Ashley Duarte Devlin

When you come out of the dark hole that mental illness leaves you with there is an implausible feeling of release, but it's one that you do not feel permitted to celebrate. Instead the feeling of success is replaced with the shame and the embarrassment that goes along with it. The feeling that you have once again hurt everyone around you with this crippling illness that they can’t understand, and you can’t really blame them for that, because the truth is that you can’t even understand it yourself. Mental illness is often a very difficult thing to explain; it is something that you struggle with every day. It’s the shame, the embarrassment... it’s the whispers in the hallway that you're weak. That's what makes you hold it in, and hide it. It's living two lives: one life that you allow all others to see, and then the real you, the one that you hold deep inside. Despite all of this, today and every day I ask that you be brave, even when you feel like you have nothing left. Be strong and realize that you are not alone. Share your story, no longer suffer in silence because the more we walk through our struggles in silence, the more we deny others the benefit of knowing they are not alone. If you notice the signs of mental illness in your kids, your family or your friends, please do not ignore them, do not think that it is a stage and that it will pass, hold their hand, get them help and walk this journey with them. Have patience, we do not mean to be swallowed up by this illness, we do not mean to be negative, we do not mean to cry, or to stay in bed, or have panic attacks in public, or miss special occasions, or to hurt you physically or emotionally. Please understand this is harder for us than it is for you. Be patient, be sensitive, be kind and most importantly, be there.

So I march. We all march because we are stronger together. We march because the more we walk through our struggles in silence the more we deny others the benefit of knowing they are not alone. We march for those we have lost, for those still fighting. I march for myself. We march because THINGS NEED TO CHANGE! We need more resources, more support. Talk is great but now we need action. We will march and we will continue to fight until our voices are heard and change takes place.