Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mental Illness Awareness Week featuring: Chris Biehn


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This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1-7). Our featured guest blogger today is Chris Biehn. He’s a journalism student at Ithaca College from Medford, NJ. He considers himself a dreamer, optimist, and activist. He found Bravelets on social media and fell in love with the concept of having a quality product that benefits crucial charities while promoting the theme fight on. Read his story and important message for Mental Illness Awareness Week:



A World Without Color
I’m taking my 4th medical leave of absence from Ithaca College.
I’m depressed...again.
At times I can barely function.
Years ago I was told by a leading expert that I had one of the nastiest cases of bipolar disorder he’s ever seen, and he was happy I’m still alive.
However, I want to channel this challenge for good to be a vessel of love & hope.
The purpose for my pain is to help others who suffer in similar ways, and so I’ll do everything in my power to do just that.
Hope is like the sunshine.  Even on a torrentially rainy day you know the sun is still present despite not being visible. Sometimes hope is masked by clouds, but know there are always reasons to remember it’s still there. There are many circumstances where hope is hidden from us, and that’s why we need loved ones to remind us of the plentiful aspects of hope that should keep us determined to go on. As a society, we don’t engage in active conversation about this topic. All too often, such as in the recent suicide of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, the discussion only starts after an irreversible tragedy takes place and it is too late to help the person that was afflicted with a mental illness. We need to address mental illness for what it is; an illness that is prevalent across all races, societies, and cultures. 

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW: Oct. 1-7), and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to start a conversation. Let’s address and fight this stigma, which is only still prevalent because uninformed people fail to identify mental illnesses for what they are: legitimate disorders of the brain that should be treated.
My battle with bipolar disorder has been a critical experience for me to focus on hope. This article, photo challenge & video I’ll share provide a perfect opportunity start a necessary dialogue so our society doesn’t keep leaving the mentally ill feeling more alone and misunderstood.
I don’t let my illness define me, but my bouts with depression have had a big impact on my life. I’m thankful that my faith has given me a constant sense of hope and has been my anchor through the trials and tribulations.
Depression makes you wither like a green plant sprayed with a powerful poison. Depression makes you feel like there’s a relentless and constant winter in your heart. While enduring suffering, I’ve wanted to find a creative outlet to express myself.
Some people incorrectly view depression as just being sad. People will claim they’re depressed after having a single bad day, when the weather is gloomy, or as a result of something negative happening in their life such as a bad grade on an exam. Everyone has mood swings that are caused by emotions or situations that cannot nearly compare to the dark depths of depression. I sometimes like to think of depression as chemical warfare in your brain where a person is really sad when everything in their life seems to be going right.
I have always used the analogy when depressed the world seems to change from color to black and white. It gets better, and I know from experience. Don't say things like “suck it up” or “try to snap out of it.” If you’re depressed, your suffering is valid. Keep fighting the good fight and seek the professional help that you deserve. If you know people who are depressed, be there to offer your support, tell them they are loved, remind them that the pain is temporary, and help them find resources. I challenge everyone to post a black and white photo of yourself on all social media platforms, especially Instagram and Facebook. My hope is that this movement will gather a following and people will post a black and white photo of themselves to social media between Oct. 1–7 with this caption:

Depression makes the world change from color to black and white. Tag 10 people to symbolize that about 1 in 10 Americans battle depression. #LLA


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 LLA stands for a student-run campaign I started called Listen. Learn. Accept. We speak up for mental illness, and our main focus is to promote acceptance for mood disorders. Feel free to add onto the caption why you’re supporting this MIAW campaign. I encourage you to make your Instagram account public for MIAW so the world can see your support for this cause. Having a mental illness is a serious medical condition that should be understood. Depression alone impacts more people than cancer, AIDS, and diabetes combined. I guarantee that you know at least someone in your life that is or has been clinically depressed. What’s even sadder is they might be afraid to be open about their condition because of how much stigma there still is in society. Let’s come together to promote awareness and acceptance for depression. Let’s make a powerful statement by posting black and white photos for MIAW so everyone can see you stand in solidarity with those who battle depression. Let’s unite to get people the professional help they need to be stable and see the world in color once more.
I decided to release a cover music video of the Twenty Øne Piløts song “Car Radio” to express a visual & artistic representation of depression. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKDUJPhmBLw 

To sugarcoat this video would've done this project a huge disservice. The band chose provocative & powerful lyrics for this song. It's dark, it's intense, but it's also authentic.
I've found “Car Radio” to be remarkably relatable at times like now when the storm within me rages on.
The mask in the video is a parallel to the mask Tyler Joseph (the band's singer) wore in the original music video, and to me it symbolizes the numbness of living with dark mood swings, the question of personal identity in the episode, and just a profound statement about how often times depressed people have to wear a metaphorical mask to blend in & act in ways that hide the agony they're feeling inside. I want to promote honesty, vulnerability, empathy, and being genuine. Throw away all of your masks and put on your soul. There’s other symbolism that you can find in the YouTube description.
It’s true that not everyone has mental illness, but everyone has mental health. Our own mental health is as crucial as our physical health. Mental health should be one of everyone’s top priorities.
For those that currently feel like you’re facing a mental health trial, listen to me: it gets better. There are so many medications and treatments out there that have helped me. Therapy can also do wonders. The suffering is temporary. You have a chemical imbalance in your brain that can and will be treated. Remember there are so many people who love you. There are always amazing things to look forward to. Some of you will get to travel and see the world, experiencing beautiful places that take your breath away and fill you with awe. You’ll witness different cultures and have your mind opened in the best possible ways. Some of you will fall in love, and calling that feeling magical will be the understatement of a lifetime. Just imagine how special your wedding day will be! You will build new friendships with those that genuinely care about you and want to walk with you through joy and sorrow. You’ll be mesmerized by sunsets, appreciate fine food, and listen to music that perfectly captures your mood. Think of watching July 4th fireworks or witnessing a shooting star streak across the sky on a perfect clear night. Looking forward to things doesn’t have to be as momentous as a big celebration, it can be as simple as a well-timed hug or hearty laugh. Life is too beautiful to just pass up, yet it is complicated and there will indeed be significant struggles. Sometimes it can be a battle getting through this life, but love alone is worth the fight.
I guarantee this post resonates with you or someone you love, so I encourage you to share it. Don't be silent with your struggles. Instead, cast them out in the open to a support system where you can unpack the challenges together. Persevere. When you face challenges, you’ve got to equip yourself for the journey and rise up. The storms will come. The obstacles may seem insurmountable. The pain will rip right through. But trust that the pain is temporary. Know that light and goodness will prevail. Cling to the anchor of hope as your driving force. Be brave & fight on, friends.
Special thanks to Sam Mitchell (cutbysam.myportfolio.com) for doing an incredible job creating this video.   
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Bravelets wants to give a huge thank you to Chris for sharing his story, and using it as an opportunity to help others. He is a true inspiration! Follow Chris on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/chrisbiehn

To support the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit their Brave Page here: https://www.bravelets.com/collections/national-alliance-on-mental-illness

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  1. For those of you saying people are being "too sensitive" let me tell you my story. For many years I kept my mental issues hidden from almost everyone out of fear. Fear of judgment, hatred, fear of people looking at me differently, fear of people leaving. And then my senior year came, and one day I decided I wanted to die. I was caught before I did anything and was sent the next day to inpatient. I remember being so scared the night before that I was hyper and talking too fast. I remember that i went numb and cried silently. I remember shaking the entire ride to there. I remember sitting at a table on my own the first day, clinging to my sock monkey, feeling like I was drowning on dry land. I remember coming home and having my parents tell me not to tell my extended family members where I had been, like it was something to be ashamed of. So yes, there is a dangerous stigma. Like Amelia, there are other people in my skull. And not all of them are adults. Imagine a child, no older than 10, hearing people say awful things about mental illness, seeing social media portray them that way, all the while knowing that they are classified as part of a mental illness. Or even imagine a physical child who has already been diagnosed with something. They now grow up in fear of others views, always knowing that they aren't right and they will be hated. How is that fair? So think before saying that wanting change is wrong. Changing the names, putting an announcement that those depictions aren't accurate, why is that bad? When without it, people avoid treatment out of fear? We are not being too sensitive or "special snowflakes", we are standing up for ourselves and telling the world that some things are not ok. And I will never not stand up. I am fortunate that I have stopped caring about people's thoughts on my mental illnesses. I will not hide them, and if you are afraid of me because of it, so be it. I won't censor myself because you don't take the time to understand the facts.I'll continue researching into metal health for writepaperforme, will try to spend as much time outside as possible, will find time for things I could never find time for. I will simply live my life to the fullest!

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