Election Day, November 7, 2017, is a day that history was made in Canton, OH. I received the most votes in a six candidate race, and I am the first African American to be elected to Canton City Council at Large. The journey was spectacular with the assistance of committed volunteers that dedicated time and resources to complete traditional campaign strategies and more. However, the campaign was all but traditional.
CantonRep.com Special Projects Editor, Todd Porter said, “the odds would say to bet against her. The odds would be wrong.” Other candidates had long term name recognition from their own extended time dedicated to public service or that of their parents. Me, I attended 14 schools, lived in three states and eight different households. Some believe that I have accomplished great things despite adversity. However, many do not know about the on-going, traumatic and emotional adversity that I experience as a daughter with a mother that has mental illness.
My mother was diagnosed with manic depression/schizophrenia when was I about 13 years old. When I was 15, she attacked me. With no-contact ordered by the court, I was placed with my paternal grandmother. At the age of 43, I still have fear of my mom because of the day of the attack and other days that followed. Yet, during the campaign, I experienced incomparable fear and pain when I received a call from a public employee in another jurisdiction that found my mom staying in a vacant house with no utilities. Along with my family, I worked with local mental health and law enforcement agencies to help my mom. She was hospitalized, received treatment, eventually released to live on her own… and the cycle continues. It’s a constant battle.
I have learned to name and own every last bit of my story through prayer and faith in God. It has resulted in an explosion of grace and healing from the most unimaginable experiences that haunt me. When a person is living with a serious mental illness, family and friends may also be impacted.
Here are 5 suggestions that can help family and friends with mentally ill loved ones:
1. Educate yourself about the illness/illnesses.
2. Maintain current contact information for local mental health and law enforcement resources.
3. Have realistic expectations.
4. Reach out for support, even for yourself- It’s okay to go to counseling.
5. Work closely with your loved one’s treatment team.
If you or someone you know would like more information about mental health resources contact organizations like National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Go to www.nami.org for more information.