Corinne Starkey: Ending the Silence
When Corinne gets home, her shoes need to go in the exact same spot, her book bag needs to be put down and her husband needs to wait for her ritual to finish before he can finally hug her.
Corinne Starkey found out she had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as an adult during a conversation with her ecclesiastical leader.
She had just gotten engaged and since she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she had promised to keep herself from having sexual relations before marriage and avoiding anything that could lead her to break that promise.
She decided to meet with her bishop every two weeks to make sure she was on the right track.
“Whenever I met with him, I was upset all the time because I would be constantly thinking and overthinking, ‘We did something wrong. This is horrible. He touched me where he shouldn’t have,’” Starkey said. “But, in reality, he didn’t do anything wrong. He would hold my side while we were walking, and I would freak out.”
Past mistakes came up in her conversations with her bishop and he noticed a pattern in her experience. Luckily for Starkey, her bishop was a counselor at her university and brought to her attention that she was struggling with scrupulosity, which is when people constantly think they are doing something wrong, especially in religious settings.
Her bishop then encouraged her to visit the school’s Counseling Center, so she could get the treatment she needed. Talking to the counselors helped her cope with her mental health challenges.
One of her symptoms consists of false fears, which means unrealistic thoughts and fears she makes up in her head.
“It’ll start from a tiny little thought and spiral to something that is way bigger than it started out to be,” Starkey said. “… And then I create this completely alternate reality in my head that feels like a real fear and that it’s actually happening, but it’s a false fear. It’s not actually happening and that’s something that I learn in counseling is to try to distinguish between the two.”
Talking it out also helps Starkey cope with it. Her husband normally sits by her and listens. Being able to talk about every detail and discuss every false fear helps her realize that those fears aren’t real.
“As I talk it out, I recognize and realize that it’s not real and I don’t get so anxious, and then he’ll hold me, and he’ll just comfort me, and I wish I had that support because in my home growing up, my mom and my dad, they obviously didn’t recognize that their child was suffering from something,” Starkey said.
She said her mom is a “suck it up” type of personality. When Starkey went through a break up growing up, she remembers feeling like a mess. Her mom then reminded her that “There are other fishes in the sea.”
“She wasn’t there emotionally, and I’ve come to find out that she suffers from social anxiety,” she said. “So being able to give any of those comfort supports wasn’t there for her, it wasn’t possible and because I have a husband who gives comfort and recognizes when the anxiety starts because he’s been to counseling with me it’s a huge help and that’s like part of my medication is being able to have that support system, because going through all of this alone is really hard.”
Her symptoms manifested since a young age. She would play in her family’s backyard and at the end of the day, the toys would be covering the entire ground. Contrary to most kids, Starkey felt the need to put the toys back to their specific places.
“If the toys weren’t put back where they were supposed to, and I realized that at night while lying in bed, it didn’t matter what time at night it was, at 3 o’clock in the morning or whatever,” she said. “I would have to get up and I would have to go outside and put those toys away where they went because everything has its place in my mind.”
For her parents, Starkey’s attitude was odd. They normally just told her to go back to bed.
“I wish,” she said. “I just wish I would have had parents who would have recognized what was going on in my child’s brain.”
Starkey said recognizing the signs for each mental illness could have helped her figure out her challenges earlier in life and she would have been able to get the treatment she so desperately needed.
“I used to think … there is two Corinne’s,” she said. “There is the anxious Corinne and there is the normal Corinne and sometimes it’s really, really hard to differentiate between the two.”
She said doing research may help people not only get more informed, but find ways of helping the people around them.
“There is so much great material out there and if you are a student … being able to visit a counselor and not feel ashamed for having to go to counseling, not feeling ashamed that there is something wrong with me because the anxiety that people have is not them,” Starkey said.
Add your voice to Corinne Starkey and end the silence around you.
Grant Waters: Ending the Silence
Until this very day, Grant Waters didn’t know if his older brother, Kyle, committed suicide or not.
Kyle suffered from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia at the time. He was visiting their parents and went to get something out of his car and had been out there for a long period of time when a semi-truck hit him.
“I know he never went there to visit my parents to end his life because he always wanted to get better,” Grant said. “He always expressed it to my mom. … He never really … shared a lot of that stuff with me because I was his (younger) brother and I think he always wanted … to … protect me from it or just … be strong for me.”
Grant said he wishes his brother had opened up more about his struggles with him because even though he knew his brother was struggling, he didn’t know how hard it had been for him.
Grant believes a lot of times people are aware of the mental health issues, but don’t know how serious they are.
“I think he really kept it to himself how bad he was really struggling,” Grant said. “I think, if you think someone is struggling, maybe assume that they need help. … Maybe just give people the benefit of the doubt and help them when they need it because … (there are) a lot of regrets there. … I wish I would have done a lot of things differently.”
He said if he knew that his brother would have passed away so soon, he would have taken more time to be there for him.
“An experience like that really changes you, changes your life perspective, it changes who I am, it changes who my family (is), it changes a lot of perspective, really,” Grant said.
Whether people’s stories are traumatic or small, Grant encourages people to share them because it can help bring more awareness to people around them.
“When you’re struggling with depression or any of those things … you feel alone, and it feels impossible to reach out to other people, but that’s like the one thing that you should do, but it seems … impossible,” Grant said. “It seems like everyone around you would like to help you, but they don’t know how, or you may want help, but you don’t know how to reach out.”
Communicating, for Grant, can be an important tool to help people dealing with mental health challenges to get the help they need.
“I think the one thing that people should know is that mental illness is very real and if you’re sitting in a classroom or at lunch or something, I guarantee that … there are people … that are struggling,” Grant said.
He said an individual’s struggle could be with an abusive parent, losing someone, an illness, anxiety, depression or anything else.
“There are people that are definitely struggling, and they can use your help in some way, and it’s just figuring out how to help them,” Grant said. “It may be something small, it may be something big. Just try to help people out, whatever way you can.”
Add your voice to Grant Waters and end the silence around you.
Joseph Hansen: Ending the Silence
Bipolar disorder. Anxiety. Major depression.
This was Joseph Hansen’s diagnosis after going to the psychiatrist at about 13 years old. Before that, he lived a fairly normal life.
Those challenges made high school difficult. Hansen ended up failing most of his classes because he didn’t feel up to the task of dealing with his challenges on a daily basis.
“At that point, all through high school, I struggled much more with suicidal thoughts and feelings than I do now,” Hansen said. “I felt like I didn’t know what to do, I felt like I didn’t know how to take care of my problems, and would often think how the world would be better-off without me, and how I just wanted everything to end, so that I could at least have a little break from all the pain and the suffering that I was going through.”
His symptoms ranged from lack of motivation to rapid mood swings and manic rage. One minute he felt “ridiculously happy,” and the next he felt “completely miserable”.
“It rocked me … learning to cope with that has been difficult, but it’s possible,” Hansen said. “I think overall … (I felt) a sense of fear and hopelessness. I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t know what to do. I just thought that this was just the way my life was going to be forever, and I was right to a certain extent.”
He still struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, and sometimes depressive episodes. Many times, he said he loses touch with reality for 15 minutes to a couple of hours.
“Everything around me becomes frightening,” he said. “It’s like … I just kind of drift out of reality into a place where, even though I’m still technically feeling and seeing things that are real, they’ve lost all … sense of fear for me.”
He said none of those symptoms are fun, but there are ways to deal with them that have made it possible for him to live a successful life.
Even though his parents experienced anxiety and depression through other family members during their lives, they had never seen these illnesses on such a high scale.
“It’s been really nice having the support of my parents,” Hansen said. “They don’t understand what goes on, but they care enough that they’re willing to help me.”
Even though, Hansen’s symptoms were real for him and his family, his school counselors didn’t have the experience to diagnose him. After trying to help and realizing they couldn’t, the counselors advised his parents to take him to a psychiatrist to hopefully give him some medication.
His psychiatrist noticed that the symptoms and the severity of Hansen’s mental health challenges were not common.
“She said, ‘I can’t promise you that it will help you, but I’m going to try,’” Hansen said. “And she did try, she put a lot of work into it and it was really a struggle for me, especially … because the medicine was expensive. I felt guilty every time I took it because I knew how much my parents were paying for it, but it really does help.”
He said talking to a specialist about medication should be an option for anyone struggling with mental health challenges.
Even after he started his treatment, Hansen still felt like no one understood him. He said he needed a support group with people dealing with similar symptoms.
He said he had an overarching feeling and realized the feeling was fear, “fear of what was happening, fear of what was going to happen, fear of what I was doing, of what I was capable of doing. There really wasn’t anyone and if there were people … they didn’t talk about it. They just felt like it was better to just keep their problems to themselves, which I think a lot of people with mental health problems do.”
Hansen believes people have more things in common than they think they do. Although he had the resources he needed available, many people don’t and since most people are not comfortable talking about mental illnesses, those resources may never get to them.
“You can pretend you’re completely normal when you feel like you’re dying inside and if people are just so scared to talk about that for whatever reason, then they’ll never be able to get the help that they need,” Hansen said.
Since each person is different, Hansen said they will cope with mental health challenges in a different way. He said in high school, specifically, friends may say, “Hey, you can just go outside and sit in the sun for a while and you’ll be fine.” Even though that solution might work for some people, it won’t work for everyone.
He said people need to be willing to face their problems, and in doing that, look for ways to overcome and fight them.
“It’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world,” Hansen said. “There is more to life than your mental health challenges. If you let them define you, if you say, ‘This is who I am, this is all I’ll ever be,’ then that is all you’ll ever be and that’s not a place you want to be in.”
Taking medication has helped Hansen cope with his mental health challenges.
“I will never be fully rid of my mental health challenges,” he said. “I still experience symptoms to this day … but the nice part is that there’s ways to deal with them that make it possible to continue to live a very successful life.”
Add your voice to Joseph Hansen and end the silence around you.
Ryan Parke: Ending the Silence
California: great weather, super fun, wonderful family, happiness and cancer.
Ryan Parke was just finishing high school in California when he heard the news about his dad. It wasn’t just cancer. Something was different with his dad.
“It was hard for (us) to understand, ‘Why is he so angry all the time? Why is he upset? Why is he mad? He seems happy and then all of a sudden, he is mad,’” Parke said. “It just didn’t make sense to us.”
Even though he noticed differences in his dad, as a high schooler he didn’t know what those signs meant, so he just decided to carry on with life just like the rest of his family.
Not long after, he received a call to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Patagonia, Argentina, for the next two years.
About a year into the mission, his phone rang. His mission president, the leader responsible for him, informed him that his dad had passed away.
“It was like out of nowhere, just super out of the blue,” Parke said. “I wasn’t expecting that end, so I went home, I buried him and then I went back out to my mission and I felt totally fine. I felt like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be, this is an awesome support group I have surrounding me. This is perfect. This is where I should be.’”
However, something had changed. Parke started to notice he felt tired all the time, but could never sleep.
“I just kind of blew it off, but I finished the rest of my mission and came home and still felt pretty good about the whole situation,” he said. “People would ask, ‘Are you good? How is everything going?’ and I felt pretty good about it.”
Three months later, anger became part of his symptoms as well as mood swings.
“I couldn’t understand what was going on in my own head and that was when I started to think, ‘This is like what my dad was experiencing when he was going through this trauma,’” Parke said. “I was just mad, I was upset.”
Parke, then, went to college at BYU-Idaho. He still felt tired. He still couldn’t sleep. He still felt angry. As a result, he started failing all of his classes. One day, he decided to open up to his roommates, and one of them suggested the Counseling Center available to students on campus.
“And finally, … (one of his roommates) was like, ‘Dude, see if someone can help. You don’t have to fix this on your own. You don’t understand it, I don’t understand it because I never lost a parent, but just go see if someone does,’” Parke said. “And that was … when the Counseling Center came up.”
Once he realized he could use the Counseling Center, he talked to his mom, who was also seeing a counselor at the time, and decided to give it a try.
“I humbled myself, put a shirt and tie on and walked into the counseling room and said, ‘I need help. I seriously don’t know, I don’t understand what’s going on, but my dad died, and I think I’m upset about it and I didn’t think that I was,’” he said.
After the first session, he noticed an automatic improvement in how he felt.
“I realized anxiety and depression are real,” Parke said. “It’s an actual thing that happens to people, even people who are happy and there are certain ways and things to do to fix it and help those people. Most of the time you don’t know if someone is struggling or going through an issue … until you know what it’s like to be in their shoes.”
Parke said he had been happy for his whole life. He never thought those feelings would ever reach him the way they did through depression and anxiety.
“It happened to me and I really appreciate the people around me that tried to understand, even though I felt like I couldn’t express it, or they couldn’t express what they were feeling about how I was feeling,” he said. “It felt good to just have people there to understand and talk to me what it could be like.”
Now, one of Parke’s goals involves helping people who find themselves in the same situation as him.
“It was confusing for me and I don’t want it to be confusing for anyone else for that long,” Parke said.
He started a company called Vibe MVMT Apparel, that works with companies selling products and using the earning to help families who have a member diagnosed with cancer.
Before his father passed away, Parke and his father went on a hike, and his father wrote on a couple of rocks “Keep going” and gave them to him. Those words still have an impact on his life.
“Keep going in a positive direction and if you do, there is something in the future that will help,” Parke said. “Unless you choose to not accept it. Just keep going.”
Add your voice to Ryan Parke and end the silence around you.
Abbigail Buttars: Ending the Silence
When her mom walked in the kitchen, she found Abbigail holding the knife up to her neck, ready to take her life.
Her mom immediately grabbed the knife and realized her daughter was having a seizure, which caused her to stare nowhere and not remember what had happened.
Abbigail Buttars had been diagnosed with ADHD, a learning disability and a seizure disorder.
For most of her life, she had participated in special education classes, but when she got to high school, she noticed people treating her different – including her teachers.
“I was getting bullied and being made fun of,” Buttars said. “I started to feel isolated in the environment that I was in because no one really wanted to be my friend, no one really wanted to be around me.”
She had no desire to leave the house.
“There … (were) days that I just had to stay home just so that I didn’t have to deal with that at school, and my mom could help take care of me and it was just more of a comfort zone being home,” Buttars said.
When she got home from school, she normally just put on her pajamas, sat on the couch and watched TV or played on the computer.
“(I) didn’t want to do anything, wanted to sleep, didn’t want to do my homework, didn’t want to go to school, … (I) stopped going to church activities because I didn’t want to be around kids,” she said.
Because of her lack of energy, Buttars ended up missing a portion of her freshman and sophomore year in high school. She lost about a year of information.
“There would be times where I would just be like, ‘I want out of here, I want to move, I want to run away,’” she said. “I had thoughts of running away because … it was so overwhelming. Just being a teenager.”
Those feelings started when she was 12 and progressed until she was about 16 years old. She said she just wanted those feelings to go away somehow and that is what brought her to her kitchen unconsciously trying to end her life.
“When I came out of that seizure, … I had no idea … I had those feelings, I had those … intentions, but I would have, I could’ve seriously hurt myself if my mom wasn’t around,” Buttars said. “Luckily, I’m here and luckily, she was there. I am a survivor and I think it’s really important to put this information out there.”
Buttars said she wishes there was a program in her school that focused on helping kids in her situation.
Luckily, she said she had understanding parents, who gave her as much help as they could at the time.
To help with her seizures, she ended up getting a service dog while in high school and work closely with the trainer, who became one of her mentors.
“She just took an interest in me, she just invited me to go work with her,” Buttars said. “Go do agility courses, go do stuff like that, so I had more of a bond with my dog, but I got to get to know her and she just had like this positivity. It’s just like a big huge support system.”
To help people in her situation at the time, she said it’s all about who is willing to help, who is willing to put the word out there and how much they want to invest in helping those who are going through this situation.
Even though Buttars had a support animal, she still felt the need to connect with the people around her.
“We’re human beings and we need people to talk to,” she said. “That’s the only way the problem is going to get solved. A lot of it has to do with communication and finding our voice. … Maybe it’ll be a burden at first, but it’s helping someone save their life, if you are taking the time to listen.”
She said sometimes when people focus on giving advice to someone in her situation, it just ends up make her feel worse. Most of the time, she just wants someone to listen.
“You’re never going to get through to anyone just by giving advice because they already know what they want or what they need to do,” Buttars said. “They just need someone to listen, so they can confirm what they know. … It’s all about listening and being able to communicate. Instead of just butting in a conversation we need to listen.”
Buttars encouraged anyone in a similar situation to look for help because there are people out there who want to help.
“You can go see your school counselor you can go see someone that you’re close with,” she said. “I would personally go talk to (an) adult first before you go talk to your friend, because sometimes they’re not helpful and sometimes their burden also can cause them to have issues as well.”
There are resources available, whether they are in schools, church or in a family environment, Butters reminded.
“If you’re down or upset, just go talk, it’ll make you feel better,” she said. “… Don’t be afraid to speak up. Use your voice.”
Throughout her life, she said a lot of people talked down to her and it wasn’t the best thing for her at the time, so she encourages everyone to open up.
“It’s going to be that big, heavy cloud over your head all the time if you don’t let it go and talk about it,” Buttars said. “Just go get help.”
Add your voice to Abbigail Buttars and end the silence around you.
The program teaches the students common warning signs and when, where and how to get help for themselves or their friends. The program also helps young people become more understanding and empathetic toward those who struggle with mental illness. By teaching these young adults to be more empathetic, we are building a generation wherein stigma will lose its power!
This program is taught Peer to Peer, students teaching students. With NAMI Ending the Silence, we are working to prevent a generation from struggling in silence.
NAMI will be sharing Six Stories from BYU-I students who will be our presenters for the Ending the Silence Presentation. We want to share their stories with those that come to the Website.
Sierra Hathaway: Ending the Silence
When Sierra Hathaway found out that her boyfriend Randy had anxiety, she didn’t let that keep their relationship from progressing.
She had experienced mild anxiety growing up. Her mom had been diagnosed with severe anxiety, so she thought she knew what she was getting into when she and Randy decided to get married.
“We got married and his anxiety went through the roof because it was just a new circumstance, new situation, and we talked about going to a doctor. He went to a doctor, who gave him some medication and that medication actually ended up giving him severe depression along with anxiety, not helping the anxiety at all,” Sierra said.
That situation made things harder for her since they were barely married, and she and Randy were just starting to get to know each other.
“I just remember feeling, ‘Oh, man, is this my fault? Is there something I’m doing that’s making it really bad? What can I do?’” she said. “I just didn’t know what to do. I just remember feeling completely hopeless for quite a while.”
For Sierra, her anxiety manifests through overthinking different outcomes. She said she feels the need to understand and plan out different things.
“I guess my anxiety in some ways is a gift because I have to understand,” she said. “I have to research. The more I research, the less anxious I am about something.”
She felt that the way she could help Randy would be understanding what he was going through, so she focused on more researching of anxiety and depression.
Through her experience growing up, she said she couldn’t understand Randy’s situation. She felt seasonal depression, but nothing compared to her husband’s struggles.
“When I have anxiety and panic attacks, I want to be held, I want somebody to be there with me, whereas Randy, when he has panic attacks or anxiety attacks, he kind of just wants to be left alone a little bit, in his bubble,” Sierra said. “He wants some space. He wants to know that you’re there waiting for him, but he just wants some space.”
She said it has been an experimental experience for her because she doesn’t know exactly how to act in each situation, so she tries different things and sees what works and what doesn’t.
“It takes a lot of patience to try to figure out the ins and outs to everybody’s mental illness,” she said. “But when you really care about somebody, you’re going to really try to find that out the best you can.”
Sierra said that communicating and listening have been some of the best tools in her relationship with Randy.
“I just remember reading something saying, ‘Don’t treat somebody with anxiety and depression differently because they don’t want you to look at that pain and make it stand out,’” she said. “… Trying to love that part of him, even though it was a really hard part to love was definitely a process.”
Even though the hard days tended to prevail, Sierra said she found comfort and strength in God and in her religion.
“Just praying every single day, ‘Please, just help me understand and please let’s just have a happy hour, you know, just an hour that we’re just happy,’” she said while water filled her eyes and her voice struggled to continue. Randy reached his hand to hold hers and she continued with a shy smile in her face. “Those little bits of happiness are really what kept me going because I knew it was possible. It did grow, over time.”
She encouraged people in a similar situation to be patient and if they are a religious person, to pour out their heart to God and not forget to get help for themselves when they feel the need.
“It’s important to look at your own self, at your own weaknesses first and try to strengthen those, so you can help the people that you love because I know he would have never gotten the help if I hadn’t gotten the help for myself first,” Sierra said. “We can’t help somebody if you’re not helped first.”
Sierra found that meditation and breathers help her feel better prepared mentally to be available to Randy whenever he needs her.
“Just realize that you’re not alone, that you’re not the only one helping somebody get through this,” Sierra said. “There are other ways for you to understand this and not to be afraid to get help for yourself too.”
Add your voice to Sierra Hathaway and end the silence around you.
May is Mental Health Month
This year, NAMI is launching “CureStigma” a new campaign that builds on the successful #StigmaFree initiative and positions stigma as a “social virus” that is spreading across America. Stigma is a sign or sense of disgrace that sets someone apart from others. Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation and blame that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to moving forward in one’s recovery journey.
“Stigma is dangerous for the millions of Americans affected by mental health conditions. It causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control, prevents them from seeking help, and even takes lives,” said Mary Giliberti, CEO of NAMI. “Although stigma is a virus that anyone can be exposed to, we do have a cure, and that is compassion and understanding. We need to talk openly and raise our voices, so we can put an end to the fear and shame, and cure stigma once and for all.”
The campaign incorporates a new series of nationwide public service announcements (PSA) featuring NAMI Celebrity Ambassadors from film, television, music, and sports including Utkarsh Ambudkar, Andrea Barber, Maurice Bernard, Corinne Foxx, Clark Gregg, Jamie Gray Hyder, AJ Mendez, Sonya Nichols, Mauro Ranallo and Stolar. (go to YouTube NAMI CureStigma) The PSA encourages viewers to visit curestigma.org, where visitors can take a brief quiz to see if they “are infected” by stigmatizing beliefs. Visitors will also receive information about how to “spread the cure” and will gain free access to a special emoji/sticker pack for their mobile phones.
Key mental health statistics include:
• 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition.
• 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in the United States lives with a serious mental illness.
• 60 million people in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness.
• Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, but early intervention programs can help.
• Additional facts and citations are available at Mental Health by the Numbers.
“The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it. So during Mental Health Month, we are asking everyone to join with NAMI to #CureStigma,” said Giliberti.
For additional information about Mental Health Month, to take the CureStigma quiz and to access CureStigma resources, please visit curestigma.org.