Let's Talk Mental Health.

2016 came to a miraculous and tornado-esque end as I found my life path completely shifted and the Knox and I were on our way back to Big Sky Country and my hometown in Eastern Montana to accept a position doing what I love and live for; nonprofit and development work.  To say the situation was miraculous is an understatement.  It has not been carefree and rainbows adjusting to a life sans Target, a multi-screen movie theater or winters with temps above -20.  It's been crazy challenging at times, but it's also been unbelievably happy and rewarding.  In the midst of it all, I've promised myself to look for my purpose in the Wild West and attempt to stay positive. Over and over and over and over I've seen a theme come through that I didn't expect, but I'm completely ok with it because it's time.  It's time to be the voice that I wish I had when I was a teen and young adult living in this community.  That voice is one of mental health advocacy.

Before we get to the staggering statistics that Montana brings to the table in mental health issues, I want to share a story with you.  The other night I had dinner with my friend and she shared an experience with me about her child being severely bullied while sitting in class and how hard it was to concentrate on the teacher because they were trying so hard not to cry on the outside while crying on the inside.  I haven't forgot this description of their emotions and I've thought about it on so many levels.  For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know my story.  You know how hard I've fought to counter depression and overcome some really tough relationships in my life in order to live an actual, normal (ish) life.  This young person's description of their feelings is how I have felt so many times when I had people standing in front of me who didn't believe that my insides were full of barb and sadness that I couldn't make go away. I am truly touched that she was comfortable sharing something so intimate because those are the moments that a mom wishes she never had to have. Her child is an incredible human, but different.  They're not like the other kids.  Suddenly this kiddo's differences make them the enemy and that is ridiculous.  Kids who are different; adults who are different; they become statistics because they feel absolutely no hope and love from those around them and thus take matters in to their own hands or mask their issues with addiction in all its forms.

And so I come to the point tonight.  My 2017 personal mantra is quickly becoming mental health advocacy.  Some of you might say....uh, hello, Raylynn....that's already your mantra.  You are correct, but it has become something that I have to REALLY advocate and speak the hell up because I am surrounded by a LOT of people who are either too scared of what people will think to get help or just plain don't give a shit and will drink their sorrows away or whatever numbs their reality.  

In an article written by the Bismarck Tribune, they shared the following statistics about suicide in Montana, "According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Study, nearly 9 percent of Montana high school students attempted suicide in the 12 months before taking the survey.  Even more concerning, the survey data indicates that students who attempted suicide have many other life problems, such as bullying, drinking and drug abuse.  Although youth suicide gets more attention, the highest rate of suicide in Montana is actually for adults age 45-64.  In 2014, Montana recorded 251 suicides, and a rate of 24.5 per 100,000 population.  That was nearly double the national average of 13.4.  The 2015 statistics are worse: 267 suicides."  The article also stated that health care facilities are being bombarded by suicidal patients and it's causing the need for additional training.  Ya think?

So here's my voice, people.  What are we doing to change this?  Who cares? I'll tell you who.  The mom who has to tell her son that she doesn't have all the answers as to why his dad took his own life. The principal who just attended yet another funeral for a student who gave up after getting a C- instead of an A in Calculus.  The shift supervisor who had to tell his entire team that their coworker was found dead due to an intentional drug overdose.  Those people care because it has directly affected them.  But what about those of you who deem yourself lucky because you live in a bubble and these issues don't exist in your world?  Guess what?  They exist.  They are real and they need to be addressed.

The bottom line of mental health issues is the inability to cope.  If we would actually address the root of the issue and reason for not being able to cope, we would get so much further.  Take a minute and think about it.  Today, I couldn't deal with the stress of my job so I did this..... or today I had a really brutal fight with my spouse so I did this..... Today I totally failed as a parent and human being and now I just want to do this .... and give up..... Today my spouse told me he was cheating on me so I did this.......Today I told my brother I never wanted to speak to him again because he stole money from my business and now I want to do this........... All of these scenarios can and will happen.  But, we can actually face the root.  We really can.

For me, a lot of my depression over the years has stemmed from genetic markers that I can't change, as well as low Vitamin D thanks to being a redhead and living the sunscreen life for the majority of my existence.  However, there are some factors that definitely make it way worse if I let it.  I'm my toughest critic and I let myself be a terribly mean judge if I don't nip it.  Before I know it, I've shamed myself and it's a slippery slope towards sadness and self-pity.  The tools I have to help me work through this weakness did not come without a price.  I spent some really quality, yet challenging, time in organized therapy while living in Utah and my coping skills were directly impacted by the tips I learned from Jennifer.  I can't sing enough praise for organized therapy.  It saved me.  I was such a hopped up, angry mess and Jennifer helped me love again and have the ability to cope.

The reality of mental health issues on a grand scale as I described above is this: we have to break the cycle by making changes ourselves and then leading the way for the younger generation.  How can they learn how to face life's challenges if the adults around them face it with numbing activities and addictions?  If you are a parent or adult who needs help; GET IT.  Quit caring about what the neighbors might think and just get the damn therapy.  You will feel better.  You will walk in there thinking you're addressing one issue and quickly find that it will spread to all aspects of your life.  Priceless.  Absolutely priceless.

I'm nervous excited to share more of my story in this community  It took me 15 years to finally come to terms with my imperfection.  I'm not afraid to talk about it, but I also know that it tends to trigger my sadness that this is my reality.  A vicious cycle, but I have figured out a way to share just enough to make an impact, but not trip myself up.  Please have the bravery to get help.  For those of you who are reading this and we are neighbors or coworkers, please don't hesitate to ask me questions.  Email me: raylynn@beyoudesignsut.co.  I will share what I can share to help you feel empowered to change.  For those of you who aren't right here and still need the encouragement, email me!  If you're in Utah, I know a lady and she will change your world.  Together we can achieve more and I will do what I can.  I won't be your security blanket, but I can sure tell you where to purchase one.

The moral of the story: take care of your heart and your brain; they're all you've got.  Love the one you're with.  Like for reals.  

Until next time, my lovelies!

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