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When Dating, When and How Do You Disclose Your Mental Health Condition?

By Moses Kim

Now that I am stable in terms of my bipolar condition, I am feeling incredible both physically and mentally through hard work with mental health professionals, support groups, and a regular gym routine. After it was suggested by my therapist, I started to slowly navigate today’s dating culture.

One issue I seem to have is bringing up that fact that I have a bipolar disorder diagnosis, which I like to refer as a condition of my mind, not an illness. I am the type of person that likes to be authentic and real rather than lying about things like occupation, appearance, and marital status. So this issue of not disclosing my mental health condition feels like I am kind of misrepresenting myself.

I have had two different experiences so far. First, I made a connection after disclosing to someone who was also living with a mental health condition, but there was no attraction. With another person, there was an immediate attraction, but once I disclosed the fact that I was bipolar, all communication halted.

How do YOU break the news or do I even disclose? And what kind of experiences have you gone through?

Grief and Hope in Watching the Grammy Awards

The buzz for this year’s Grammy Awards is fading, but I’m still thinking about Brandi Carlile, who was this year’s most-nominated artist. I learned about her from a loved one several years ago, before she sold millions of records and earned the respect of her musical peers. All day yesterday, I wished I could pick up the phone to talk to my loved one about this and about how much I love Carlile’s new album. I listened to the album before the Grammys and cried. Grief hits you hard at unexpected times.

This is the part where you might wonder how I lost lost my loved one, or why I am using “my loved one” instead of a name or a more specific identifier.

The short answer: my loved one is mentally ill and won’t speak with me.

When a loved one passes away, we grieve and slowly accept the reality of living without the person in our daily lives. They say time heals our wounds and, while we don’t believe this at the time, we learn it is true. When a loved one is living with a mental health condition that is not being treated, we also grieve — but it’s different.

When someone we love dies, we have no choice but to eventually accept the person’s absence. But when we have a loved one with a mental illness, what we must accept is that things won’t be as we hoped or expected. While they are alive, they might not be able to communicate with us, or they might lash out at us and shut us out. It can feel like we’ve lost them.

This explains the grief I’ve been experiencing for my loved one. They have an untreated mental health condition and they’re refusing any contact with me. I use “loved one” and “they/them” because my loved one has had paranoid thoughts. They’ve said that they don’t like people talking about them. They insist that I mind my own business and leave them alone and stop invading their privacy. It’s heartbreaking.

Because far too many consider mental illness to be a taboo subject, we can be tricked into believing we shouldn’t talk about it. Sometimes it might seem better to keep it to ourselves. It’s not. Mental illness might not be easy to talk about, but I’ve learned it’s even harder to stay silent.

At NAMI support groups, I have connected with other family members and friends of people with mental health conditions. Hearing their stories and sharing my own helps me feel less alone. We talk about the sadness we feel for our loved one’s pain, and about how we can sometimes feel frightened, guilty, angry, frustrated, powerless, and exhausted. We talk about finding ourselves in situations that seem impossible. We learn to let go without losing hope for the possibility that things could be better. We express our feelings of loss and recognize it as a safe place to grieve.

I talk about wanting to be there for my loved one, even as they shut me out. The reason I couldn’t call my loved one to talk about the Grammys and Brandi Carlile is because they threatened to call the police to say I was stalking them after I sent birthday and Christmas cards and called to wish them a happy new year. I share this knowing it is painful for both of us, but that they are not currently able to find relief from that pain.

I am grateful to have the support of peers who understand what I’m going through and who remind me that I am not alone in feeling an overwhelming sense of loss at times like these. It helps me to have the courage to talk about this outside of those closed doors. I do so because I believe that is necessary to help end mental health stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness.

Yes, hope. We hold onto hope that our loved ones will be treated and experience relief, even happiness. We hope that we might someday talk on the phone again, sit down to listen to music together, and maybe even get tickets to see a favorite artist like Brandi Carlile perform in concert.

Thank You on #GivingTuesday and Every Day

After we shared a list of the reasons we are grateful this year, and asked our members and supporters to do the same. The responses have touched us and filled us with hope.

As this is #GivingTuesday and it is the season of giving, we are asking you to consider support for NAMI Westside Los Angeles. One in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. Your contributions can make a difference by providing support, education and advocacy for our community.

If you are not yet a member, please consider membership. If you’re already a member, consider gifting membership to another loved one, or consider a one-time donation to NAMI Westside LA.

Our membership funds and donations are used to support the free services we provide year-round. We rely on these funds to help us work on services to benefit the participants in NAMI Westside LA’s programs, from our classes and groups for those affected by mental illness, to our school programs and outreach efforts in the community.

With more funding, we could:

  • Expand our community outreach to help end the silence, shame, and stigma that surrounds mental illness
  • Offer more programs for family members with mental health conditions and their loved ones
  • Provide more hands-on materials for our members and participants in groups and classes

You can be assured that each donation will make a difference.

We Asked, You Answered: What Are You Grateful For?

After we shared a list of the reasons we are grateful this year, we asked our supporters to do the same. The responses have touched us and filled us with hope.

“I am grateful for having my son alive and stable at this time. He has had a tumultuous ride living with schizoaffective disorder, and we almost lost him…. He is a gourmet cook, empathetic listener, and a whiz at scrabble! I love him from the bottom, the top, and the middle of my heart.” — Deborah

“I’m grateful for NAMI!!! I appreciate all your encouragement and for making others aware of mental health issues. We all struggle with something but we’re not alone and the stories that are shared give hope to ALL!!” — sonflower1960

“My strength to keep going” — kate.landia

“Earlier this year, when my son had his first manic episode, was hospitalized in the psych ward and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I felt like my life was over. Today, my boy is stable and thriving, and feels more like himself every day. Our family, which had been shattered by the experience of watching him struggle, is very much on the mend again. Thank God for NAMI. Their 12-week family class and support groups helped me confront my shame about my son’s condition, and taught me that his bipolar disorder is as common and treatable as his sister’s nut allergy.” — Tim

“Thanks for my Nami Westside Los Angeles Family to Family Class helped me realize. I AM NOT ALONE!!!! Thanks 🙏Sharon Dunas..The Queen NAMI Warrior! And 💚Adaline & Ralph Fagen my NAMI Teacher’s and Friends Forever!!! — janisblack1

“Life” — jhayemusic

“Before I began attending the NAMI family support group, I was struggling with guilt and fear for my loved one. Now I have hope.” – Stef

“Family and friends.” – cultivatinggrowth

Want to share what you’re grateful for? Comment on our social media posts, post your own using #NAMIWLAGratitute or submit your answer via our form. We will continue to update this post with select answers.

Why We’re Grateful This Year

What a great year 2018 has been so far. How grateful are we? Let us count the ways.

  1. We had nearly 2000 participants at this year’s NAMIWalks, AKA the Los Angeles Make Waves in Mental Health fundraising walk, and we raised almost $500,000 for our programs! Nationwide, NAMI has raised $11.8 million. #KeepOnWalkin!
  2. There’s more state support for mental illness: California’s Prop 2 passed, with voters electing to fund housing for individuals with mental illness. Funds are expected to pay for 20,000 permanent supportive housing units with the No Place Like Home state program.
  3. More public figures and influencers are helping spread the word about the importance of mental health, including Lady Gaga (Depression), Demi Lovato (Bipolar Disorder) and LA Rams player — and NAMI ambassador — Gerald Everett.
  4. We provided support, strength and hope to more than 300 family members who attended our Family-to-Family classes and support groups this year. Special shout-out to our Co-President, Sharon Dunas, who taught two “F2F “classes this year, while also welcoming her first grandchild!
  5. There’s more federal support for mental illness: The U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary announced that states will be allowed to apply for Medicaid waivers to pay for mental health treatment in inpatient settings known as IMDs; and federal funding for mental health programs is being made available, including investments in research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Mental Health Block Grant, and for key programs at the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Justice.
  6. Our Cure Stigma campaign continues to reach new individuals, with thousands taking the pledge.
  7. We have 7-10 young, bright, enthusiastic interns that either volunteer or receive course credit for contributing their time, energy, and passion to spreading awareness (they’re pictured, above).
  8. We featured a wide range of enlightening educational experts as part of our Janis Black Warner Speaker Series. We have the amazing Janis Black Warner to thank for making our Speaker Series possible.
  9. We gave hope, education, and opportunity for mutual support and positive impact through programs such as NAMI in the Lobby, Peer-to-Peer classes and Peer Connections Support groups. Our affiliate has reached well over a hundred peers this year.
  10. We stepped up efforts to end the silence, shame, and stigma that surrounds mental illness by bringing NAMI’s Ending the Silence program into seven westside schools this year, including New West Charter, Wildwood, and Beverly Hills High, with many more on tap for 2019.
  11. NAMI Westside LA has undergone an extreme makeover this year. We’ve got an energized board of directors and new dedicated office staff, including our fresh-faced interns (see #7 above). We’re also excited to be offering more robust programs for family members AND their loved ones with mental health conditions.
  12. Last but not least, our membership is growing and we’re super-excited to be part of the growing movement. We are expanding the community of people who recognize that mental health deserves more resources, focus, and attention. #JoinTheMovement

What are YOU grateful for? Share on social media with posts using the hashtag #NAMIWLAGratitude or submit using this form. We will share inspiring answers on our website and our social media platforms.

NAMIWalks Success in LA

What a great day! We had nearly 2000 participants at this year’s NAMIWalks, the Los Angeles “Make Waves in Mental Health” fundraising walk. We raised almost $500,000 for our programs, and NAMI nationwide took in $11.8 million.

Thanks to all westside teams and team captains:
Heal the Brain: Sharon Dunas
Sea Change in Mental Health: Shelley Hoffman
We are Not Alone 2018: Deborah Juster
In Memory of Our Beloved Roee: Dorit Zirler
Resnick UCLA: Sunnie Dishman
Recovery Not Stigma!:Linda Diamond-Klopert
The Wright Step: Mitzi Wright
Gemini: Nagwa Khattab
Life Adjustment Team: Cynthia Sampson
Chicago School of Counseling: Amy DiNoble
Talk to Michele: Michele Hahn, MFT
Brainfulness: Tim Davis
Team Goji: Sheryl D.
For Our Families: Cynthia Brown
Happy Feet: Danny Alvarado
Jessie’s Family: Toni Espera
spaceMVMNT: Brittany Bronson
Twisted Spirits-Bent Zen: Duane Bentzen


WANTED: Team Captains and Donations for NAMI Walks

NAMILAWalkIf you’re interested in creating a team of any size for the 2016 Annual NAMI LA Walk, please click the link, click Register Now on the NAMI LACC (Los Angeles County Council) page and create or join a team or make an easy online donation.  Or you can call or email us at any time for information on our annual NAMI Walk.  We will talk to you about how to recruit team members, raise money, and tips on ways to promote your participating. For questions or to RSVP, you can email us at info@namila.org (click the link to send an email), call us at 310.889.7200, contact the LACC Walk Manager, Shelley Hoffman by email at shelley@namilacc.org (click the link to send an email) or call Shelley at 310-571-5256

Click or Tap here to view the NAMI LACC Facebook page for Photos and Information about the Walk!

Making an online donation is easy, you can join and or donate to one of our NAMI Westside LA teams, Heal the Brain (Sharon Dunas), The Wright Step (Mitzi Wright), The Westside Walkers (Sylvia Thompson)  or directly at NAMI Walks Los Angeles by clicking or tapping any of the links.

Your donation of as little as $5.00 to NAMI LACC will benefit no cost programs for people impacted by mental health conditions.

Please join one of our teams, create your own team or help us with your tax deductible donation to educate families and fight the stigma attached to all forms of serious mental illness…

Acknowledging the Importance of Minority Mental Health Month


July is Minority Mental Health Month-it’s crucial to remember that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of a person’s race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, mental illness affects the lives of 1 in 5 adults.

Check-out the full story here  By Kayla Sharpe

Mental Health Care for Veterans

SoldierReimagining Mental Health as Brain Health

Reimagining mental health as brain health could shift the negative attitudes many people have about mental illness and increase the willingness to get help among those who most need it.

Wars are not over when the shooting stops. They live on in the lives, memories, bodies and brains of those who fight them.

One soldier’s experience as a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  As the former head of the Veterans Administration, founder of the Vet Center Program that provides counseling, outreach and referral services to combat veterans and their families, and a United States Senator, he has a unique viewpoint.

Fewer than half of those who suffer from mental health problems ever seek help. Why? Let’s be honest: Many active duty personnel, veterans, and people in general hesitate to seek mental health care. No one wants to be labeled mentally ill, defective or abnormal.

This is especially true in a military culture where bravery and self-reliance are highly valued. Plus, many people believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, or even a moral failing…

Read the NY Daily News article here

Directing Change

Directing Change


Lights… Camera… Mental Health!

West LA College and NAMI Westside LA are proud to host the DIRECTING CHANGE cinematic event.  We will be screening videos produced by high school and college students throughout California as part of a contest run by CalMHSA, the California Mental Health Services Authority.  This event is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).  Come to see what amazing works of art were created and bring mental health awareness to schools and college campuses everywhere!

When: Wednesday September 30th, 2016 – 6:00 PM
Where: West LA College
9000 Overland Ave
Culver City, CA 90230
Room GC 160 General Classroom Bldg
Parking: Parking Lot 5 (free parking)

Please RSVP for your FREE ticket and food voucher to
rgehrlich@aol.com or 310.488.6113