I am seriously concerned about the mental health of people all over the world. I know due to social and economic situations many people with mental health issues will go without assistance. I realize the stigma of having a mental illness will cause some to remain quiet, when they need to speak up. This silent and deadly disease is killing too many people. Many of those deaths are innocent bystanders. Another horrific example took place in Parkland, Florida this past week, innocent youthful kids were shot down by a person known to have some serious mental health concerns. Yet he was able to get a gun and kill. My heart, my prayers, and my hope for change go out to those affected. As a parent I worry and cannot help but think “what if it happens at my daughter’s high school?”
We must have better Mental Health education in our schools, particularly in our middle schools and high schools. The current standards (California Dept. of Education) from March 2008 (Health Education Content Standards) are dated and do not cover enough critical information nor the importance of Mental Health awareness. With this past school shooting in Florida we can no longer stand by and wait for change from higher. We cannot constantly be in a reactive state when horrific situations such as a school shooting takes place. I know our schools do various drills to prepare for this potential situation. But, we must do more. We must truly educate our teaching staff in Mental Health awareness and in identifying students with mental illness or the signs of. This is not to point out a kid or make them feel different, it is to get them assistance and the help they need to deal with and cope.
So I started a petition to get better Mental Health Education in our schools, for the teachers and staff and for the students. Our Government spends an extreme about of money on things that should not be priorities. Just a few examples of where our Government's priorities lie, compared to where it's actually needed.
- Government Accountability Office found the federal government is spending upwards of $1.5 billion a year on public relations and advertising.
- NASA, The National Aeronautic Space Administration budget for FY 2019 is $19.5 billion. It's slightly higher than previous years' budgets. It will receive an additional $400 billion from supplemental funds.
- Mental Health First Aid funding for FY 2017: $115 million for mental health, including funding for rural telehealth psychological services, mental health research and suicide prevention.
I feel that those numbers should be flipped around, how’s about $1.5 billion for Mental Health Awareness and then the politicians can have the $115 million to use on their public relations and advertising BS. People, it is up to us as citizens, community members, and leaders to take care of our youth, those in need, and ourselves. Have your voice heard!! We can no longer be the silent partner! We can no longer be in reaction mode!! We need to fill our streets and communities with LOVE and understanding!!
Statistical information and data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Prevalence of Mental Illness
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—have at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.
An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.
African Americans and Hispanic Americans each use mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.
We all have a voice and we must remember that these Politicians work for us. It’s time to remind them of that and to have them focus on our desired needs. It starts with one step at a time, once voice being heard, and then together we can make the changes that are needed. I hope you’ll support me and sign my petition and share it with all you know. Many Blessings and Much Love.
As I have been getting mentally stronger and learning to deal with all the wonderful events of life, I have seen, heard and even been asked some very similar questions. “What should I do…?”, “How would you...?”, “Do you know…?” are just a few of the questions that have been presented to me. All of them have the same theme, one’s ability to inquire and have control over the future. A dear friend of mine, my kick-butt wife, and some classmates I have overheard, all seem to be wondering what the future will be like, what should one do, and my favorite…forecasting the future. Each one is unique with their own worries and/or troubles. However, the answer remains the same, if I am to be asked. “I don’t know.” Then with a brief pause, to add some lovely 1940’s movie classic drama, I smoothly say “I no longer attempt to tell the future.”
The crystal ball that once sat perfectly still in the middle of my table is gone. I tossed it as far as I could, then turned around and walked away, completely unaware of its landing point or if it has even landed at all. When I learned and mentally adapted to simply accepting the here and now, I no longer worried about the far off future of there. I only had the need to focus on the now and the next step I take towards the there. Not worrying about how long it may take, I’ll know when I get there. Not troubling myself with “what ifs”, I’ll deal with those if they should happen to be blocking the path I take. And, the Big Daddy of them all……”TIME”, the excuses we allow ourselves to make and blame on time are “I’m too old”, “I have such little time”, “This’ll take forever”, just to mention a few. The only time you need to concern yourself with, is the here and now. That is the most important time we have. For I have control of that, what I decide to do and what I do not decide to do. So valuable is this “Now Time”, that I would not trade it for all the riches in the world.
We pause for this Public Service Announcement. Brought to you by “Life, it’s worth living!” It is good to have goals and plans, check points you’d like to see/achieve along the way. However, we cannot fast forward life to get to those goals and achieve those plans. It happens one step at a time.
It takes practice to be content with the moment, making friends with the present time is challenging, but so damn rewarding. The Here and There are like fraternal twins, much alike, but uniquely different. When you find yourself here, then do your best to enjoy it. The steps you take will eventually get you there. And there, just might be something even better than you could have ever imagined. Enjoy
As I sat at my desk, which I must say is quite comfortable, they’ve come a long way since my the last time I sat in one for school purposes, I pulled out my pencil and began to take some quick notes before class started. After a few words I felt it was time to sharpen the good old Ticonderoga. Looking over at the professor’s desk I didn’t see anything that remotely resembled a pencil sharpener, but I still got up to look closer. After all it’s now 2018 and they make everything under the sun that doesn’t resemble a damn thing it’s meant for. However, the red box on his desk was just a box. The black rectangular box was the control panel for the AV stuff. Beyond that, only books and papers lay strategically sorted over his desk. I thought for a moment, “am I the only cat that still uses a pencil?” I can’t be, can I? I don’t mind using a pen, I do have one in my backpack.
Then, there she was. Making my way back to my desk I saw her. Hanging out on the wall right next to the door, a lovely toupe-putty-grey colored Berol Giant. Six different openings to choose from, depending on your pencil’s thickness, I possessed the traditional #2. I was partially excited as I quickly walked over to it, as if someone was going to get there before me. The flashbacks rushed to the forefront of my mind. I truly couldn’t remember the last time I saw one, let alone used one. I slid the pencil in and began to crank the handle in circles, not too fast, but at a reasonable speed. The deep grinding of my pencil being sharpened could be heard throughout the room. After about a dozen rotations I pulled the pencil out, blew the residue off the tip, and admired the lovely evenly sharpened pencil. So rewarding.
In life we can often get caught up in having the newest this or that, the iPhone is a perfect example, seems they’re coming out with a new one every other month now. I ask though, is there anything wrong with the one you currently have? For me the answer is nope, it works and does what I need it to do. I find modern technology quite useful in many situations. Yet, we must know when to say when. Is it a need or a want we’re after? Are we simply attempting to “keep up with the Jones’?” (an old saying, showing my age a bit). I feel as if this entire tech and new this and new that causes some to have anxiety and unnecessary stress. The world is now a touch and swipe away from you, just pull out the phone and explore, which I do enjoy. But, I don’t let it consume me either. If I don’t have a signal, no worries, a few feet later I will.
I welcome new and significant improvements to our modern extraordinary world. Yet, I love the old that still works just as good, if not better than its newer twenty-first century counterpart. The humor of all this hit me today while at home. I needed to sharpen my pencil and our sharpener was dead. I double checked to ensure it was plugged in, emptied the shavings tray for good measure, tried to plug it in at a different place, but nothing. It was dead, off in the distance I swear I heard TAPs being played from someone’s iPhone. Oooo the irony of it all. No worries though, I’ll simply bring a handful of my trusty #2 Ticonderoga pencils with to class next time. I know a pencil sharpener that will be working just fine.
I sat in the front row, as to not be obstructed by other’s heads and to hear better, for the professor was soft spoken and a borderline quiet talker. As he called role to confirm students in his class he often repeated names, not any louder, but in a different tone, each just as soft as the other. Excitement and a feeling of this is right gently came over me, perhaps my subconscious reassuring me of my decision to return to school. With my notepad on my desk, opened to the first fresh clean piece of lined paper I began to write. Copying the information that was on the board and looking around the classroom I realized I was most likely the oldest in this class. No worries though, it did not disturb me nor did I think much about it beyond the simple recognition of the youthful faces around me. “Welcome to Psychology 111 Personality Dynamics” surprisingly my new professor’s voice rang out. “You may live to regret it” he then followed in his original soft voice, with a comical sinister laugh. The room was quiet and after a brief pause he continued to introduce himself.
“You may live to regret it”, those words stuck in my head for a few minutes. My initial thought was “how lucky I will be. To live and to regret something” I would much rather live to regret instead of the alternative. After all, to live is a beautiful gift. Then knowing my mind as well as I currently do, the sarcastic me took over for a bit. If I knowingly tell myself or I am made aware of prior to doing something, that I may live to regret it, then why would I do it? Not to mention the underlining doubt in those words “may live”, as if there is a chance by doing this, such as taking this class, which I might die. Well then, “HELL NO! Thank you for the warning. Have a lovely evening.” But, I rolled the dice and determined that I would be OK, no imminent danger here.
As the professor continued to speak, discussing each paragraph of the syllabus, he would occasionally stop and ask “Are there any question? Does everyone understand what I’m reading? Is anyone overwhelmed?” With a pause he looked around, no hands or voices speaking up so he picked up where he had left off. Then as we turned to the next page he paused and asked the same three questions again. He did this about six times as we methodically went through the syllabus. I felt it was a little bit overkill and my thoughts were “we’re in a college class, if these cats don’t understand then perhaps this isn’t the right time for them to be in college.” I know my words seem condescending, but shouldn’t we all be more or less ready, at least 80% ready if we are here?
After a few more words the professor gave us a short break. I stood up and stretched in place. A line began to form at the professor’s desk. I listened as one student after another asked him questions about the syllabus and classroom protocol. “Will I lose points on late papers?”, “How many days can I miss and not be dropped from the class?”, “Is there a grading curve?”, “How important is grammar on the research papers?” The questions continued through the break and I wondered, were any of them listening? He was very adamant about having all technology put away so that could not have been a distraction for them. Then it hit me. This generation is not as prepared for life beyond high school as I was and nowhere near as ready for life like my parents and grandparents had to be. I do not want to belittle this generation, however, I think a high percentage of them have been coddled and given things without putting in the effort to earn them.
As a former high school teacher I saw this, though many of my students did not come from a high-end family. But, some did not comprehend the idea of working hard for something. Nothing is given, you must earn it. So I once thought. Living in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, I see this a lot, much of the youth are taken care of materialistically and the idea of working for what you want is somewhat ludicrous. My youngest daughter has often told us she is the only one of her friends that works. Then she inquires in a roundabout way why. My wife and I feel strongly that our children understand why work is important and that we are not their bank.
Will our youth of today have the confidence and skill sets needed for the future? It’s a big question. One that won’t be answered here today. The dozens upon dozens of reality shows influence them. Our circus of political appointees do nothing to set the example. And, so many commercials these days are about quick fixes, instead of actual problem solving. So, I can see why my professor kept asking the same questions. He knows who he is teaching. The funny thing is, I can hear some of these young adults now, a group of seven all talking at the same time, on their phones, and complaining “I hated psychology 111, so dull, I wish I’d never had taken it.” As I walk by them I’ll smile and think how lucky they are to have lived to regret it. How lucky they are to live. A soft laugh leaves me, for I know they have so much more ahead of them to live and to regret.
As the words end on one I turn to begin a new series of them, the page feels light and the gentle sound feels warm as it plays through my ears. The turning of a page. So significant when thought of on a grand scale and so rewarding when thought of on the small one; one page at a time in a book filled with hundreds of them. Very similar to the life we lead. Each day a new page, each hour begins the next paragraph, and the sentences play out just as the minutes do. Life. It is simply fascinating to be a part of.
In my life I have covered many chapters, chapters that have filled numerous books. Looking back on them all in my mind I am proud of how far I have come. And, I am excited about where this new book will lead me. With each turn of the page the story gets more interesting.
I am not the only character in my story. People enter it, some who may never know they have become a sentence or two in my tale. One such person I met on Wednesday, while I was waiting for a scheduled appointment with a Veteran Affairs counselor. He introduced himself as Jeff. Jeff had seen better days, something his outer appearance suggested. Yet Jeff spoke clearly and seemed quite cognitive. Jeff was polite. Why he chose to speak to me I am not so sure. I had noticed him when I came in the door and checked in. He was sitting by the television eating a slice of cheese pizza. Around him sat a few other people, no one talking to one another. I took a seat on the back wall. I like being in a position where I can see everything before me. Little by little people’s names were called and one by one people disappeared behind the opaque glass door.
Soon the room was filled with me and Jeff. Jeff got up from his seat about a minute after the last name was called. He sat down two chairs away from me. “They take good care of people here. Very kind. No one judges.” Jeff’s words seem to come from a place of compassion and empathy. “I’m Jeff” and he held his hand out. “I’m Brendan. Pleasure meeting you Jeff” and we shook hands, each of us with a firm grip. I liked Jeff immediately. “Jeff, if I may ask, how are things for you?” Jeff took the last bite of his cheese pizza and said “I’m making it. I have some money coming in. I have places to clean-up and places to sleep.”
Jeff got up from his seat and repeated to me how good they are here “You’re in good hands.” He then grabbed his backpack, tossed it over his shoulder and walked out the front door. He didn’t look back, simply made his way to the next paragraph in his story. I thought about Jeff for a while. Someone who I would consider to be in much more need than me, took the time to say the words I needed to hear.
I had a good appointment. Jeff was right, there are some good people here. It makes me feel good knowing that Veterans in a much more challenging situation than me are getting help. It inspires me. I know one day I will have an impact on those I desire to assist. The day was a step forward. A page turned. Our story is written with each moment we breathe. With each action we fill the pages of our life. I like where this book is headed. I think I’ll keeping living it.
I find myself spending a good amount of time at my desk and working on my computer, in my makeshift home office area, which I do like. Whether it be working on some photography, writing, doing some research and reading; to include other people’s blogs or some books I picked up. Looking back over the past two years, reflecting on events and people, I can see how I’ve grown mentally and in my own way spiritually. Both of which have led to a healthy me, despite the extra few pounds I’ve added. I like reflecting on the past, not ruminating, but revisiting. We learn from our past, or we should, provided we do not get caught up in all the “what ifs”, “should haves”, and “if only”. The past is done, no changing it and not worth the time running down that rabbit hole. But, if we can reflect with genuine neutrality, we can then learn from the past.
My 2016 was the rock bottom; I found myself in a dark place mentally and even took the steps to end the precious life I was given. Amazingly, I got help and like the old saying goes “Once you’re at rock bottom there is only one way to go, up.” Up I did go and learned a lot about myself and helpful coping skills.
My 2017 was a whirl wind of two steps forward and one step back. I was in that in-between stage of thinking I knew what I wanted and thinking I knew what I didn’t want, a lot of thinking taking place. My neurotransmitters were firing all over the place as I worked the heck out of my brain. However, through it all I was getting better at reflecting on the past and learning, limiting the ruminating thoughts and replacing them with empathy towards myself, but not a pity party. My word for 2017 was “Believe” and I did. When things got rough I stopped, reassured myself, and said “I believe in you Brendan”.
2018 is now here, we are fifteen days into it and I’m feeling quite good about it so far. My mantra for 2018 is “I am not running a sprint, I am running a marathon”. For me this is critical to remember and to remind myself. We live in a want it now – get it now kind of world, but with my Passion and Goals I know it will be a couple of years before I complete my marathon. I’m OK with that. I am looking forward to my journey and to learning as I go.
I once thought Art, particularly Fine Art Photography was my true passion. I realized I do enjoy it and it can be a means of happiness for me and others. But, once I looked at all the signs, the coincidences (which are signs too), and how my life was interacting with others I realized what I wanted and what I needed to do. So, back to school I go, I start January 20th, and I’ll be working towards a MS in Psychology with a focus on counseling. I know the difference I can make is in helping others. Help them learn, deal with events, and find the light that is needed for them.
So friends, reflect, learn, and grow from the past. I promise it’ll assist you with your passion. And, remember; it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. Enjoy
I walk the first ten or so feet with eyes closed. It’s a straight path with little to no objects capable of tripping me or grabbing me as I step by. I just want to see without my eyes and fine tune the image in my head. I do this often before I actually make any pictures, most of the time they turn out to be the best images I make all day. For the mind is so much better at making an image than my trusty Nikon is. Not a knock on my camera, just a fact.
Those few steps I take while seeing with my eyes shut are incredible. As I actively use all my senses, minus sight, I develop a picture simultaneously. The peacefulness of it all is the first to hit me. No traffic to be heard, no bikers yelling “left!, left!”, and no other steps of fellow walkers or runners is heard. Just the sound of my breath and the rocks, dirt, weeds, and sticks that crunch under each of my steps. An occasional bird communicates to the masses and off in the distance one of his friends replies back, then another, and another. Then silence takes over once again, until the creek makes itself known. It’s beautiful. The soft sound of running water over the rocks and around the logs that have settled in along the banks for the long hall team up to make natures tunes come alive.
There is sweetness in the air. Perhaps a mixture of pine, anus, and the scrub brush covering the hills. The damp hillsides and moist spots under the redwoods smell of earth. It is comforting. I feel connected and I feel at peace and I feel safe here.
Four steps later I open my eyes and take in the visual display before me. I am a bit discouraged initially to know that no matter how good of an image I make with my camera it will not compare to the one that has just been made in my mind. I am eventually OK with that though. Because it is an image that I’ll have forever, I hope, stored away in a data filing system distributed conveniently in my cortex. There may come a time I do not fully remember the mental images I made today, which is until a smell, sound, or scene triggers my internal filling system and the pictures rush forward faster than I can count to one.
The trail I walk upon has begun to parallel the creek and through the trees I can see it dancing around the rocks, limbs, and the light finds its way down to the water here and there. I see a narrow path leading down to the water and I follow it until my next step would make my shoes, socks, and low pant legs wet. I look up stream and down, each way offers its unique perspective. I like both. I follow the bank of the creek downstream for about twenty yards and as I look up and stop, I see an amazing burst of light shooting through the tall magnificent redwoods. It has a natural vignette around it as the light makes a group of cottonwoods glow. I want to make an image of this scene. I look around to find a better location where I can truly capture the beauty before my eyes. After a few minutes I realize the best perspective I can get will be from the middle of the creek. I look into the clear calm water and debate whether or not to take off my boots and socks and roll up my pants. It is rather rocky and I don’t feel like stabbing my feet with what I can see and what I can’t. So I leave the boots and socks on and I don’t bother rolling up my pants.
The first step is nice and easy, as I feel out the bottom of the creek, to ensure I do not sink further than expected. The water is cold, but not to a point that my toes will freeze anytime soon. In fact, after a few steps it begins to feel good. I gently wade to the middle and stop. I watch as the ripples I created fade away and the water once again stands still. The reflection of the vision I am currently obsessed with re-appears. I look around and take a panoramic of the picture before me and like that it is stored away. Then I pull out my iPhone, hold it steady in front of my face and with my right index finger I tap the small white circle to capture an image. I move the phone up and down, left and right, and adjust the exposure here and there. Then I tuck the phone away in my breast pocket. A deep breathe in and slow long breath out. Then I gently step back towards the banks of the creek.
Stepping out of the water the squishing-sloshing sounds coming from my feet begin to feel the air. I find it a bit humorous and quietly laugh to myself; it reminds me of a cartoon. As if I fell off a large desert cliff, with a brief pause of course, and landed point blank in the middle of a river. I bob up and down as the river carries be downstream to a point where I can finally walk out to the land. Dripping from head to toe and as I walk all you hear is squish-slosh, squish-slosh, and squish-slosh. Then out of nowhere a semi-truck runs me over.
Back up the path I go to the main trail and I head back towards the parking area. I take my time, no rush whatsoever. Here and there I stray off the trail to make an image and to take in a new scene. Once I reach the car I open the door and pull up a seat behind the steering wheel. Place the key in the ignition and only turn it one notch to get the power on. Then I slide down the windows and relax. In a few minutes my middle daughter will come running up, finishing her scheduled eight miles for the day. It is still relatively quiet; an occasional car goes by and then fades away amongst the trees. The squawking of a group of bikers going by briefly ruins the peacefulness. I could never quite comprehend how everyone can talk at the same time and do anything remotely close to listen, yet the group of bikers do just that. I feel sorry for them, briefly, for they will have missed so much on their ride today.
About the Author
I’ve always been involved in the arts. My grandmother and father were both portrait painters, so it was something I was immersed in. However, something about photography captivated me. The ability to capture a visual story entices me, for I have always been a bit of a storyteller and I enjoy writing too. My photography has received numerous awards; from publication in Popular Photography to 2015 Best in Show image at The Texas State Fair, regional and national awards in photography, my artwork is in private collections around the world, and I have two books out “Beyond The Image” and “Finding Myself: Visual Tales of an Explore”. I continue to challenge myself and I’m always looking for a new story to make and capture.