Mental health mythbuster


By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

Gabe Howard
Gabe Howard

Those who are mentally ill are frequently violent, displaying erratic behavior, and sometimes even foaming at the mouth. Right?

Gabe Howard of Columbus said this stereotype of the mentally ill is a myth – a myth he plans to debunk with the Grove City community.

Howard is a motivational speaker and a mental illness blogger. About 12 years ago, Howard was diagnosed with a bipolar and anxiety disorder.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Howard. “I ended up in a psychiatric ward.”

Before his diagnosis, Howard owned a computer and networking operation then moved on to work for a Fortune 100 company. After his diagnosis and commitment into the psychiatric unit, Howard lost his job. He said this gave him his first experience of discrimination against the mentally ill, but it inspired him to become an advocate.

“There is such a stigma and lack of education about the mentally ill,” said Howard. “Some think that all mentally ill people are violent or all mentally ill people are unemployable. That’s just not true.”

After a long road, Howard accepted his illness and recovered. Now, it is his mission to motivate and educate about mental illness.

The E.L. Evans Senior Center in Grove City will host two “Speak Our Mind” presentations by Howard. The first one, Mental Illness Mythbusters will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m., June 2. Facts Not Fear will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m., June 9. Both are free and open to the community.

“This is a basic discussion where I will give people a realistic view of mental illness,” said Howard.

He said this is not a lecture. Howard is known for his funny and witty way of presenting the facts. He encourages open dialogue.

Bev Longmire, adult/senior coordinator for the city of Grove City, said this presentation is new to the area.

“There are so many families dealing with so many different issues,” said Longmire. “There are many myths out there. I hope this event can ease some fears.”

Longmire said that in her time working at the center, she has come across many senior citizens and staff members who had a family member with a mental illness.

“You see how heartbreaking it can be,” said Longmire. “If this presentation can ease that stress level; that would sure be worth it.”

According to the Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, there are numerous types of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, obsessive compulsion disorder, post traumatic stress and schizophrenia to name a few. It has been estimated that depression affects nearly 19 million Americans each year. About four million suffer from an anxiety disorder, more than five million have post traumatic stress disorder and two million have bipolar disorder.

Depression is so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, following heart disease. A CDC report says depression is the most common mental illness, and it affects more than 26 percent of the adult population. It also estimates that only about 17 percent of adults in the United States are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.

Howard said most people with a mental illness are not violent; they have jobs and they are community members.

“People are not wearing their illness on their sleeves,” said Howard. “Who wants to sign up for discrimination?”

Howard also said many people do not know they have a problem. He did not at first.

Howard used an analogy of a mole. He said a trained dermatologist may see that one particular mole as a problem, but no one else saw it – not even you.

“You’ve been running around in a bathing suit all summer and thousands saw that mole. No one thought a thing of it. You thought it was just another freckle.”

Howard said it is not that people are in denial – they are simply unaware.

He said he had many warning signs of his illness before he ended up in a hospital.

“I just thought it was a freckle.”

Howard encourages anyone to attend his presentations in Grove City. He said there are many reasons people feel afraid to attend events, especially regarding this topic, but he said it is a safe and open environment.

“People need this information. There is a resource out there,” said Howard.

The presentations are free, but registration is required. To enroll, call 277-3050 or 277-1060.

Howard is the executive director of the non-profit organization Speak Our Mind. For information on the organization, visit For more information on Howard, visit


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