Honoring Her Sister Through LIME-light: Mental Health Awareness


A GUEST BLOG: A Hopeful Color For Mental Health Awareness

By Shannon Jacuzzi 

I lost my younger sister to suicide in 2004.  It was a shock.  She was 36.

I wanted to do something.



Stacey’s illness presented postpartum and unexpectedly.  Her diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder I.

When my sister was a child, she was not diagnosed with a mental illness.  I remember her having some schoolwork difficulties and some going back and forth between parents who were divorced, but she had no diagnosis.  During her teenage and high school years, my sister was known for her outward beauty and socializing popularity.  Grades continued to be difficult through college, and sometimes she slept late.  However, it wasn’t until after she married and was postpartum with her second child that symptoms uncovered a brain-related condition.  Paranoia and frenzied activity began with a business idea.  She experienced her first hospitalization.

In telling a portion of my sister’s story, it is my hope that Stacey is remembered for more than a diagnosed illness.  She was a sister, daughter, wife, mother and friend to many.  My sister was personable and warm, a gifted decorator, a generous person.   Stacey was also genetically predisposed to a brain condition.  The spectrum of symptoms from a brain-related condition can vary from person to person, and my sister experienced a more disabling case of bipolar disorder.  She came to rely upon disability income.  Ultimately, she gave up hope.

Aware that ribbons and colors were associated with other health-related causes, I wondered what was mental health’s color and awareness month.  I knew of the pink ribbon for breast cancer and that October was breast cancer awareness month.  I had walked in breast cancer awareness walks before in support of a friend.  I learned there wasn’t a recognized ribbon color for mental health awareness – an overall sense of well being incorporating all brain-related health matters — even though May was established as Mental Health Month in 1949, although some celebrate in October too.

I felt strongly that my sister’s suicide could have been prevented, and that it needed to be OK to talk about our mental health from Pediatrics to Geriatrics.  The subject was too taboo and too highly stigmatized, and this prevalent cultural attitude causes people shame and reluctance to care for their brain organ.  As if only some of us need to take care of our brain organ?  We all need good mental health!

Colors were bringing awareness to so many other important causes such as Autism and heart health.  Seeing a symbolic need to lime-light mental health out of the darkness into the light, I felt lime green was cheerful, representative of springtime and new hope.  And so I reached out to others in the nonprofit sector and to those who might have interest in making this cause more visible through color.  I received positive feedback.  LIMERIBBONUSE

Grass roots advocacy has spread nationally and internationally.  Nonprofits and mental health magazines have used a lime green ribbon and the color to promote mental health.  Bridges and buildings, even the Niagara Falls, have been lime-lit.  “Share-wear” (t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.) are now available online.  May Mental Health Month and mental health screening is colorfully promoted in communities and on Facebook.  There are walks, celebrity association and creative ideas with .jpg graphics and community events.  Recently, a flash mob in Buffalo, NY.  Internationally, the association is spreading to Australia, Ireland, UK, Africa etc. To date, there are over 225,000 FB shares of the lime green ribbon https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=345862978863183&set=a.250465665069582.55172.250440331738782&type=1&theater. More of us are talking!

Mental health is part of the overall wellness formula and shame for mental illness needs to be addressed.  Mental health is just as important as exercise and nutrition.  From Pediatrics to Geriatrics to Obstetric visits, mental health-related discussions, education, and prevention need to be integral to primary care.  A mental health screen is as important to the annual physical as a look in the ear, nose and throat.  So that, when mental illness occurs, we know in advance what the signs are and what to do.

We must address mental illness at its earliest stages and decrease the stigma surrounding mental health care.  Untreated mental illness will decrease when stigma decreases.  Hope for recovery must replace marginalization.  Those who suffer from a brain organ disorder (because of circumstances or genetics or both) deserve the same dignity as any human with any medical condition.

Mental health just makes good sense; it increases quality of life and prevents suicide.

Years after my sister’s death, I was similarly diagnosed and so the cause of mental health became even more personal.  Advocacy also has been my therapy.  Through this journey, I’ve been blessed to meet people all around the world with charitable hearts, creative minds and like passion for mental heath.   Primarily, I work to promote awareness through Facebook pages.  I also reach out to others in the mental health community so that the colorful message of hope becomes brighter and more unified.



My sister’s loss was an unnecessary tragedy.  There have been too many other ones.  I pray that out of her loss, good can come.  Whatever the shade, neon or soft, when discussing mental health please consider wearing a ribbon, a bracelet, using the color in a brochure, on a billboard, in a clinic or whenever you have an assembly.  So that, our collective voice becomes louder and more visible with every year!

Stacey Jacuzzi Antes Story:  http://ppc.unl.edu/userfiles/file/inthenews/2006/mind_matters_fall06.pdf

International Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GOLIME4mentalhealthawareness?fref=ts

USA Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LimeRibbonPost?fref=ts

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.