While once ashamed, closeted, and silent, I'm now proud, out, and unashamed. I am bipolar, gay and a three-time suicide survivor.
While I wasn't diagnosed as bipolar until my early 40s, I have struggled since my teens with mental illness.
In 2013, I founded Hope Xchange because I didn't want anyone else to going through what I did. No one should be feel alone or live without purpose or hope. After losing another precious soul to suicide, I put my cause-marketing consultancy on the back burner and am now a full-time volunteer CEO and a mental health and suicide prevention activist.
My wish is that the mentally ill don't needlessly suffer because our mental health system is broken or because their families or loved ones have abandoned them. With Hope Xchange, I hope to change that. A simple wish, one I will see to fruition because no person should every feel the way I did.
I believe everyone, regardless of financial means, is entitled to caring and compassion so they can recover and rediscover hope. Everyone deserves to be cared for and loved, and to have a reason to hold on not only to hope, but life itself.
I'm proud to say that Hope Xchange has been built on a team of kindred spirits, all volunteers with hearts of gold who share both my dedication and passion. As evidenced by our Testimonials, together, we have made great strides towards achieving our goals to improve mental illness outcomes and to save lives.
But with suicide rates at a 30-year high and now creeping down into lower age groups, there is still much work to be done. The percentage of younger children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions in the US has doubled over the last decade, with the largest uptick seen among teen girls (CNN, 2017).
The risk of suicide in people with bipolar depression is 20-30 times greater than that of the general population and significantly higher than other depressive disorders. Further, there is currently no medicine approved specifically to reduce suicidal ideation and behavior in bipolar disorder (Voice of Patient Survey Press Release, 2017).
Our program focus this year is on our most vulnerable and those at highest risk of suicide, our LGBTQIA youth diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
My Unique Background
A Harvard-trained public policy expert, I leverage my strengths in the development of forward-thinking, visionary programs that renew life purpose, restore hope and save lives. I'm intensely strategic, highly-structured and methodically organized.
With an interdisciplinary background in strategic planning, online and cause marketing, business development, technology, fundraising and leadership, I'm uniquely qualified to not only accomplish my goals but do so with innovative thinking that has landing gears as well as wings.
I believe that you are a remarkable lady with high hopes and an unstoppable amount of motivation. You are making a big difference and the sweetest thing about it all is, you are lifting up others and showing what a big heart you have. I admire you and respect your courage and devotion.
We need more people like you in the world. When you reached out to try to help my son, you gave me hope and helped me more than you know. The help you provided, said to me, this woman really cares, and is going to actually do something.
I no longer felt as if I was struggling to reach out to find someone to believe us and understand our hardship.
It may still hurt from time to time to know the pain the system and the liars have caused our family, yet at the same time, just knowing that you were/are there for us, on a personal basis, as a friend, and confidant eases that hurt.
You lifted the burden of hopelessness in regards to Dwayne's case by setting clear defining goals for a much needed solution.
I tried, although, all I have done is bark up the wrong trees - so to speak. They all heard me, but were more or less do-less. They pitied us, without actually providing any type of a solution or resolution.
Dwayne became so hopeful and inspired because of you! He too, seems more confident, as he smoothly sails through the days at the institution. He now lives in a state of hopeful anticipation of a more balanced and successful life within the community at large and most importantly, he is looking forward to the day that he will have the opportunity to rejoin his family.
He wants more than ever to be there for his his children and to be the best Dad ever.
Today, we wait patiently for the right timing of all things yet to be seen. Will always love and respect you my friend! Much appreciation. LOVE YOU!
(Note last name withheld to protect the innocent. You can read more about his story in our blog post, Bipolar Community Will Not Be Silenced: We Fight for Social Justice So His Small Children No Longer Plead, "When Is Daddy Coming Home?" here).
Intervening as early as we possibly can and collaborating with schools is absolutely critical if we are going to improve mental health outcomes for our children. I believe that if we can get to our children early enough, we can prevent them from even thinking about suicide in the first place - just take that option off the table. The first 60 months of life are absolutely critical to their view of whether or not children feel loved and their perception of value, importance, and worth in this world.
Further, after working in mental health for four years, I realize we must extend the delivery of wellness services into our communities with a child-centric collaborative approach; otherwise, we reach our most vulnerable too late.
In collaboration with other local nonprofits, hospitals, schools and prisons, our Hope Xchange Timebank is based on the internationally-proven model of time banking and successful health-care collaboration prototypes. Our grassroots initiative will:
Without these essential support systems in place, my friends, those who are struggling needlessly suffer. And, without these, we lose far too many precious souls far too soon to suicide.
Along with my family and friends, I have boot-strapped Hope Xchange's growth to-date. As we're now slammed with requests, we're forced to shift into a major fundraising mode to ensure we can answer every cry for help. Every brave soul who reaches out should get an immediate response and the proper care and support we all deserve.
We are all stars and deserve the right to twinkle and shine brightly. But, we simply can't do alone. We need your support and your help. Please consider gifting hope and gifting life by making a donation today. Together, we can renew life purpose, restore hope and save lives. If not us, who my friends?
With gratitude and blessings.
Kerry Martin, CEO & Founder