“I am not giving up. I am not throwing in the towel. And I am going to continuously share my family’s story!” said Justice Luz Elena Chapa.
Chapa was one of the featured speakers on May 6, 2015 during a One in Five Minds press conference in recognition of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Against a backdrop of 3,000 pinwheels at Alamo Plaza, Chapa shared the story of her brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was in his early 20s. Before then, her brother’s use of marijuana and alcohol was attributed to ‘bad behavior’ or rebellion.
“I carry an insurmountable amount of guilt with me every single day. I was the uncompassionate big sister. We’re 10 years apart, and I was always mad at him,” she says.” And I know that had I asked why, he would have told me that he was self-medicating to silence the voices in his head that were tormenting him.”
Getting help early was one of Chapa’s key messages. She expressed that the stigma around mental illness contributed to her brother not getting diagnosed until his early 20s. And it was also stigma that made her family keep her brother’s illness private for years.
“Imagine what my brother would have been had he gotten diagnosed, at the age of 14,” she said.
Chapa spoke about the significance of the symbolism of the pinwheel. It is a symbol of hope for children and their families. She explained that if we don’t supply a pinwheel with wind, it stops working. She encouraged those in the audience to be the ‘wind’ that helps children struggling with mental illness receive the care they need and to overcome stigma.
“We must continue to come forward and share our personal stories so that the pinwheel continues to operate, so that these children can truly feel the sense of hope that they so desperately want,” Chapa said.
Watch the replay of the One in Five Minds press conference and do something today to make a difference in the lives of these children.