“Some days I’ll wake up in the morning feeling alright. But then shortly after, I’ll begin to feel overwhelmed, sad or angry,” said Noel.
Like 46.4% of U.S. adults, Noel is diagnosed with a mental illness.
Noel, who is a veteran of the Iraq War, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, not long after returning from a deployment.
While he makes an effort to take control of his illness, he feels there are not enough resources out there to help people like him.
“I had trouble with the VA (US Department of Veterans Affairs) trying to get medication and counseling,” he said.
With recent cuts to the state budget in Texas, it may be harder for people like Noel to get the help they need.
Mental health patients under care with the state could lose most, if not all, benefits they receive.
He shared his thoughts on the issue.
“Funding is very imperative. Where else are we going to get help? Medicines are very expensive, and would be out of pocket (if benefits are taken away). It would be devastating.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 41.5% of people with a diagnosed mental disorder did not seek treatment because they could not afford it.
However, the lack of funding isn’t the only concern on Noel’s mind. Among the things he worries about are his two small children and how his disorder affects them.
“With them, I have to learn how to control my temper and my emotions,” he said.
As a result, Noel has found ways to cope with his disorder.
“I’ll work outside on my truck or work out---any physical activity helps. I cope with it by keeping myself busy and finding things to do,” he said.
However, there is one struggle he and many other patients share---the negative stigma associated with mental health disorders.
“You’re treated differently, and there’s no equal opportunity. People don’t understand the importance of it and just want to put you in a hospital,” he said.
He also mentioned that he has had trouble with potential employers.
“In a job interview, the interviewer became worried when they found out my condition. Employers see it as a hazard, or a liability,” said Noel.
In light of the litany of problems he faces, Noel summed up his thoughts up in one sentence.
“Everything needs to be understood about a person’s mental health situation before you judge their character,” he stated.
By Rebekah Rodriguez / hsj.org