Everybody sees them out on the street, in the parks, the buses and the the fast food places, but few get to know them well or even stop to talk to them. And of those who do get to know them well, it's usually in a professional capacity as a doctor, nurse, social worker or a volunteer. They are the seriously mentally ill who live among us and are unable to work due to their illness. About 2.8% of the U.S. adult population have severe mental illness, most commonly schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.* As the journal, "World Psychiatry" observes, “Many people with serious mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.”
That is why, as their friends and advocates, we do all that we can to push back against stigma. And that is also the reason why our website, EndearingPersonalities.com has added this blog, which we are calling “Friends of Lionel”. Our blog is in memory of our former Housing With Help, Inc. board member and Green Bay Packer star, Lionel Aldridge.
Lionel became a legendary inspiration to the world from the 1960's well into the 1990's by making the incredible journey from Green Bay Packer Super Bowl player standout to schizophrenic homeless drifter and back to becoming a mental health spokesman and advocate.
Lionel passed away in 1998, but we hope to carry on his legacy by showcasing the endearing personalities of those who carry the cross of mental illness. Mindful that the vignettes we publish will serve to enlighten our audience to the nature of mental illness, we hope to nip stigma in the bud. We are soliciting input from people whose profession serves those who live with mental illness and from friends and relatives who have stuck with them through their illness, to submit stories in the form of vignettes about some of the special people they have come to know and especially those they have developed an attachment to. These would be stories about people like the friends Lionel surely must have met during the years he spent living on the streets and in the shelters. Please submit stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Access to Disability Data, An InfoUse Project funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.