Michael Hansen is a Sacramento County resident living with Bipolar 2 Disorder. From a young age, he faced extreme mood swings that took a toll on his relationships and life. Unfortunately, he wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar until age 59 after decades of struggle. Now as a member of the Stop Stigma Sacramento Speakers Bureau, Michael hopes to reduce stigma and discrimination, promote mental health and wellness and inspire hope for people and families living with mental illness.
Sacramento County resident Dan Tibbits is 30 years in recovery from substance use disorder, with the support of 12 Step Recovery. He was dual-diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 33. Dan shares his story to create a sense of connection and hope for others struggling with substance use disorder or mental illness.
La Viola Ward is a mental health speaker and advocate. After obtaining her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, she made it her mission to share her experience living with mental illness and hopes to help to reduce many of the stigmas associated with mental health — especially within communities of color through her work.
There’s a saying in Spanish that goes “ponte las pilas,” literally meaning “put the batteries in. I heard this phrase from my dad all the time growing up and even now as an adult. If you heard someone say “put the batteries in” in English, you’d probably think about getting a remote control or a toy car, but dad was actually telling us to “put the batteries in” to ourselves.
Mental Health? What is that? I grew up questioning what mental health was. Growing up I did not learn in school or at home that one must care for their mental health. Conversations around the topic were little to none, and when the conversations presented themselves they were surrounded by stigma. I am a proud Mexican immigrant and recognize that my culture has a long way to go in addressing mental health. Growing up I watched and heard stuff in the media that taught boys to “toughen up,” and that if you showed emotion it was a sign of weakness, something to be ashamed of.
South Asian culture often gives precedence to physical health, sometimes at the expense of mental health needs. You might hear, “If you are physically healthy, you’re fine.” If someone expresses being anything less than happy or content (for whatever reason), the response is often, “you have a loving family, you don’t have to worry about where your next meal comes from, you have a roof over your head, why are you so dissatisfied?”
Weird. Unaccepted. Judged. Growing up as a Mexican-American in a home that did not prioritize Mexican culture, I developed these feelings early in my youth. I was influenced by many different cultures growing up. As I encountered people from the same cultural background who were more connected with the traditions than I was, internalized conflict developed.