Speakers share to dispel mental illness

For Mike Belotti, having a mental illness has been both the best and worst thing to happen to him.

A husband and father of three, Belotti didn’t think anything was wrong with him until later in life when he began having manic episodes and ended up in a hospital one night.

Belotti and Natasha Ellis shared their stories at a campus event hosted March 30 by the National Alliance on Mental Health.

The event, In Our Own Voice, is a public education program developed by the alliance, in which two trained speakers share their compelling personal stories about living with mental illness and achieving recovery.

Throughout the discussion, video segments were shown portraying people who live everyday lives and just so happen to have a mental illness.

Both speakers thoroughly discussed their struggles with mental illness, their acceptance of it, their coping mechanisms and their successes.

Ellis said that her mental illness started at a young age and only got worse as she grew older.  

“I tried to kill myself several times, especially when I was in high school,” she said. “Then as I got older, I couldn’t keep a stable job and ended up homeless.”

Eventually, she grew tired of feeling helpless and did something about her mental illness, which resulted in becoming a certified peer support specialist and recovery coach.

The speakers indicated that people sometimes think that mental illness affects only a certain type of person, whether it related to class, race or gender. But that’s not really the case, they said.

Ultimately, mental illness has no face, according to Belotti.

“Either one in four people are affected by mental illness or someone has it in their family,” he said.