The HyperTexts

William Sykes Harris II

by his daughter, Elizabeth Harris Burch

My heart aches today because it would've been my daddy's 71st birthday, but sadly he committed suicide almost 30 years ago when he was just 41. I still think about him nearly every day, especially when something makes me laugh. To this day, Sykes Harris Jr. remains the funniest man I've ever known; he absolutely LOVED to make people laugh ... he LIVED for it.

It strikes me as so incredibly unfair that a man able to elicit so much laughter was actually a very tortured soul. My extraordinarily funny, amazingly loving daddy suffered greatly fromin my opinionclinical depression, perhaps even bipolar disorder, not to mention alcoholism and drug dependency. I truly believe he would still be alive today if mental illness hadn't had such a stigma attached to it, and he had felt like it was OK to seek help. We've come a long way in recognizing mental illness and addiction as ILLNESSESnot some moral defectbut we still have a long, long way to go.

When the Affordable Healthcare Act came along, I was elated because for the first time insurance companies were required to provide mental illness and addiction treatments as ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS. But now this is in jeopardy with the GOP trying to repeal ACA. However you feel about Donald Trump and no matter what political party you belong to, this is just WRONG. Psychotherapy/mental health treatment saved my life and it saved my brother's as well, because without it I'm positive we would both be dead now, most likely by suicide. But we were fortunate enough to be able to afford treatment when I needed it, and when my brother couldn't afford it, thank God the ACA covered it.

If it hasn't happened yet, I can almost guarantee that you or someone you love will be affected by mental illness, addiction or both, because they often go hand-in-hand. I can tell you from first-hand experience: there's nothing that makes you feel more DESPERATE than to watch a loved one suffer from a disease that can be treated, when you can't afford to pay for it, so you have to watch them slip away knowing there's nothing you can do. The ACA saves lives every single day by making these treatments available to people who otherwise could not afford them, and to think that this will be taken away not only breaks my heart ... it scares me to death because I stand a very real chance of losing people that I love to suicide.

Again, this is not a political issue, it's a HUMAN issue and it's imperative that we don't go backward and take these LIFE SAVING treatments away from human beings who desperately need them. I decided to write this today because losing my daddy to suicide was the worst thing that's EVER happened to me and I don't want it to happen to anyone else ... the pain is crippling. I know we are a divided nation, but we ALL have people we love and I never want anyone else to feel the desperation, impotence and pain of not being able to help save a loved one because you can't afford it.

My daddy was a brilliant, wonderful, FUNNY man with a huge heart, but mental illness and addiction made him put a gun to his head and pull the trigger. The repercussions of that horrific act 30 years ago are still being felt, and continue to affect the lives of friends and family all these years later. I feel it is my duty, as his daughter, to bring awareness to the danger of going backward, and not having mental health and addiction treatment considered as BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. These MUST be things insurance companies are REQUIRED to cover.

If you've read this entire missive, I want to thank you for taking the time, and I beg you, as someone who has lived with pain so crippling that it almost destroyed me, please consider calling your representative or senator. Let them know that you want insurance companies to be REQUIRED to cover mental health and addiction treatment for ALL Americans. If their legislation doesn't have this in it ... tell them to vote NO and to start over with legislation that does. Don't wait until you're suffering yourself, or you're faced with the loss, or potential loss, of a loved one who's struggling with mental illness or addiction ... because if you do, it just might be too late.

Happy birthday in heaven, daddy, I miss you so very much and I wish you were still here ... And I know I'm not alone in this wish. If you knew my daddy, if you ever cared about him (or me) at all, please give some thought to what I've said, and SHARE this message with your friends and family. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Sykes Harris Jr.'s legacy could be more than just pain, sorrow and regret Maybe, just maybe, his death could help save some lives ... lives that I'm sure can be filled with laughter. God bless all of you. Beth Harris Burch

The HyperTexts