Moving Forward by Giving Back
Anjali’s father died from suicide when she was 8 years old. Forced to grow up quickly, Anjali became her mother’s helper and cared for her siblings, including her youngest sister, Shanti.
Many years later, as adults, both women’s lives continued to be shaped by mental illness. Shanti experienced episodes of depression and suicidal thoughts. Anjali’s oldest son, Kyle, started showing signs of psychiatric illness in grade school. Kyle was eventually diagnosed with bipolar I with psychosis, borderline personality disorder, and substance use. Kyle completed treatment at Skyland Trail in 2015.
Despite their struggles, Anjali, Shanti, and Kyle supported one another as a family, and, as individuals, are now forging forward by giving back.
Anjali, mental health counselor
“Mental illness is a lifelong daily challenge,” says Anjali. “But our family is trying to take all of our challenges and turn them into positives to help others.”
Anjali just completed the first year of a master’s program to be a clinical mental health counselor. She started an internship this fall. Her plan is to work with young adults with dual diagnosis, hoping one day perhaps to work in partnership with her son. She also started a NAMI chapter at her church and speaks at Skyland Trail family orientation when possible, traveling from Charlotte to volunteer.
“I so believe that now this is my purpose in life. I need to take my knowledge and blessings to help other people.”
“You still have difficult times. You have to allow yourself to grieve a little for what you saw as a potential future for your loved one or your relationship with your loved one. But these experiences have helped me put life in perspective. I appreciate my blessings, and I have learned to value each moment, enjoy each day, and appreciate the simple things in life. My advice to anyone caring for a loved one with a mental health disorder is to never give up.”
Kyle, peer support specialist
Temporarily residing at home after living independently for the last seven years has allowed Kyle to reconnect with his siblings, a relationship that, at times, was estranged and complicated.
Kyle recently completed his North Carolina Peer Support Specialist Training. He is now seeking a position as a peer support specialist so that he can use his journey to help others with a psychiatric diagnosis.
“A peer support specialist is more like a friend,” says Kyle. “Someone who’s been there, done that, and is willing to help you through the steps to get to a different place in life. We can help you through situations that are familiar to us.”
As a peer support specialist, Kyle is applying an important idea he learned in treatment. “I started to make progress in treatment when I realized that sometimes it takes more than one person to get somewhere. In my mind, I had to do everything solo. When I allowed myself to be a part of a group, share my experiences, and work with others on my recovery, I was able to move forward.”
Shanti, founder, “Silence the Shame”
Shanti is using her platform as an entertainment executive to launch a movement called, “Silence the Shame.” Through the initiative, Shanti hopes to spark a national conversation to increase awareness and funding to support those living with mental health conditions.
“I was seeing the effects of mental illness all around me,” says Shanti. “In addition to seeing my nephew’s struggle, my best friend died by suicide four years ago. I decided to confront the issue head on.”
Silence the Shame launched May 5 with a multimedia, worldwide campaign. It received 90 million impressions in two days, with people sharing the message and showing their support from as far away as Capetown and Tokyo.
“We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Shanti. “No one wants to be labeled. The shame we tend to associate with mental illness makes it difficult to open up and share. In our social media society, people love to knock others down, but what are we doing to help others heal?”