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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona man looks to combat mental illness with love, Colbert

Ron+Blake+holds+a+signed+poster+board+on+the+UA+Mall+on+Tuesday%2C+April+12.+Blake+suffers+from+post-traumatic+stress+disorder+and+is+using+signatures+from+strangers+in+support+of+mental+health+awareness.
Lauren Rentereia
Ron Blake holds a signed poster board on the UA Mall on Tuesday, April 12. Blake suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is using signatures from strangers in support of mental health awareness.

One Arizona man has dedicated his journey across the state to begin a project for mental health awareness in an effort to combat the social stigma around post traumatic stress disorder and rid himself of his own demons.

Ron Blake, a Phoenix man has hit the road to Arizona State University and now the UA to spread his message of acceptance and conquering mental illness.

Blake said he was sexually assaulted in his own home in 2011 by three intoxicated men, one of whom had been his partner and the others his friends. After filing a police report, he realized that prosecution of the case would be difficult and decided against taking legal action.

Blake sought medical help following the attack and was diagnosed with PTSD. His diagnosis has not been easy, as he experienced everything from violent nightmares to thoughts of suicide.

Blake decided to act upon those suicidal thoughts last May. He had been plagued by his rape and felt that he had no way out of the pain he suffered.

“Some days, [depression] feels like a wave hitting you,” Blake said. “There have been moments when I just wanted it to all stop, not because I wanted to die, … [I] just want[ed] it to be done.”

Blake caught Stephen Colbert’s late-night show last November and found himself finally enjoying a part of his life. Despite his suicidal thoughts, he had found something that brought him happiness and realized suicide was not the way to deal with his illness.

Now, Blake has taken to the Student Union Memorial Center with a project to tackle the stigma associated with mental illness and hopefully make it to the “Late Show” with the man he says saved his life.

His project is simple: He uses poster boards to gather signatures in support of mental health awareness, in order to change the face of mental illness and gain recognition to be on Colbert’s show. Blake has even taken the spotlight of media outlets around the state, including CBS, LGBT Weekly and The State Press.

Joey Pucino, a freshman studying film, production and television, signed the board in support of Blake’s cause.

“I’ve never seen anyone go about dealing with PTSD that way,” Pucino said. “He’s channeling it into something that’s really nice and it’s cool that his end goal is to get on Colbert. And even if he doesn’t get all the way there, it’s cool that we actually get to help him by signing.”

He not only wants to bring awareness through his project, but also send a message that mental illness does not define an individual—anyone can overcome their diagnosis and find happiness. He said his project is a way he is able to find himself and get through his depression that came with PTSD.

For Blake, meeting new people and hearing the stories of others has been a way to find his own happiness.

“Five months ago, the tendency was, for me, to go away from people. I just didn’t want to be bothered,” Blake said. “And now, even when I don’t have my boards with me, the tendency is to go toward people.”

Blake has garnered signatures on over 100 poster boards on his trip across the state. He hopes the signatures will gain him enough recognition to earn him a spot on the show so he can further his cause for mental health awareness.

Blake said he also plans on making the boards into a physical art project once he has completed his journey. Even with his plans to make it to the small screen, Blake says his message will stay the same.

“I am a lot more than [mentally ill],” he said. “I think that it’s giving other people a chance to say that they are a lot more than that, too.


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