First Kate Spade. Then Anthony Bourdain. Then the report released by the CDC saying that suicide has increased by 25% since 1999, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the US. If we learn anything from these losses – including the non-celebrities among them – it’s that the conversation about addiction, mental illness, and suicide needs to come into the light.

Mental illness is an issue that hits close to home for me. My stepmother, who suffered from chronic depression, committed suicide when I was young and my brother, a retired college professor, is schizophrenic. He was gracious enough to let me interview him for my latest book, where I talk about  “radical hopefulness” and the extreme challenges of health, homelessness, and mental illness.

Here are some eye-opening stats from the World Health Organization and the National Alliance on Mental Illness that I discovered when I was researching my book:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the US suffers from mental illness every year
  • 1 in 25 adults in the US suffers from a mental illness so severe that it limits one or more major life activities
  • Of the 20.2 million people in the US who have experienced a substance abuse problem, half of them also have a mental disorder
  • 26% of people living in homeless shelters suffer from a mental illness
  • An estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide each day
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

The Awesome Quote

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Righteous Challenge

Learn the signs of mental illness and know who to call when you or a friend, family member, or co-worker needs help. While it can be hard to tell if someone has a serious mental problem, especially if you’re not a trained healthcare clinician, there are some warning signs.  Changes in emotions or actions, especially sudden ones, can be an indication that your loved one needs assessment and support. Look for the following signs in adults and adolescents:

  • Confusion
  • Depression, sadness, or irritability
  • Extreme high and low moods
  • Withdrawal from normally pleasurable social activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Strange or paranoid thoughts or delusions
  • Anger or excessive fear
  • Substance abuse or self-medication
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you are concerned that your loved one could be a danger to him/herself or others, call 911 and be prepared to describe the symptoms that prompted your call. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or National Institute for Mental Health for more help. Here are links:

Praise for The Hope-Driven Leader

“Having HOPE is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives. It’s comforting to know that others have fought this same battle and have come out the other side, happier, healthier and yes, more hopeful. This is a book for anyone who fearlessly tackles each day as it comes.” – Tracey Noonan, CEO & Co-Founder of Wicked Good Cupcakes, Inc.

“Hope. That ethereal and ever-elusive component we seek.  Libby Gill’s The Hope-Driven Leader guides the reader through the maze and to that place where hope dwells, how to collaborate with hope, and open up to the possibilities that hope will bring. The Hope-Driven Leader is a guide for all leaders, may they lead at work, at home, or at heart.  – Catherine Carr, Humanitarian, Doctors Without Borders

My thanks to the brave people who shared their stories about dealing with issues of mental and physical health and homelessness in The Hope-Driven Leader. Although it may seem overwhelming, I share simple strategies in my book for helping those who are struggling with these crippling conditions. Please read it and be ready to take action!

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