Mr. Ralph Romero knows what it’s like to experience the anguish of behavioral health challenges. “I couldn’t take the anxiety, the emotions, the depression that I felt. I would sleep about 4 hours a night, and wake up scared and anxious.” Ralph has struggled with behavioral health for most of his life, and couldn’t understand why he always felt depressed and anxious. “I was at a loss trying to understand why people were always happy.” Even though Ralph recognized that he needed help, he was too intimidated by the social stigma associated with mental illness. He searched for any way to cope, and like many in crisis Ralph sought relief through substance use. Eventually, Ralph’s mental health symptoms and drug-use shattered his entire life. He became distant from loved ones, and began to have legal troubles. He didn’t take court mandated therapy seriously, and disregarded helpful techniques and regimens. Ultimately, Ralph lost his family, was incarcerated, and even attempted suicide. He was hopeless, and “didn’t care about recovery.” Ralph felt like his life would always be out-of-control, and that recovery just wasn’t possible. When he was released from prison in 2008, he had no family and no options. Even though he didn’t think it could be successful, Ralph finally decided to give help a chance. Treatment and therapy helped Ralph build a new life. He recognized that recovery doesn’t happen immediately, and that there will be stops and starts along the way. “It didn’t take one year to mess up my life, and it took more than one year to fix it. You just have to keep going.” Ralph’s illness was identified and he worked diligently toward recovery, sticking to his behavior management guidelines and therapies. As his recovery progressed, he pursued greater opportunities and achieved many successes.Happy and stable, Ralph is now gainfully employed and will soon graduate Pima Community College with aspirations to attend Arizona State University. His goal is to provide support and opportunities for the disabled, veterans, and ex-offenders. Ralph has been honored by his employer, La Frontera, Linkages and many other community organizations. However, the accolades are not what Ralph values most about recovery. “The many awards have helped me, but the biggest award I have received is my family in my life.”Ralph participates in many community efforts to address mental health and substance abuse, because he wants to “help others understand there is a better life than their past. We cannot let our past control us.” He believes strongly that recovery is possible with help, and encourages anyone experiencing behavioral health challenges to seek assistance. “Don’t bottle it. Open the doors, and ask for help. There is help and hope.” If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, please reach out to the Community-Wide Crisis Line at (520) 622-6000.