A question that naturally comes up when I talk to people about Here/Hear is, “Why?” Basically, people are asking why such an organization needs to exist and what sort of niche this fills. And, obviously, I think have a good answer.

First, the reason for the need for such an organization is that mental illness is a serious problem in the United States. The statistics bear out that roughly 20-25% of Americans will live with some form of mental illness during their lifetime. This includes everything from serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia to more “acute” forms like seasonal depression or the depression that can often ensue from losing a loved one (and, saying these are “acute” is simply terminological as there is nothing “acute” about actually experiencing depression or a period of anxiety). In addition, roughly 5-10% of the population experiences a “severe” mental illness, usually classified as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression/anxiety. Many of these tend to be lifelong, requiring not only medication and therapy, but a changed lifestyle. Along with these illnesses, there are people that care for and give comfort to the mentally ill, that love them and don’t know what to do when faced with such dilemmas. 

So, the first thing that Here/Hear wants to do is to give “voice” to the mentally ill through the telling of stories and the creation of art. We want to feature other people’s stories here, on our blog, as well as posting people’s songs, artistic creations, videos, and the like. If it’s creative and helps address issues surrounding mental illness, we want to give voice to that so that everyone can HEAR that you are HERE. (and, by the way, you can submit to [email protected]).

Now, if we simply did this, we would not be special. There are a multitude of organizations that giving voice to those with mental illnesses. Organizations such as Bring Change 2 Mind and To Write Love on Her Arms are fantastic in fighting the stigma surround issues of mental illness and raising awareness, as well as directing people on where to go for help. While we do things a little differently and give voice in more unique/expressive ways, these organizations (and many others) do so as well.

What makes Here/Hear different is our commitment to go wherever people ask and help set up groups supporting the mentally ill. We are in the process of developing curriculum for both religious and educational organizations to use. The issue, as we see it, is that many places do not know where to start offering support or where to send people. Support groups have been shown to be important and valuable in helping in the recovery from mental illness. In addition, ours build on components, such as mindfulness and repetition, that researchers detail as having great value in helping slow down and support the mentally ill person.

In helping set up these groups, we also want to come in and offer a workshop/speech where we detail what it is to have a mental illness, first steps for finding help, and then what these support groups can offer. In so doing, we have curriculum specifically developed for young people, from 15-24, as this is the time when many mental illnesses actually arise in a person’s life. Also, during this time, suicide is the second leading cause of death. So, we offer the development of support groups and the workshop as a way of giving life to people who may not be able to find it elsewhere. 

Thus, our difference is found in the fact that we not only are advocates for the mentally ill, but we also give voice and have developed programs that are built on good research for helping the mentally ill. Again, if you want us to help your organization or church set up such a program, contact Nate at [email protected]

Later this week, I’ll share a little about my story and use it to discuss even more why a program like Here/Hear is needed in your community, especially in the churches and/or school.