Welcome To My World

By February 29, 2016 No Comments

I entered the world of mental health advocacy when a member of my family began to struggle with depression. For the purposes of this post and to protect his privacy, I will refer to him as Philip.

Philip began to struggle at the beginning of middle school and watching him suffer was extremely difficult on my entire family. Philip still has his own daily battles, but they’re different now. At first he was fighting to get out of bed, but now he’s able to take on the average challenges associated with adapting to life as a high-schooler, just like his peers. I learned a lot from his struggles. I saw a number of things play important roles in his recovery; these include a strong support network devoted to this individual’s improved nutrition and exercise, and prescribed pharmaceuticals. I will elaborate on my perspective of these factors.

To me, a strong support system is vital in helping someone struggling with depression. This required there to be a strong bond of trust to allow for the honest sharing of the struggle. The hardest part for me was the fact that there was no task I could do or problem I could solve that would help; I felt helpless. My whole family struggled with how best to care for and help Philip. Everyone had to show unwavering love and support, showing we’d never give up on him. When Philip felt alone, we were there to show him that he had a team in his corner to help him fight. This proved to be a challenging adventure for my family but because everyone was able to rally around Philip, he knew we had his back. Philip fought his everyday battles with relentlessness and determination, which made all of us very proud. Our relationship as a family grew stronger as we rallied around Philip when he needed it most.

Exercise and nutrition are two areas I am very familiar with due to personal interest and my studies throughout my university education. Quality food is nature’s best medicine. Our bodies function best when we treat them like sports cars—fueling them with high quality foods such as meat, fish, leafy greens, and fruits. Nutrition greatly affects mental health; what we eat affects our hormones and our hormones affect our mood. We should all work to avoid junk food but especially those focusing on improving their mental health. Junk food causes blood sugar levels to skyrocket and then crash and our moods follow suit. By eating well, we stabilize our hormone levels. Philip began eating a diet with very limited processed foods and a lot of quality meats and vegetables. Exercising is the second part of the health equation that helped Philip. At first his exercise was low-key, like going for a walk with the family dog or riding his bike around the neighborhood. Slowly, he began to strive for greater levels of fitness and is now training in the CrossFit methodology, having fun getting fitter. Exercise is so important because it can provide an outlet for physical expression and foster discipline. Mental illness is not a battle fought and won overnight and neither is the pursuit of fitness. Both require an effort to get 1{c89cd7f4fa26d16537b3fe779361f4468ca92e80ef52e309b9ca31cbc1af2626} better each day, baby steps. Exercising provides tangible, measurable results; whether one strives for improvements in a faster time, heavier lift, or lower body fat percentage. Philip has been able to see his efforts turn into results, and this allowed him to develop more confidence in himself. This confidence continues to grow and the effect on his mood cannot be overstated.

I am not an expert in psychiatry or pharmacology but the advances of western medicine when combined with proper exercise and nutrition absolutely help those suffering with mental illness. Philip was under the care of a psychiatrist who provided a trained listening ear and support that allowed him to work through his struggles.

In conclusion, I am very proud of Philip and have learned a lot through his journey. For those out there suffering with mental illness or those in the support systems (family/friends), please reach out to those struggling. We are a combination of mind and body. Mental illness is affected and helped by interventions to improve both. I truly believe that a strong support system, psychiatry/medicine, good nutrition, and exercise are all important in treating mental illness.


Harrison Cady

Founding Board Member

Stronger Than Stigma, Inc.