National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month takes place every July in America to focus on access to treatment and recovery resources for minorities living with mental health conditions.
I hesitate in the current day to use the term minority to describe the vibrant, growing, influential individuals in society who have the equal opportunity to recover alongside everyone else. Each of us can recover and do great things and live a life that offers joy, contentment, satisfaction and emotional harmony.
Historically though, minorities have suffered discrimination or bias or possibly often simply an unintentional lack of cultural awareness by their providers.
To raise awareness of the mental health issues facing minorities, to educate individuals and always to give hope to the hundreds of thousands of people who live alone or in silence or shame is the ultimate goal. You are not alone. Recovery is possible for you.
In July for the past two or three years I've written about this focus in detail. I will post at the end of this news article links to the 2010 and 2012 Minority Mental Health Awareness Month SharePosts I wrote.
This year: I decide to take a twist and feature a Peer Profile about the life of an amazing, courageous friend I had the privilege to meet three years ago. He continues to be a treasured friend.
I wanted to give his story a wide audience not because he has schizophrenia (he doesn't) only because his mental health challenges might strike a chord with others.
Living with a mental health condition when your family or culture doesn't understand you have a bona fide medical condition or doesn't support you in what you go through can be a double disability.
My friend's story does have a happy ending. I'll let him tell it to you in his own words.
My name is Myung Kyu Park and I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was fifteen. My recovery involved VESID and training at Howie T. Harp as a peer specialist when I came to America. My recovery is coming along since 1990.
I was fifteen years old in 1973 and since then I hadn't thought about recovery because I was depressed, in my symptoms. I had a lot of difficulty. Since I had Howie T. Harp training in 1990 it's gotten better.
In Korean we say Park Myung Kyu. The Chinese characters of my name symbolize round (Park) carving (Myung) star (Kyu). So this is carve the star in the universe. My baptism name of Peter is for fisherman, first pope, and the rock.
Since I was young I was in conflict because I couldn't imagine what kind of fortune I had. Nowadays, I try to pick up what I can and need of the fortune so I can manage.
I work at a PROS center as a peer specialist. It offers personalized recovery oriented services. We support mental health and substance abuse issues (dual-diagnosis). I have four individual contacts with each client per day. I facilitate the morning group "the breakfast club" so I bring out the newspaper to discuss current events.
We play ping pong and do art and music. I offer them what they want and need in art. I help them learn the guitar. In my job, I try to support them and engage them in activities yet on the other hand they support me to make it each day. That mutual support or give-and-take is where I give them and I take back.
I can play piano, violin, guitar, melodian, recorder and harmonica. In elementary school I was in orchestra as a second violin. It wasn't perfect, yet I'm still doing it and I learn. The guitar I learned on an inpatient unit from a student from medical school. Ping pong I learned from my mother.
My faith helps me in a way. My father was involved in the Vatican as a committee member. In college in Korea I was a Sunday school teacher. Since coming to the USA I was a summer camp counselor and Korean teacher for the kids.
I have three younger brothers and my mother. My father passed away in 1981 two months after we came to America. My father was a great supporter of me.
My family wasn't great to me in my recovery because they misunderstood a lot of things. We didn't have good communication in between. My younger brothers and my mother just told me "To go to a social worker and doctor to talk. We don't want to hear about it."
I was stigmatized. I was out of touch with my daughter from her age eight to eighteen. Not at all for a ten-year period until her college. At eighteen, she said, "Daddy I want to see you." So we meet once or twice a month.
Now I try to keep up the relationship with my mother and younger brothers. It's changed because I show them in reality what I can and I'm an able person to manage in my job and life setting. I show them in a positive way. They try to understand and we meet each other occasionally. Even my family is getting better each day: we communicate.
The journal is a good thing to keep. For sure it's helping me because I don't want to lose my memory. When I was young I couldn't manage: I misplaced, I lost it. Right now I feel fine; I know how to do it. I write in this paper some kind of design so I have one book I want to finish recording in. My goal is here written: "I have no time to waste."
I'm 54 and I want to finish my schooling. My dream is to make it. I want to have my CASAC and CPRP licenses. I wish to get a bachelors degree in social work and an MSW.
Please be mindful that you're able in a way. You need to try hard enough in order to find your own skills to feel better. Then what you are doing, where you're going, by making your goal and planning you can make it. Everyone has different skills and a different way of pursuing his goals. Even if you have a role model don't pressure yourself to do exactly what this person is doing. You need to find your own way of moving on.
You need to have each day and not pressure yourself too much. The journal I'm doing is one of the skills plus your art and music can help you manage your moods. Even a little exercise: you can walk outside on a sunny day in spring summer and fall. Walk out and get some fresh air because you'll feel a lot better.
You'll be able to manage on your own. I love you all. Bless you.
Published On: July 14, 2013