BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore interior designer Patrick Sutton is known for his work in upscale homes, shops and hotels like the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore in Fells Point, but he also wants people to know how mental illness impacted his life, especially in the month of May. which is National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Sutton’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s as he was growing up, at a time when mental health was not widely discussed.
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“It became this dark secret at home, and I was like some kind of kid sitting in the dining room with no self-esteem,” Sutton said.
He relied on his creative ability to get through these tough times.
With the help of therapy later in life, he learned there was nothing to be ashamed of in his mother’s condition.
“It wasn’t until I went to therapy that I started to realize what all those things that happened in my childhood meant and understood,” he said.
Now, Sutton is working to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by speaking publicly about her experiences.
“When I think about what it’s done for my life, it’s really important for people to understand that there’s no stigma associated with it,” Sutton said. “It’s a gift.”
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Sutton went public with his story when he shared his experience in a speech at a Design Leadership Network conference. At the event, he spoke about the impact his mother’s illness had on his life and his designs.
He said people then started sharing their stories with him.
“Sharing what happened to me allowed them to share what happened to them,” Sutton said. “That’s what consciousness does. It gives people the freedom to know they are not alone.
He now works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Metropolitan Baltimore, to enable others to share their experiences and seek help.
“We want to make sure we’re raising voices in the community and talking about mental health,” Kerry Graves, executive director of NAMI Metropolitan Baltimorementioned.
Graves told WJZ that when local community leaders like Patrick share their stories, it encourages others to do the same.
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“They share their stories to encourage others to get the help they need and to talk about mental illness openly and in honest conversation,” she said.