and went to the hospital. He passed in February of 2018 and his wife just two months later.
Joe worked for FOX 2 for more than a decade. He’s a devoted son, husband and father to a teenage daughter. He now heads up the TV/Media division for the City of Detroit where he coordinates and covers high profile events while also documenting the city’s comeback.
The sudden loss of his parents was devastating.
“Depression doesn’t discriminate, depression is one of those things that before you realize it, you’re sleeping longer or you’re not calling your friends, you’re pulling back from social media, you’re withdrawing, that’s a natural tendency at least for me, it’s a natural tendency for me to protect myself,” he said.
At his lowest point, he was pushed by his wife to reach out to the city’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for help.
“For me, I just needed to talk to somebody, I needed to get out of my own head, I will push around the thoughts in my own head until it makes sense to me, but sometimes you just need a sounding board, and for me being able to hear somebody else repeat it back to me or hear it come out of my own mouth for my own ears to hear that it starts to make sense,” Joe said.
Watch more about how he’s processing his loss and why he no longer has to suffer in silence.
Ketamine is most commonly known as a party drug ‘special K’ but it has a new use on mental illness.
Roughly 16 million Americans suffer some sort of major depression and 30% won’t respond to oral anti-depressant therapy. It’s mostly women. But there is hope and it can trace its roots to the 1980s.
Dr. Joel Young is the founder and Chief Medical Director of the Rochester Center For Behavioral Medicine. His decades-old practice has been on the forefront of clinical trials in a potentially groundbreaking new treatment for patients with severe treatment-resistant depression.
“Earlier this year the FDA approved a new anti-depressant – it’s called Spravato it is unique, there really hasn’t been a major development in depression medicine since the introduction of Prozac, Prozac was introduced in 1987 so this is a long time coming,” said Dr. Young. “There’s evidence that patients on Spravato will respond within 24 hours, that’s a breakthrough.”
Spravato is a derivative of the powerful and highly-controlled anesthetic Ketamine – known widely as Special K.
For people like Linda who has battled severe depression for most of her adult life, conventional anti-depressants didn’t work and she contemplated suicide several times.
“Oh yes, I did. I think it was the people I care about that kept me from ever following thru on anything like that, just the thought of what it would do to them, that was what kept me going,” Linda said.
For two years, she participated in Spravato clinical trials.
“I was at the point where I would try just about anything, I hate to admit that but i desperately wanted to feel better,” Linda said. “I would say it’s like feeling a little bit lighter, like going and doing something routine is not as much of a struggle, it comes more naturally, it gives you back some of your life that you’ve been missing.”
She said it made it possible to function on a level where she could handle everyday things.
Watch why she calls it life-changing – but the reason it’s not available to everyone.
Mental illness is a disease. If you don’t reach out for help and treat it, the end result can be death.
Every 13 minutes, someone in the U.S. takes their life. Every 14 minutes, someone is left to try to make sense of it.
Jessica Starr’s death by suicide devastated her family and rocked FOX 2 – including the faithful viewers and fans.
On October 11th, 2018, Jessica had Lasik Smile eye surgery – an elective, FDA approved procedure to improve her vision. Before the surgery, her family said there were no signs of depression. That changed, her husband Daniel Rose said, just days later.
“I would say within less than three or four days she started to indicate to me and her family that she felt like something was wrong, she felt like the procedure had gone wrong or her body had reacted to the procedure in a non normal way,” Daniel said.
She described intense, chronic pain and irritation in a series of videos. She had been losing weight, had trouble sleeping, and prayed for help.
Eight weeks after her surgery, she ended her life.
“I know how people felt about Jess. She had an amazing spirit, an amazing connection with people, the ability to walk in a room to connect with people. I know the viewers loved her because the person you saw on TV – it was the Jessica in real life,” Daniel Said.
Jessica Starr is not the only member of the FOX 2 family we’ve lost.
Longtime employee Jim Adams knows the agony as well. He lost his son, Morgan, as a college freshman in 2012.
“Especially for a teenager, it’s so easy to confuse normal teen growth and development with red flags, and the key is these things are happening every day, continuously. The sleeplessness, the irritability, the weight gain or weight loss. if it’s happening over a two week period and there are multiple things happening, those are the red flags,” Jim said. “Teens can easily mask their feelings, but if anything their peers are probably the first to notice because something’s not quite right with their friend.”
A friend of Morgan’s called Jim and his wife to tell them something wasn’t quite right. Morgan was prescribed an antidepressant and Jim says he had hope.
“When Morgan came home from college for a visit after he started taking the medication, I was going “He’s back to his normal self- his medication is working wonders, that following evening he died by suicide,” Jim said. “Not being knowledgeable about depression and about the meds for depression, I didn’t realize when someone first starts dosages of meds for depression, that thoughts of suicide may increase, that’s a very critical period where the patient has to be watched over, cared for.”
In the years since his son’s death, he’s learned a great deal about depression and suicide and how to educate others to look out for the signs. He also has advice for families who may be in the midst of that pain and loss.
“It’s a long journey, hold on to each other, to your family to the friends of your lost one. Don’t give up,” Jim said. “Find a counselor who understands suicide loss, because it’s so different from any other type of loss.”
Help is available. If you’re struggling and you need help, look no further. Get mental help resources here.
You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.
This article appeared in FOX 2. Read more here.