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Phoenix man rewarded for work in youth mental health

PHOENIX — A Phoenix man has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations for his work to improve the lives of people suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse problems.

Greg Dicharry, the national youth empowerment director of Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment (MY LIFE), has received the consumer/peer leadership Voice Award in Hollywood.

The recognition for his work as a national mental health advocate comes days after actor-comedian Robin Williams took his own life.

“One thing his passing proves is that mental health problems and substance abuse issues can affect anyone,” said Dicharry. “You can’t look at someone and know what they are dealing with, that they have a mental illness or they are suffering from a substance abuse problem.”

Dicharry embarked on a 12-step journey to regain control of his life after a manic episode in Los Angeles.

“I was psychotic, delusional,” he explained. “I ended up walking naked on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, was arrested and hospitalized.”

Currently, Dicharry works with more than 500 youths across the nation to reduce discrimination and raise awareness about mental health and other issues.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 million adult Americans experience clinical depression every year, which translates into more than 6 percent of the population of people over age 18.

Unfortunately, many people who are struggling with mental health issues will refuse to seek help for a variety of reasons, which could be painful and difficult for loved ones to deal with. However, Dr. Carol Olson, chair of the psychiatry department at Maricopa Medical Integrated Health Systems, said family members are not powerless.

“If they’ve been making statements or doing thing indicating they are at risk of killing themselves, there is a process for having a person evaluated on an involuntary basis,” she said.