Mr. Cromer was visibly shaken and emotional while speaking, and I applaud his courage and selflessness in standing up before his peers to use his special moment to share this message. I look forward to the day when everyone treats mental illness with the same care and concern that is routinely given to heart disease, cancer and broken bones. Illness is illness, whether physical or mental, and everyone deserves the same compassion and opportunities for intervention and treatment.

Hope is an important factor that helps people have resiliency, that ability to bounce back from life’s difficulties. If someone asks you for help while they’re struggling with mental illness, providing that person with hope for a better future can be a game changer. Let people know you’re there for them, you care and you’ll help in any way you can. Offer encouragement and let them know you’re glad they’re alive. Suggest calling our county’s local 2-1-1 Crisis Hotline and Information Center of Pathways or texting your zip code to 898211 if you feel the need for a trained professional’s help in having this conversation with a person in your life.

In the weeks following the recent tragic deaths, it’s encouraging that crisis hotlines and texting services have experienced a double digit increase in calls and texts. That means people are reaching out to get help for themselves or others who need it. Perhaps our society is gradually chipping away at the fear or embarrassment that surrounds mental illness so people will feel as comfortable asking for help when they experience a mental health issue as they do when they have a physical ailment.