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Health & Science

Mental Health Awareness Month Strives to Destigmatize Mental Illness

A support system and an understanding of mental illness are key to overcoming its challenges.



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Mental illness comes in different types and levels of severity.

Depression, post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder are just a few of the medical conditions that are being highlighted during May, which is Mental Health Awareness month.

“Many of the people who do have a diagnosable serious mental illness, don’t recognize that they have a serious mental illness,” said Dr. Steve Schnee, executive director of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County.

“Because these are so life-changing and can be so devastating to the individual, and to the family members who love them and try to interact with them and try to understand what is happening, these more severe conditions are very difficult for everybody who is involved with that individual,” he said.

Max Maddox was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder while attending college.

“It overtook me completely,” he said. “The first I ever knew of my psychology being any different than anyone else, I had already been taken into a psychotic world. Within two weeks at the beginning of my first manic episode, I was in a mental hospital.”

Maddox, a teacher and an accomplished artist, co-authored “Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness” with his mother.

He realizes that his disorder can only be controlled.

“Medication mostly, which can vary depending on how I’m feeling,” he said. “But on the other hand, my time in my studio is the most therapeutic time that I can ask for, and having a lot of support around me to constantly give me feedback on how I’m doing. And being able to take that feedback, I think, is really important.”

Just as important as having support is awareness and understanding mental illness. 

“Mental Illness Awareness month is really critical. MHMRA has been at the forefront to help folks start to recognize signs and symptoms that might be evidence of a mental illness, and how to respond to that. Not to be a counselor, but to try to help that person get access to assistance that would be appropriate in a timely, timely way,” Schnee said.

You can find more information on mental illness at,, and

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