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A Month of Mental Health Awareness

May 13, 2016

It has come to my attention that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I, for one, think this is a wonderful thing. Being that I myself work in the Integrated Health Home (IHH) department of Hillcrest, Mental health is a large concern to both me and my coworkers.  However, mental health is not only a concern of mine professionally, but a personal concern as well.

I was first hired in the IHH program as an RSA, or “Recovery Support Advocate” for those who are not familiar with that particular acronym. In order to work as an RSA, one must have lived experience with some form of mental illness in their lives. For me, my lived experience consisted of the years I was diagnosed with major depression while in high school and early college. This was a very difficult time for me, not only having to deal with my own disorder, but the disorder society has with mental illness itself.

When an individual is suffering from a mental illness, they are fighting with both their own confusion and the confusion of others around them. Even in this day and age, a large portion of people in our community simply do not understand the severity and nature of mental illness. To some, mental illness is merely a figment of the imagination or even a cry for attention. If any who happen to be reading this find themselves agreeing with these notions, I can personally assure you that they are not true.Luke V pic cropped

Over the course of a number of years, I was able to recover from my mental illness. This was accomplished through an ever-changing combination of therapy, medication, and most importantly, love and support from my friends and family. I no longer require medication or formal therapy, but I still take as much love and support that I can get. My primary source of this comes from my amazing wife and the most amazing cat in the world. I have a picture of both of them on my desk, and they help me through a lot of hard days.

Though I no longer work as an RSA, I continue to work and support those suffering from mental illness in the IHH program. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to offer a kind word, a sympathetic ear, or even a smile to those around you. There is an entire world inside of each and every one of us, and those simple kindnesses can make an entire world of difference to those who are suffering.

– Luke Vorwald, Care Coordinator, Dubuque Integrated Health Home Program