I am the daughter of a WWII veteran and a mother who was mentally ill. My father saw combat in the Pacific and was injured in battle. He never talked about his injuries nor did he speak about the brutality of war. Like many veterans of WWII, my dad came home with what was then called "combat stress" - though he never talked about that either. His invisible injuries were only apparent to me when he was under extreme stress. At those times, it was like a switch was flipped and I became afraid of the man who I otherwise dearly loved and respected. I learned how to be quiet and stay out of the way until the storm passed. My father was never physically abusive and always apologetic for the rage which seemed to come out of nowhere. Now I understand. It came out of the war.
My father was a fine man who had clear values and a strong character. He took care of me and my three older brothers after my mother had a psychotic break. By all reports, my mother was a good parent to my brothers and a loving wife to my father until our family’s move from Los Angeles to rural central California and my birth triggered an underlying schizophrenic process. As a child, I was afraid of my mother. I didn't understand her behavior. And although my father tried for eight years to help her, the treatments that were available at the time did little to ease her suffering. My parents divorced, I remained with my father and within a few years I had lost touch with my mother. Now I'm trying to find out what happened to her. And if she is still alive, I'd like to help ease the final years of her life.
It's not surprising that I became a child psychologist. I wanted to understand and assist children, adults and families who were suffering as a result of mental illness or psychological trauma. It's not surprising that in 2005 I founded a national nonprofit organization that provides free mental health care to our returning troops, their families and their communities.
It’s not surprising that I've come to realize that we must change the way we think and talk about mental health in our nation. How can we expect the men and women who come home from war with understandable invisible injuries to talk about their challenges and seek treatment for their distress when there is such stigma associated with depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress? How can we end suffering for the 1 out of 4 Americans who have a diagnosable mental health condition if we continue to treat our psychological and emotional well-being as an afterthought…. if we continue to act as if “mental health” is something that happens to others who are weak or sick.
There is much we can do to improve the health and well-being of our service members and veterans. There is much that we can do to improve the lives of Americans who suffer unnecessarily because they are ashamed to seek care – or unsure of how or where to get help.
I believe that this film will help us drive a national movement that will change the conversation in America about mental health and mental illness. I’m telling my story – and Brendan is telling his. Join us – by telling your story or by helping us spread the word about this critical effort. Together we can Hear a Story, Tell a Story …. Change the Story.