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‘What Should We Have Known?’

A conversation with FOX News Health host, Dr. Manny Alvarez.

Mental illness, unlike breast cancer, isn’t celebrated with big marches or pink ribbons. The stigma is stifling and it prevents most people from seeking help. David, my husband, refused to accept the label of bipolar disorder. He could not imagine a life of medications and therapy, which did so little to help. David’s path is not unique. Suicide is now the ninth most common cause of death for men and women in America. Every thirteen minutes, another American dies from suicide.

What could we have done differently?

What should we have known?

It is my belief that many people could benefit from hearing more about how psychiatric conditions unfold. In the years, months and days leading up to David’s death, I didn’t classify him as mentally ill. I missed many signs. I ignored others, believing it could get better. And I scrambled, as the world came crashing down around us, I scrambled to maintain my own sanity and the health of our daughter.

Our daughter celebrates her birthday each June. I can’t help but measure her birthdays with an equal sense of apprehension and elation. She’s a teenager now, and still no sign of the brooding, the polarity, the darkness that descended on David like Portland’s thick gray clouds in January, refusing to budge. Yes, she has his intellect but she also has my relatively sunny nature. She is physically stunning with long, muscular legs and a waist that defies her voracious appetite. She has David’s European cheekbones. The color of her skin is his. Her ears have the same shape. There are times I find myself staring at one of her features for too long. She bats me away, “Mom, enough.”

After David’s death, I’d read every book I could get my hands on about bipolar disorder. I’d measured the likelihood of a genetic inheritance against the things I could influence– her diet, her sleep, exercise, a sense of well-being and unconditional love. She is just fine, so far. Becoming aware of our family’s genetic vulnerabilities was painful, but it provided a unique gateway to also focus on our genetic strengths, and Sophie has inherited a majority of the good stuff. She’s attending college now with the sensitivity, compassion and intellect of a person who will be better than “just fine.”

I want everyone to know about the signs and symptoms that I missed with David. The anxiety, confusion, disorganization, trouble completing tasks and how withdrawn he became. My interest is in preventing another loss of life as exquisite as David’s. I welcome your emails, your stories, and hopefully, your support. Connect with me and sign up for my newsletter. I’d be so grateful if you did.

Dr. Xavier Amador, “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!”

Among the greatest frustrations in caring for a person with mental illness is Anosognosia, or lack of awareness. Dr. Xavier Amador talks with me about how to get the help your loved one needs. Amador is the director of the LEAP Institute, an internationally renowned leader in his field, with numerous books, authoritative research, worldwide speaking tours and extensive work in mental illness.

Kevin Hines: Survivor

Kevin Hines

When 28-year-old Kevin Hines hurled himself from the Golden Gate Bridge, his first thought was, “What the hell did I just do? I don’t want to die.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts. Ninety percent of people who survive a suicide attempt do not end up killing themselves later. For many, the suicide attempt (a failed shooting or an overdose) may serve as a spiritual awakening.

Kevin Hines jumped from the bridge in 2000 after pacing for a half hour while people ignored him. Like many other suicidal patients, he employed an irrational and confusing logic — “If someone, anyone shows me they care, I won’t jump.” A tourist saw him, tears streaming down his face, and asked if he would take her picture. He snapped the photo. And then he jumped.

Listen to this incredible conversation of a life transformed. Kevin now believes life is the single greatest gift we are given. He is one of America’s most coveted mental health advocates, a popular speaker and author.