Dogs Surely Go To Heaven… Part 1: “Skai, The Beach Dog!”

Our beautiful fury friends, Skai, Mocha and Sadie, touched our hearts and healed our souls for over three decades. All three kept our family grounded in love. And reminded us everyday of the meaning of empathy, compassion, unconditional love and loyalty.

My neighbor, Scott, told me that his wish was that his fury pal, Chip, would live just a little bit longer. He was sad to think of outliving his beloved friend. I understood without hesitation. And, I believe you couldn’t find a person on the planet who wouldn’t say the same thing, more than once in life about a beloved pet.

Loving memories of fury friends who touched our lives…

Join me in sharing treasured memories of each… Starting with Skai Boy, I tell the story of our beloved family pets in three separate posts… Let’s start with Skai, the beach dog…

Skai at the beach June 27, 2009, around 14 months old…
Skai Christmas 2009
Skai Christmas 2019, age 12…

Skai, so loved the beach as a pup and until the last day of his life. Sarah took Skai to the beach while he was very weak. But, with strong meds to help with the pain from the cancer taking his life…

Once arriving at the beach near Seattle, Skai knew they were getting close, smiling and excited even when down. Sarah had to help him get to the beach from the parking area, but Skai showed his true love for his beach time, struggled to get there one step and one wobble, and a tail wag at a time.

Once on the beach, Skai dug a well practiced and precisely measured hole in the sand, very slowly, but with sheer determination. He knew a race up and down the beach wasn’t in the cards this time. Then, with all the strength and passion he could muster, he rolled over in slow motion for a final back rub he so loved and cherished.

It would be the last time in the sand for Skai Boy, but not the last time for our hearts and souls to treasure always. Sarah shared that Skai was so happy to be on the sand. And felt this private time on the beach together better prepared both for the painful transiton the next day. This is a very healing mindset from my experience. We can celebrate Skai’s life as a significant marker in our lives…a proundly special friendship.

A loyal friend…indeed!

Skaiboy was very loyal to Sarah and clearly the best soulmate ever. So, on Saturday June 27th 2020 at 130pm Skai walked ever so gingerly over the “Rainbow Bridge’ a happy camper. Yes, we all grieve in deeply soulful and heartfelt ways when we lose a loved one. Skai gave us, especially Sarah, more love and loyalty than a single human being could ever do.

Our beloved grand dog “SkaiBoy” gave our family so much joy and love… Skai loved the beach and understood the word. As soon as we said, “beach” he would race to the door and dance with excitement and joy. Skai couldn’t wait to get his paws on the sand and race as fast as he could north to Yaquina Lighthouse, then, turn around, like he knew how far he could go, and race even faster south back to us. In the above photo, Skai was around 14 months old on June 27th 2009. He will be in our hearts forever…

Here’s one more story about Skai. Are you ready?

Sarah came to live with us on the coast in Depoe Bay early 2008 so that she could attend the University of Oregon in Eugene. It was a transitional time for Sarah. She was missing Mocha our last family pet after Sadie and before Skai. Sarah loved animals, especially her dear dogs. We were able to have horses in Leavenworth, Washington on our 1.5 acre lot. There was plenty of room to build a lean-to shelter for two horses. and fence off a half acre of property. Indeed, Sarah was a country girl. The 4H club was a passion. And so, continuing the story of Skai Boy.

Sarah Sparks Fitch

Judy and I planned a trip to Snow Bird in Utah in the summer of 2008. We were looking forward to hiking and exploring as we did often in earlier years. The hikes are shorter now. We also love Blue Grass concerts in the mountains. Snow Bird was having a big Blue Grass blow out when we got there.

It was a super fun week in Snow Bird. So, we started heading west for Depoe Bay, Oregon on the central coast. We so loved living close to the ocean and looked forward to seeing Sarah when we got back home.

Love at first sight…

When we hit the salt flats near Salt Lake, Sarah called us and was on the speaker. She screamed out with joy that she got Skai and loved him, and for only $50. “I even got a crate for him,” she said. She proudly announced that she rescued Skai, a gray and gold brindle pitt bull in the photos. It was love at first sight for both Sarah and Skai.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission…

Sarah’s Skai as a pup in 2008. Look at that face!

Although Judy and I did not want to get another dog since we lost Mocha. I was adament about this and became angry. Then, Sarah reminded me that I taught her years ago that “asking for forgiveness is often better than asking for permission.” I got ya, Dad! she said, with respectful excitement on her face… She looked straight into my eyes, intent on making her point. I’m very proud of Sarah for her make it happen style, and free spirit.

So long, dearest Skai

I could go on and on about Skai. “Skai, Mocha, and Sadie” is a chapter in my next memoir, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley.” Click for excerpt…

See you on the other side, Skai! You are a good boy, always…and forever…

Judy & Steve Sparks, Children and Families Advocacy

click here for Steve’s author page…

The Wrath of Stigma!

“The Wrath of Stigma!” is the first chapter of my book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2..

Following is a excerpt… This book was written especially for parents, teachers, and caregivers.

“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  Consider as a resource all the research and writing on the subject of PTSD and post trauma growth. I can’t believe there are over 1000 articles and posts. Included is a ton of information about my own life experience. During these many years I have collected 100s of relevant references and resources with the goal to help others.

The human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury. Living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks is torture. But it w ould be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

My latest book is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII.

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocacy

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1.  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

Too Late To Empty The Trash? Truama informed therapies can be a gift to many who suffer for a lifetime…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

A Lifetime of Emotional Pain

Healing came very late to me. Like so many of my peers from the post WWII generation, we were born to trauma from our fathers who served during WWII and Korean War. As a result, too many of us left home early with scars from profoundly dysfunctional homes.

So, we marched head on into the Vietnam era in the 60s early 70s, already morally injured living with chaos as children of warriors. Sadly, for too many young souls, there was no escape from the compounded tragedy of trauma as veterans ourselves.

Vietnam warriors came home with with the embedded scars of child abuse and the horror of hard combat. A perfect storm of PTSD, major depression, including physical injuries that plagued our heroes for a lifetime.

All too often we lived a lifetime with mental illness without awareness of the horrific and painful symptoms without help or treatment. Consequently, too many lives and families have been destroyed without any idea of the roots of the 24/7 heart breaking pain. Broken hearts and damaged souls can be deadly if not provided love and support.

Finding Your Lost Soul

So what can old dudes like me do about taking back your lost soul and achieving some modest measure of peace of mind during the golden years. This assumes those who struggle with symptoms survived long enough to earn the privilege of old age and is open to the gift of healing. It is a tragedy to know that unhealthy habits resulting from substance abuse and alcohol addiction often end lives too early.

I was shocked to be told by my doctor at age 55 that I would risk early death in my 60s if I didn’t stop abusing alcohol. So, without hesitation, I stopped drinking alcohol on August 11, 2002. This moment of a rude awakeing was a true blessing and gift that turned my life around. I’m so grateful and believe my life was saved in that fateful moment.

Is there even hope for some relief from the demons that haunt us for a life time? For me, it felt like my injured soul was hijacked and held hostage. I didn’t know calm or peace of mind ever until later in life. Is healing even possible later in life when denial holds on like the jaws of a hungry shark? Imagine… the 24/7 lifelong emotional torment and treachery. It’s a very strong ‘locked and loaded’ emotional rollercoaster to most who live with persistent emotional pain. The worst of it is you can’t talk about it. No one would understand or listen anyway.

Love and Hope

Even with the the seemingly overwhelming challenges there is hope. But it’s hard work, even harder when you become open and hungry for peace of mind in these later years. In my more recent experience ‘trauma informed care’ has proven to be a healthy “whole patient” strategy to rescue your soul, keeping the demons at a safe distance. Peace of mind is a blessing to the aging population.

This has been a spiritual journey for me, and one that has opened my mind to God again as a critical step in healing. People who suffer from moral injury tend to feel unworthy of God, including going to church. My father was this way for his entire life. All of this leaves a hole in the heart and soul of those who suffer from serious trauma.

Once passing the readiness test and getting past the nagging denial phase, trauma informed care appears the best chance for long term treatment and recovery, no matter your age. Make sure you have a primary care physician, preferably a DO, to help facilitate the exceedingly challenging process of mending your soul.

Healing is a Journey of Love

It takes a team, a loving community, and most importantly for me, a loving spouse to keep me grounded. It is a tough assignment for loved ones at home, who all too often are affected by the symptoms of secondary PTSD and depression. Your life partner is a beautiful gift in healing, truly a life saving soul in my life. Pets are also a loving part of healing and are so loyal. Seek out everything that makes you feel alive. Avoid stressful and triggering activities as much as possible.

Start with finding a trauma informed psychiatrist to make the appropriate diagnosis and provide non narcotic medication options to help stabilize and stay calm. Calm is truly a gift from heaven for lifelong sufferers.

Next, with guidance from your primary care physician and psychiatrist, conduct a search for a trauma informed clinical therapist who is highly experienced and skilled at peeling back the onion of a lifetime of emotional baggage, and repressed memories. This is when you start to “empty the trash.” Treatment and recovery for post trauma stress requires expert guidance from a highly skilled compassionate therapist.

It is most important in long term mitigation of trauma events to have the loving support of your partner or spouse. Without consistent loving support at home in a safe environment, repairing your soul is too steep a mountain to climb alone without lots of love, empathy and compassion in your circle of caring friends and family.

Take the first step with the help and support from loved ones. It takes courage that comes with resilience from a lifetime of surviving one day at a time, and all the love you can muster each day. Because it is one day at a time…

All the best in healing with love… It takes a village.

Steve and Judy Sparks

“Locked and Loaded!” What is it like to live your life in fight/flight 24/7?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger…

Research has found that half of all people with PTSD also have a co-occurring major depressive disorder.”

I remember many scary traumatic events in my life as a child, and young adult, including being injured while serving in the US Navy. And the story of trauma continues for a life time…

I don’t remember some events because of repressed memory, an inherant defensive rewire of the brain, creating a flight/fight response. This chronic hyper vigilant and hyper arousal behavior can be annoying to others at a personal level or an asset in your professional life, as was the case for me.

These excruciating painful events occupy my brain 24/7. The horrific experiences as a child and adult do not go away, never ever. It is very easy to give up and complete suicide for too many souls at any age. Aging men, like me, who suffer a life time without treatment can reach a point where the pain is unbearable, and the only escape is to complete suicide.

I’m grateful at age 74 on July 6th to have loving support at home. It’s not easy for spouses, partners, loved ones, and dear friends to be with a person who suffers from serious mental health problems. Without a circle of support and robust behaviorial health treatment, I would be added to the list of aging men and women who live with unbearable emotional pain, and at risk of self injury or worse. It takes a village of kind and loving folks to help those who suffer a life time. These are the people in my life who help me stay grounded and positive. I’m so grateful for my spouse and close friends in our community of Lincoln County Oregon who are so supportive and caring… Thank you all!

Because it is challenging for others, some relationships, especially family, do not survive easily with the secondary emotional pain. Having a consistent loving connection with someone who is seriously challenged with PTSD and major depression is a tough assignment. Love is the only answer to healing as a family. Worse yet, the symptoms can be more troublesome with age and require a daily practice and discipline of mindfulness meditation practices, psychiatric supervision of medications, and trauma informed clinical therapy. I feel lucky to have found the right mix of treatment strategies. I now have hope for better days ahead. Click below…escape for a moment to calm the soul…

The hardest part of mental illness is the stigma that separates those of us who suffer from friends and loved ones more often than not, even for good when the going gets really tough. Worse yet is finding an effective “trauma informed” treatment and recovery support system is very complicated. It has taken me more than five decades to get to a place where feeling safe is possible. Folks with my long list of painful stuff over a life time feel “locked and loaded 24/7” without hardly a moment of peace. You learn to live this way and all too often don’t even realize the roots of the post trauma crises that persists over time.

I would suggest to anyone asking me about my experience and journey of healing that awareness is the first step in finding a better place in your life in managing emotional pain. Baby steps and daily actions that lead to some sense of calmness and stability can open the door to long term mitigation of symptoms that torture the mind and body. It is a work in progress. But it requires commitment, freedom from denial, acknowledgement of the symptoms, robust truama informed treatment, and most importantly, loving support from loved ones and dear friends who are caring.

Get started with your own plan to develop a high level of awareness on mental health. Talking to others and opening up is the first action step. You will easily see and feel the souls of others in your circle of friends and family who have empathy and compassion, and desire to make a difference with a loving and caring response. And, yes, it is hard, very hard at times. Look to each new day with hope and love. It is possible to heal and get better. It is possible to achieve peace of mind in your life. Lost souls do return home with strong faith in a higher power and spiritual growth in your own way. There is no black and white formula for healing.

Best wishes to all for a life of peace and happiness… It’s up to you!

Steve Sparks

click here for my author page…

Memorial Day 2020… Stay Safe…Honor the Fallen…

Stay safe while remembering the fallen and all who serve and served America during the COVID19 pandemic.

Oregon Veterans Memorials Directory…  Click on highlighted text for more…

This is a red granite memorial tablet mounted behind on a gray granite slab with an electric flame on a pedestal in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Flame of Freedom…Newport, Oregon  Click highlighted text for more…

Several  years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial.  When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars.  Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself.  “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic.  He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”

VFW Memorial Depoe Bay, Oregon


For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Memorial Day is very personal.  Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too…  I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then.  We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives.  This is a debt that can never be paid back…

And during this terrible COVID19 pandemic, we remember and honor those who left us while serving on the front lines even though the risk of infection was was far greater than anything experienced before. These are the front line heroes of the COVID19 generation and the families who serve too…

So, on this Memorial Day when so many of us avoid crowds, check out the veterans memorials on-line and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including first responders who keep us safe on the home front.  Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing. 

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…
Steve Sparks, Author, Mental Wellness Advocate, Community Building Consultant. click here for Steve’s author page…

“Fleet of Flowers” on Memorial Day in Depoe Bay…Memories from past years…before COVID

Honoring the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day Depoe Bay, Oregon  Quote from this website…

“On Memorial Day, each year since 1945, Depoe Bay has hosted the FLEET OF FLOWERS. This colorful ceremony is recognized as one of the most impressive observances held in the United States. The event was initiated to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman.  The Fleet of Flowers is to honor those who have been lost at sea.  The event has grown over the years to include members of the Armed Forces as well as fishermen and firefighters who gave their lives to serve others.”

Steve’s thoughts…

Since moving to the Oregon Coast over 15 years ago, we have come to know the honor bestowed on the legacy of coastal fishermen.  Lives have been lost and saved at sea over many decades either because of the extreme weather conditions at times or in a rescue effort by the US Coast Guard stationed in Depoe Bay and other ports along the Oregon Coast. 

Memorial Day is the time for honor and remembrance of those who gave their lives while building Oregon’s fishing industry.  It is also the time to honor the US Coast Guard’s historic role in providing homeland security and protecting the coastal waters of Oregon.  Depoe Bay has a strong presence of the US Coast Guard who serve our community along with the firefighters, emergency medical services, and local police 1st responders.  With great pride, we honor the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day as well.

The long tradition of the Fleet of Flowers on Memorial Day brings much joy and healing to the community.  We celebrate and honor those who have risked their lives while serving America and all the families who served too…

We will dearly miss this very special annual Memorial Day celebration, Depoe Bay’s very own for 75 years.

See you all next year with anticipation. Be safe and healthy…

Steve Sparks, Author, Mental Health Advocate, Community Building Consultant

Click here for Steve’s author page…

Mindfulness Meditation Moments from Little Whale Cove, Oregon…

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Warm wishes and good health from the Central Oregon Coast near Depoe Bay, “The Smallest Harbor in The World” to be sure…

Judy and I have deep empathy and compassion for our dear friends and loved ones during this COVID19 pandemic.  All of us have had to take a deep breath, reflect on our values, our dreams, and hopefully reset, finding more ways to live in the moment, and love each other more.  Paying more attention to each other without the interruptions of ‘Before COVID’ (BC) has brought us closer, but not without more than a few moments of healthy combat as we settled into a much simpler life and more resourceful life style.

We are ’70 somethings’ healthy seniors in our mind, but not without the butt kicking challenges of aging. We think young but the aches and pains and mental health challenges remind us that we aren’t young anymore. We both feel grateful and priviledged to be alive and as citizens of the USA!  I’m most proud of my service to America as a young man serving in the US Navy, as did my father during all of WWII and during the Korean War. Not to mention my brothers who served too.

Even after 36 years of marriage, Judy and I remain a team, partners in life, living life to the fullest even during the many uncertain times of the past, especially right now. But this time it is different fightling an enemy we can’t see. We have to fight this enemy together or lose. Fighting with each other doesn’t matter to the Covid19 virus.

We will all get throught this together. We believe that in our heart and soul…

Speaking of  ‘mindfulness mediation’ Judy and I are happy to share the joy of our stunning coastal community by way of short 30 second YouTube clips. There are over 100 clips from Little Whale Cove on my YouTube channel. Start by clicking my YouTube channel above.

Escape for a moment to calm the soul… Please let me know what you think and how you are doing… Stay safe while we reopen our communities…in time for Memorial Day.

Steve and Judy Sparks, Mental Health Advocacy, Community Building, Children and Families

click here for Steve’s author page…

Happy Mothers Day! Remembering The Greatest Generation of Military Mom’s…

Marcella Sparks 1918-2016 Greatest Generation of Mom’s…

“I waited.

And waited…

And then…I waited some more.”


During the worst of WWII starting with Pearl Harbor, my mom didn’t know if her husband, Vernon, was dead or alive for many weeks. She first learned from the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She also knew that Dad was aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) at the moment the first torpedoes struck his ship. I can only imagine what was going through her mind at the time as a new mom holding my older brother Jerry in her arms… just 3 months old at the time. For weeks it must have been a heart wrenching emotional roller coaster until she learned that Dad survived and that he would soon come home…she prayed and prayed. Mother always had great faith in God and was raised as a Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Click here for Steve Sparks, Author Page

But Mother waited, and waited, and waited some more. Dad joined the Harbor Patrol right after his ship, USS West Virginia (BB48), was sunk in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Mother had no idea when or how he would come home since in those years it was very difficult to communicate with loved ones who were fighting for our freedoms around the globe. Then, Dad showed up one day many weeks after the start of WWII, but only for a short time to see his first born son. Mother said good bye again a few days later not knowing whether her husband, Vernon, would return again. I can only imagine how mother felt at the time. I know she prayed constantly that he would return home safely.

I think of the strength and faith needed for military spouses and moms of that time to endure the emotional turmoil connected with the war. Military wives like my mom had to keep the home fires burning and hold on dearly to faith that loved ones would return home safe. They also knew that caring for the young children born before the war and during the war was of paramount importance to winning the war itself. Military families serve too!

So, it was during this terrible period of American history, that Mother spent the next 4 years as a single mom waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. Finally, Dad returned home from the war in June 1945. She was so happy and grateful that God spared her husband’s life when so many of her friends spouses were killed in action during that time. But then, she soon discovered that the war came home with Vernon, starting with an extended post war “readjustment” period of mental health treatment at the US Naval Hospital in Shoemaker, Ca., near Oakland. We didn’t know much about post trauma stress at the time. It was called “battle fatique” but never discussed in any great detail nor did families know of the life long consequences of experiencing severe trauma in combat as we learned decades later following the Vietnam War.

On this Mothers Day, I honor and remember my mother’s service to America and all the military mom’s and spouses who served too! For it is my belief that without the enduring love and faith of families everywhere, especially spouses and mothers, America would not be free today.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms who love us unconditionally! Pray for the mothers who are no longer with us…they live in our hearts and souls forever…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for Steve’s author page…

Northwest Coastal Housing… Public private partnerships provide critical services to the most vulnerable citizens…

Yaquina Breezeyouth

Reflection with NWCH Executive Director

Sheila Stiley, Executive Director, Northwest Coastal Housing

I recently heard a few words that have caused me to pause and reflect.  Reflection on me as a person, our organization and those we serve.  We are a nonprofit organization…..there is a real definition, but in our world, it means a lot is expected on very minimal means.  So, what makes an nonprofit tick?

“Some of the best movements start with sorrow” (Luke Frechette).  That is how most nonprofits begin.  A grass roots organization started by a need, a desire, a burden.  A great sorrow that fills every fiber of a being.  Let’s face it, homelessness, poverty, widows and orphans, hunger, many things that have always been and could continue down the ages, yet, this sorrow to make a difference and impact for change overtakes us.  For us, that is building housing that is affordable for those who need a place to call home.  It is incorporating services into housing and calling it “Housing with a heart” so those less fortunate have opportunity for success.  How many of you came from this background?  If I am to be transparent and honest, I would say I did too.

When I look back over my childhood, I remember the good things (I have been told I am weird).  Our family goes back 7 generations here on the coast.  I am proud of the history and enrichment they provided to our community.  I remember living here at the beach, and spending summers with my grandmother on the farm.  I remember running, playing, laughing, learning, fishing, camping, youth group, hide-and-go-seek, and riding bikes.  But that was not my whole story.

Pictured: Sheila Stiley (on left), mother Sandy and younger sister Jenny

I am the child of a teen mom.  My father was 8 years older and fresh out of the military.  Both my parents came from dysfunctional families leading to alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence.  I spent many of my growing up years in a mobile home park where I made lifelong friendships in a rural community.  I remember being embarrassed when my mom bought all the turkey burger she could, filling a basket, because it was cheap and food stamps were a part of my everyday life.  I wore second hand clothes, was teased and bullied mercilessly in multiple schools, and worked side by side with my mom picking strawberries and garlic in the fields in order to get new clothes off layaway from K-Mart.  I remember when we spent a week in a domestic violence shelter, only to return to my father after he put my moms dog down.  I remember when my mom and I left again, only to be stalked for 3 years by my father and not seeing my younger sister during that time.  I remember everything…..

So, you see, I am just a normal person working a job, but I have this burden, this sorrow to make an impact.  Sure, maybe it stems from my upbringing, but one thing I do know.  This work in affordable housing development is needed.  It is challenging, it is difficult and it takes funding to do it.  That trailer park, that affordable housing, shaped me into who I am today.  One who is giving back and fighting for opportunities and successes for others.  So, I make no apologies when I say, we need your help.  Our organization is developing and preserving housing for the less fortunate and at risk populations, but our operations are beginning to dwindle substantially during this COVID-19 crisis.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday.  Please, if you feel a burden, a sorrow to house those that are in need, please consider donating to our organization, Northwest Coastal Housing.  Together, we can make a difference, because everyone deserves a place to call home.

Click here to make a donation to Northwest Coastal Housing

Mental Health Awareness Month of May…Help Stamp Out Stigma

Mental Health Awareness…Stop Stigma! from NAMI…

“During the month of May, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address all year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of all Americans whose lives are affected by mental health conditions.

1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others.”

Stigma hurts a person’s dignity, and for me, life long implications of emotional pain and denial. Allow me to share my first shock of stigma at age 19 in September 1965 following an honorable discharge from the US Navy.

My first shocking experience with mental health stigma as an adult happened shortly after honorably separating from the US Navy in September 1965.  It was in that moment that my world as a young adult with a bright future was seriously threatened. Following a very productive and exciting interview process with a Fortun in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician with the phone company.

I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy. But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications could have come to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter told me…”even though my qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired.”  I asked why, while trying to hide the tears.

I thought with complete shock and dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. I was in complete disbelief because the Navy didn’t say this to me, or decided not to for some reason. I never had access to my medical records until 2014. I had no memory of the event(s) leading up to an early separation from the Navy, the hospitalization or mental health diagnosis. It was a sad ending to a promising Naval career, my dream as a child, teen, and young man. I wanted to follow my father’s foot steps to be sure.

It was then, in that scary moment in September 1965, I decided to never ever speak of my mental health problems…my secret, forever put away in a box and out of reach.  This was stigma then, it is still stigma in the 21st Century.  (Note: I was fortunate to receive a job offer from another respectable telecom company.)

We can all do so much more to stamp out stigma. Please help make a difference by taking quality time to talk openly and honestly with friends and family about mental health. Awareness is the first step in healing invisible wounds.

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger click here for my author page…