According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most common mental illness in the U.S. is anxiety disorder, which impacts 40 million adults each year, roughly 18.1 percent of the population. Only 45 percent of adults and 51 percent of children ages 6-17 will receive treatment. Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24.
Chris describes himself as a loner throughout public school. He transitioned into taking all special ed classes after his episode and ended up graduating with a regular diploma because of all of the credits he had earned prior to being hospitalized.
“That was a great accomplishment to graduate high school and get a high school diploma and walk the stage,” he said. “So that was a really good, great moment. One thing I’ve learned is that being productive, and having something to do, and being busy, is very … good for me.”
After high school, Chris decided to take a break from school. He had a lot of time on his hands. He thought he was doing well enough to go off his medication. As he puts it, “I was in denial about being bipolar. I never thought I [was] bipolar.” So he stopped taking medicine and another episode sent him back to the hospital. He’s been hospitalized more than 13 or 14 times throughout his life, he said. He struggled to hold down a job until he was introduced to the David L. Carrasco Job Corps Center in El Paso.
“When I was at Job Corps, I was stable,” he said. “I had a good time there. I did extracurricular activities there. I was kind of like the fun-loving kind of guy, on my medication, and doing karaoke.”