I started Westgate Charities because I’ve learned first hand that mental illness affects the entire family. As a child, I grew up watching my mother struggle with the challenges associated with mental illness. These challenges were amplified by the fact that she was a single mother raising two children. As a result of these circumstances, life required that my sister and I mature at a faster rate and assume more responsibilities than most of our peers. Together we learned how to navigate the varied spectrum of issues related our mother’s condition from identifying potential triggers to involuntary committal.
These lessons were often taught and learned on the spot in high-risk and high-stress environments. These experiences led me to develop Westgate Charities as a resource to other children facing the same challenges in life. The goal of Westgate Charities is to educate, empower, and encourage children whose parents or primary caregivers suffer from mental illness. Through workshops and community discussions, Westgate Charities aims to facilitate open dialogue within families and throughout the community on the topic of mental illness.
In addition to improving the quality of communication around mental illness, Westgate Charities also aims to minimize the disruptive influence that a parental mental health crisis can have on the education of children. Meeting the academic goals I set for myself would not have been possible without the supportive network that surrounded me at every stage of my education. Unfortunately this type of safety net is not available for everyone in need. To this end, Westgate Charities also aims to provide life skill training and financial assistance to ensure the continuity of the education during a parental mental health crisis. With both education and improved communication at the base of each program, Westgate Charities aims to provide an extra layer of support for families overcoming challenges associated with parental mental illness.
Carl E. Darris, PhD