May Is Mental Health Month: Courageous Survivor Carol Kivler Dispels Stigma & Myths Surrounding Mental Illness

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18 years ago Carol Kivler was so depressed she wanted to end her life as well as her husbands' and childrens'. Luckily, she got the help she needed. With May officially being Mental Health Month, Kivler, now a professional speaker, is seaking up about her own experience to help dispel the stigma that surrounds Mental illness.

This May, mental health advocate Carol Kivler celebrates Mental Health Month and her own recovery from mental illness. But there was no celebration in May of 1990 when Kivler, a 40-year-old mother of three and part-time professor, was overwhelmed with the haunting thoughts that her life held no joy or promise and that her children, her husband and herself would all be better off dead.

"Those were some of my darkest days," says Kivler, now a professional speaker and advocate for others living with mental illness. "I felt robbed of the ability to live and terrorized by an unending and uncontrollable stream of suicidal and homicidal thoughts."

Kivler was one of the lucky ones suffering from severe depression. She had the love and support of a husband that made sure she got the help she needed. Realizing that his wife was severely depressed and a danger to herself, he assisted in having her hospitalized where she remained for more than a month. After being treated with a vast array of medications that provided no relief, Kivler was eventually diagnosed with medication-resistant depression. Her only option for pushing through the darkness was electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).

"I was terrified at first," Kivler remembers. "The only thing I knew about shock therapy was what I had seen in the movies." But when a compassionate nurse explained how the therapy would allow her brain to alter some of its' electrochemical processes and that it was not the barbaric treatment as seen in movies like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," Kivler knew she wanted to give it a chance. Fortunately, the treatments worked and her severe bout of depression lifted.(See Carol's video

For Kivler, the right treatment, a loving family, and a strong support group were the lights that guided her back from the darkness. And she believes everyone with mental illness needs and deserves the same. "You can't just beat this thing alone," says Kivler. "Believe me, I know first hand. That's why it's so critical that those living with mental illness get connected to the help they need to recover and live fulfilling lives."

"Get Connected" is the theme of this year's Mental Health Month ( Started more than 50 years ago, Mental Health Month is committed to raising awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all.

This year's theme is focused on an essential component of maintaining and protecting mental health and wellness: Social Connectedness. According to the campaign, it is important to: Get connected to supportive family and friends. Get connected to your community for a sense of belonging and purpose. Get connected to professional help to feel better when you're stressed and having trouble coping.

Getting and staying connected has helped Kivler face and manage the issues that are part of living with the disease of mental illness. It has also helped her embrace extended periods of recovery and achieve things that many, including herself, would not have thought possible.

"Sadly, there is a stereotype that accompanies mental illness that doesn't focus much on the fact that those with this disease often have long periods of recovery," says Kivler, who now runs her own communications business, Kivler Communications. "There is a terrible stigma of uselessness and helplessness that accompanies those struggling with mental illness. But being diagnosed with mental illness is not a death sentence."

Kivler points out that many accomplished individuals living with mental illness have contributed to the world during their own periods of recovery. Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Mike Wallace, Patty Duke, and Jane Pauley are but a few. It is her desire to contribute and educate that pushes Kivler to be visible about her own illness and recovery. Through Courageous Recovery,, a division of Kivler Communications that is committed to raising awareness while helping reduce the stigma around mental illness, and as a speaker for The Alliance for Recovery,, a nonprofit that advocates for recovery from addictions that are often tied to mental health issues, Kivler is changing lives and perceptions.

"My dream is that some day the world will look at people living with mental illness as courageous survivors who need to be accepted, not rejected," Carol Kivler says. "They need to be respected, not pitied. And above all, they should be admired and not feared."

About Carol Kivler - Carol A. Kivler, president of Kivler Communications, is a speaker, motivator, training consultant, and author. Her company provides customized corporate training, development and executive coaching to a wide range of corporations, organizations, government agencies, and school systems. Carol is currently a member of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) as well as NAMI-Mercer where she serves as a Board of Trustee member as well as a legislative advocate to the Board. Since 1990, she has had four acute episodes of depression, each time requiring hospitalization and ECT. She has undergone more than fifty ECT treatments during these times.


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Carol Kivler
Kivler Communications
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