Millions across the country suffer from some form of mental illness, and sadly millions more suffer in silence, fearing the stigma's that may go along with coming out. A State House rally was held Wednesday to help people break through barriers.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- When it comes to mental health, people close to the issue say there is still a large stigma that keeps people from getting help they may need.
Millions across the country suffer from some form of mental illness, and sadly millions more suffer in silence, fearing the stigmas that may go along with coming out.
A State House rally was held Wednesday to help people break through barriers.
"After being diagnosed with paranoia, you think, 'oh man, am I having a heart attack? Am I going to die?' Ben Baker said.
Baker and his mother, Cheryl Baker, both of Spartanburg County, were speakers at the rally. Ben Baker spoke about the issues he had that were brought on by the death of his father when he was a teenager. He was diagnosed with depression, paranoia and anxiety, he said, all of which led to behavioral issues.
For years, Baker said he suffered in silence.
"People hide it all the time," he said, "I hid it for a long, long time, like four years. My mamma didn't even know I attempted suicide."
Baker said he attempted suicide seven times, which included cutting himself on his arm, but says he has gotten the help he needed.
Many who attended wore green clothes and ribbons to show their support. The rally helped to a face to what they said many are afraid to address, waiting, instead, until it's too late.
"This is the life that we live every day," said Joy Garner, a single mother of two. She attended the rally with her 12-year-old daughter Kweli. "I'm a single parent, so I'm trying to manage behaviors which can come at any moment."
But there is help for families.
School-based programs from the Department of Mental Health puts mental health professionals in a third of the state's public schools. Geoffrey Mason, Deputy Director of the Community Mental Health Services office, said more money is needed to put one in every school.
"It's great because I don't have to have (her kids) removed from school to go and get the counseling services that they need," Garner said.
The price tag, Mason said, is about $50,000 per school.
"We're trying to work to get there eventually," said Mason.
For Baker, who wears a reminder of his past -- a key with the word "lucky" branded onto it that he wears on a sting around his neck -- stigma is the last thing he said a person should let stop them.
"It was like going through hell," Baker said. "If you see a kid and they say they have these problems, don't just look it over."
Advocates say there is a need to start treating issues at an earlier age.
A bill that now sits in the state Senate would create a task force to oversee mental health in the state's schools.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed a proclamation designating May 4-10 'Children's Mental Health Week,' which she read aloud at the rally.