"Adam Brown, someone I've known since I was 6 years old, turned 22 on February 1st. However I wasn't able to wish him a happy birthday because he took his own life 2 years ago. Having acquired an autoimmune disease in my young teenage years, I never knew there was a thing as a "disabled community" or "culture." And I think as Americans, the majority of us think the same, but unless we are put in a situation where we are face to face with the fact, we don't recognize it. And even if we do we don't exactly realize the magnitude that it carries. Throughout my relatively short life so far, I have had some very close friends diagnosed with things such as depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders. Some of them are able to work through it, and some, like Adam, unfortunately we're not. In my multiple short and extended stays in the hospital, I have come to realize that unless you have a visible disability, you often feel like you have to prove your disability otherwise people won't believe you or take it seriously. Where as on the other hand, as a society we are so hush hush about mental illness, and often times feel as if though those who come out with a mental disability are considered weak. As Miss wheelchair Texas 2016, I will help this stigma by raising awareness that talking about mental health or being diagnosed with a mental illness does not make you weak. I want to continue the conversation that talking about this subject does not make you weak, on the contrary it takes tremendous courage. People don't understand how incredibly difficult and stressful it is to find the words to explain what's going on in your head when you don't even understand it yourself, and that is often what you feel like in this type of situation. Being diagnosed with one of these diseases is life changing in itself, & I know that the transformation is painful, but I want everyone who is going through it to know that you're not falling apart, you're just falling into something different, with a new compacity to be beautiful. Finally, I want to end on this, "never give up on someone with a mental illness. When the "i" is replaced by "we," illness becomes wellness."