Annika was a beautiful soul we were blessed to have in our lives. Annika was a straight-A student, a musician who played 3 instruments, an actress who was very active in theatrical arts, and although she did not have a competitive bone in her body, she played 3 teams sports: swimming, Nordic Skiing, and Softball.
She was a great teammate, a champion for the underdog, a believer in making other peoples’ lives a little better in hard times or in lonely teenage social experiences. She made everyone around her happy and a better person. Unfortunately, she could not find her own internal happiness. Twenty-nine months ago we, and this world, lost our beautiful daughter at the young age of 16. Many lives have forever been changed and we are left with the forever burning questions, Why….. What more should I have done to help this beautiful angel with her inner brain illness. The road through the world of mental health for our family and many others, is as mysterious as the illness is itself. The lack of society’s desire to break the stigma of mental illness is a huge roadblock for families and our loved ones dealing with this issue. This is followed by the lack of funding and insurance companies failing to fund the research and programs that are so greatly needed. Society has failed our family and other families in this respect. In memory of Annika, it has become my goal to bring education to our community and to do whatever I can to help break the stigma around mental illness. I challenge everyone to do whatever they can to become better listeners and more compassionate towards our loved ones and other individuals around us. Mental health first aid classes have been one of the best resources I brought to our community. I have learned more about what was going on in my daughter’s life / mind during her battle with mental illness, albeit too late. It also has given me the tools to help others who reach out to me for help in their own battle with this disease. I have a better understanding on how to listen and what to say, and I have gained confidence in directing people to the proper path(s) of professional help. My goal is to bring 5 classes to our community every year, so more people are armed with knowledge to become aware of the signs and to step up to help our loved ones find their path to hope. I do not wish our journey into this world of mental illness which resulted in unending grief, upon any other family. I hope everyone takes the time to learn about mental illness, including the signs and symptoms of this disease. Yes…this IS a disease, but it can be treated! It is time to break the stigma and to start working towards a cure for all people and families dealing with mental illness.