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Mental Health Awareness Month

Chato B. Stewart

I would like to say how happy I am to be blogging at the International Bipolar Foundation! Happy is a very interesting word because it indicates that you're in a good place...The International Bipolar Foundation IS such A GOOD place. Especially if you deal with what else, Bipolar Disorder!


Your initial question may be: Who is Chato Stewart? Hey, I know I would ask that if I was reading this post right now...The short answer is: I am a father, a husband, and a hard-working person that just happens to be living with Bipolar Disorder. Now I have tried to evict him many times, but he pays the bills. So, I thought I should keep him around a little while longer.

Oh, also I'm the cartoonist behind the mentalhealthhumor.comover-medicated.com and The Family Stew cartoon series. All series deal with some of my experiences living with a “diagnosed mental illness.”


One thing you'll learn about me is that I want and try my best to use humor as a positive coping skill or coping mechanism in dealing with the day-to-day effects of Bipolar Disorder on my life. It's a concept that isn't new but is extremely powerful in overcoming some of the depressed periods and unstable mood changes. Yes, laughter is the best medicine for what ails us. “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” (Proverbs 17:22)


Humor and mental illness sometimes seems like oil and water...It shouldn't mix. However, when you take humor and the ability to laugh out of our illness, all we are left with is a huge heap of manure! Yeah, you might build and grow a little something in it...But without the watering effects of laughter and humor, whatever you put in that soil will just dry up and wither away.

Yes, humor is needed to survive the debilitating effects of mental disease. The ability to find humor in a stressful situation is the gift that can be learned and taught. We live with this serious life threatening brain disease and chemical imbalance. The seriousness of it can squeeze the joy right out of life...The mundane aspect of therapy and medication in dealing with some of the side effects of both...It's just not fair that we're giving up a lot of humanity and dignity to our “diagnosis” and also have to include giving up our funny bone!


No, I won't do it! I believe not only do we need to laugh, but we must laugh and by laughing we will survive longer! There is real science behind it too...Dr. Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D says: “Laughing is found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase muscle flexion, and boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies.” If you understood any of that, could you explain it too me... he lost me with the gamma stuff... All I could think of is Bruce Banner's gamma-ray accident...You know, the Hulk!

There are types of humor and laughter that do not build up...It can be more detrimental than helpful. These types of humor degrade and belittle others race, religion or creed and it's something we want to try to avoid. We don't want to make fun of other people. The idea is to use humor to help us find balance.

This month May 2012 is Mental Health Awareness month. Five years ago, I started doing my own little event to bring awareness to mental health issues by drawing a cartoon each day. Calling the event a Mental Health Humor Cartoon-a-thon. I started out drawing cartoons, but three years ago, I started teaching myself how to draw caricatures. Now I draw 31 mental health advocates from the mental health community...some professionals, many peers that are making a difference in reducing discrimination and increasing education and awareness. I call them Mental Health Heroes. Here are a few of this month's heroes. I reserved one day for the International Bipolar Foundation. Who do you think I should draw? Let me know via the facebook page InternationalBipolarFoundation.

 

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