CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's breakfast time at Jason King's house.

The chef's pancakes sure are delicious, but life hasn't always been so sweet.

All the sudden I was in my group of friends and I didn't have anything to say and it started a series of, like, panic attacks, explained King.

At the age of 19, Jason started acting and feeling different than usual.

No one knew what to say, you know.

He didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of his journey with bi-polar disorder. The fact that no one knew what to say, made the situation even worse.

It literally drove me to one of the darkest places that anyone could ever go. I mean I went from starting the year as a working cook in Charlotte with a bright future to literally being on the streets.

Thanks to what he calls some tough love from his grandmother, he was able to get some help.

She had him involuntarily committed which is a fairly complicated process and not always necessary.

I was relieved to an extent but still I hadn't been diagnosed so I didn't know what the problem was. In my mind the world was coming to an end.

He spent two weeks at CMC-Randolph s Behavioral Health Center and with the right combination of medication and therapy he was able to get back on track.

Doctor Ervin Thompson is the Medical Director at the Center and he says dealing with mental illness is not something to be ashamed of.

About 20 percent of the population has some type of diagnosis of a mental illness, explained Dr. Thompson.

Some cases are mild and some can be more severe, but almost all of them can be treated with proper medical care.

Dr. Thompson said, If you catch it early do something about it you're probably going to be better off in the long run.

If you're trying to figure out if it s time for a loved one in your life to see a doctor, he says to look for a change in personality or an impairment in ordinary functioning.

Say for example the person couldn't work or they no longer were able to carry out family responsibilities, they re not functioning in the way that they used to function. That is a sign of fairly severe illness, said Dr. Thompson.

Whether the signs are subtle or severe he recommends the following when it comes to approaching your family member or friend:

- Pick the right time to do it. Make sure the person seems to be receptive and open to advice.

- Pick the right person to talk to them. Make sure it s someone they trust and respect.

- Do it with the right attitude. Don t say words like crazy or psychiatrist. Dr. Thompson suggested saying I think it might be helpful if you talked with someone, a professional.

- Use role models. Try referring to someone the person looks up to that has gone through the same thing.

- Pick out a professional for them to see in advance and offer to go with them.

- Try to understand what the person is going through. Say: You ve been through so much stress lately and you don t seem to be yourself. Maybe it would help if you talked to someone.

- Just ask! Are you OK?

People will usually welcome being asked about that because they usually want to talk. They want someone to reach out to them. Not always, but usually, said Dr. Thompson.

Jason was eventually diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and says he responded well to treatment.

Recovery from this kind of illness can be quick you know and you can go on to lead a very productive life, said King.

Even though he didn't understand at the time, he says he's thankful his family stepped in when they did.

I asked, Are you glad your family had some tough love for you?

He responded Gosh. You know, I can t tell you how grateful I am for that.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from a mental illness visit the link below for information that may help.

CMC-Randolph Behavior Health Center

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