Stopping the Stigma on Mental Illness

You are not alone. One in five people will fight mental illness at some point in their lives - and some may not survive their fight. This is a topic FOX 2 knows too well following the loss of Jessica Starr last December.

There is a stigma around mental health. And that needs to end now. 

Thursday and Friday night, FOX 2 aired a mental health special called "Stop the Stigma". Watch part one here and then watch part two here.

You don't have to suffer in silence or be terrified to let anyone know that something is wrong. Mental illness doesn't discriminate against you based on your gender, race, or even age. It doesn't matter who you are, where you live, or how successful you are. Mental illness is real and you likely know at least one person who's struggling.

We're going to have a real conversation about mental illness and the devastating toll it takes on families. We're also going to tell you that there is hope and help.

If you're hurting or someone you know is hurting - reach out. There are resources and people available to help you through this dark time.


For the past year, FOX 2 has worked with families and individuals fighting mental illness. In our first special, we meet Amanda and Ken - who have been to hell and back.

The two have been married for 15 years and have been on a harrowing journey to save Amanda's life and find a treatment that works to manage her rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

Amanda has a master's from the University of Michigan and was working as a case manager and therapist when her episodes grew worse. In 2014, her life changed.

"I crashed and I had a depression and I went to into the hospital and I got diagnosed," Amanda said. "It took a while to get medication that would treat me properly, my manias happen in the winter after the fall change."

By her side is her fearless advocate Ken. He has a background in law enforcement and as an EMT helped in the fight. At work, he's an emergency room tech advocating for others. But his own wife didn't get that kind of treatment when she went by herself to the hospital, before the diagnosis.

"We had young kids and I stayed home with the kids. She was sick, she was in crisis, and she saw the doctors and their impression of her was she was there as a drug seeker and the told her to go home have a glass of wine and just relax - or take a Benadryl and have a glass of wine and relax. She wasn't looking to get high, she was looking for help. And the kinds of bias you get as a mental health patient seeking help are just like that. There's almost a disbelief. We deem mental health patients as somehow morally deficient or drug seekers and they're not. They're coming in for help. It was shortly after that she had her big crash," Ken said.

The two are still married and they're moving forward and making plans for the future. It's a story you don't want to miss.


The human brain is an amazingly complex and intricate bioelectrical organ that experience various rhythms and cycles. Most people know when there are misfirings in their brains, that can affect thoughts and emotions. But few understand the effect they can have on your physical ability and well-being.

Around the world, 330 million people suffer from depression and bipolar disease. Hundreds of millions more battle a range of other forms of mental illness.

Discussion of mental health has become more common as celebrities open up on social media about their struggles with depression and PTSD. 

Of the almost 44 million U.S. adults who experience mental illness in a year, nearly 60 percent of us won't receive medical help. 

Half of America's kids who are suffering don't get help. 

Of those who die by suicide, 90 percent of them battled depression.

There is help. At the University of Michigan, the university is studying depression but they're doing it without as much money or support as other causes, like cancer.

"I'll just say it outright, we need support, cancer, heart disease etc have money to use those centers as stepping off points for research breakthroughs, that same amount of support is not available for mental illness, brain diseases, it's needed, it's desperately needed," said Dr. John Greyden, UM's executive director of Comprehensive Depression Center. "For every one dollar spent for all of mental illness research, there are approximately 8 or 9 dollars spent for cancer research."

Watch more about how they're studying the science of disease:


Ryan and Louise were married for seven years when they came to a crippling conclusion in the spring: their marriage was ending - and mental illness is to blame.

The married couple looked like they had it all together but looks can be deceiving. In 2009, Ryan lost his brother to suicide. While he worked through his grief, Louise was spiraling.

"I've actually been struggling with addiction for about 15 years- although I didn't realize I had a dependency years ago," she said. "Around 2014, it really escalated I had a problem, I was using migraine medication many times during the day. I was hiding it. I didn't tell anyone. It was just me, by myself. I did it to function."

When she had their oldest daughter, she knew she was struggling and needed help. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder - a serious, persistent, mental health disorder with frequent and intense mood fluctuations, sometimes impulsive and self-harming behaviors. It's one of the most stigmatized mental health disorders and is frequently the result of early childhood trauma.  Louise is receiving treatment and has some good days and very dark days.

"Sometimes I take myself on a shame spiral - that's what we've both called it - where I get these ruminating thoughts. These really negative thoughts and one builds on the next one, and I'm just consumed," Louise said.

The goal for the couple was to maintain what they call "emotional sobriety". 

Not long after our interview, Louise checked into an in-patient psychiatric facility for intensive treatment.

Ryan and Louise are still working hard to maintain good health for themselves and their children.

They eventually did finalize their divorce but are co-parenting their daughters. 

Ryan has created Prepare U, a mental health curriculum for grades 8 through 12. 6,000 students statewide are using the curriculum, as well as schools in seven other states. There is also an online home edition for families at

Watch Ryan and Louise's story:

Help is available. If you're struggling and you need help, look no further. Get mental help resources here.

You've made it this far, and you will make it through. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.