By Paul Gionfriddo
There are half a million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems. That number can seem overwhelming, but for me, it’s all about one person: my son Tim.
Tomorrow is Tim’s 30th birthday, and I wish I could spend it with him. But I don’t know where he is, so this year I’ll have to settle for the memories of his childhood birthdays. Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia over two decades ago, and has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for the last 10. I am a former state legislator, a former mayor, a CEO of a national organization…and even I couldn’t prevent it. Because people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad public policy.
There are many differences between me and Tim…I’m in my 60s, he’s half my age. I’m 5’9”, he can appear towering at 6’ 5”. I’ve got graying hair, his hair is dark. I’m white, he’s black. But all of those difference don’t really matter…the only reason Tim is homeless and I’m not is because he has a mental illness. That’s it. Our mental health system has failed him and countless others, and it’s time to change that.
So I can’t turn back time. I can’t spend his 30th birthday with my son. I will pray as I do every day that he is safe and that one day we can get him the help he so desperately needs. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting just like Tim does every day. I’m going to fight to change our mental health care system, to work to get people the help they need when they need it, and to get this country talking and addressing mental illness before Stage 4. I will continue to fight for Tim and for the millions like him affected by mental and substance use conditions who have not had a voice for far too long.
Posts Tagged ‘mental health awareness’
World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, promotes raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Worldwide much still needs to be done, including better education and awareness to combat stigma, and improving access to quality, affordable care.
This short film follows filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston on her journey to uncover mental health stories spanning the globe. It’s striking how universal these experiences are. The video also touches on the movements that have been made to help remove stigma from mental health, and how countries worldwide are committed to addressing mental health needs, according to the World Health Organization’s mental health action plan for 2013-2020.
For more on World Mental Health day, we thought you might also like to check out:
The World Health Organization
Five ways we could improve our mental health today, by former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno
World Mental Health Day 2014: The misconceptions broken down