I will be hiking the Oregon Coast Trail and continuing on to the California Coastal Trail from July 2019 to September 2019. This hike means so much more to me than just a solo adventure along the Pacific Ocean. I am teaming up with Hike For Mental Health to use this as an opportunity to both raise money for mental health research, break down the stigmas around mental illness and spread the message that getting outside, even if all you have is an afternoon, is crucially important to our well being.
On October 5th, 2013 my brother, Charles, suffered a heart attack at only 22. After five excruciating days in intensive care he passed away three days before his 23rd birthday. Charles' death was completely unexpected and premature. After a long struggle with mental illness and addicition it looked like Charles was getting closer to moving on with his life, but he was still struggling to get help with both physical and mental illness. The system failed Charles in many ways. Instead of receiving proper counseling and treatment for addicition and his mental illness he was sent to a methadone clinic where he was put on dangerously high doses of methadone. He was turned away from Providence Hospital in NE Portland one month before his death. Charles had checked himself in because he thought that he was having seizures after blacking out multiple times. With his history of drug use and mental illness the hospital was quick to label him as drug seeking and refused to do testing of any kind. Charles told me that the ER doctor had told him to go to his primary care physician, even though he was uninsured and they were aware that he didn't have one. He was afraid that there was something really wrong with him, but there were no resources for him and no one would listen.
I saw Charles less than 24 hours before he died. His last words to me were "I love you" and my last words to him were "I love you too". People suffering with mental illness and addiciton are loved and deserve love. They have hopes, dreams, desires, incredible potential and inherent worth. They need help, support, compassion, love and as many chances as it takes to allow them to get better. We have to work together to create a society that lifts all people up and supports them in whatever way is necessary instead of casting people aside. I believe that a step in that direction is raising awareness and investing in research.
If our mental health care and medical system in general was functioning in a way that was actually helping people and if there wasn't such a stigma around mental illness and addiciton would Charles still be alive today? I think he would be, but there's no way to know for sure. So, this hike is for you Charles. I wish that you had the opportunity to experience the many benefits that I have from hiking and spending time outdoors. Maybe the money that I raise will help someone else's loved one get the help that they really need. That would make all the difference in the world to me.