(Editor’s note: This story was authored by Whitney Bryen of Oklahoma Watch and appears here in accordance with the non-profit journalism organization’s republishing terms.)

Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness in her family plagued Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt’s childhood. But now she is telling her story to inspire hope and to bring about change.

Oklahoma’s high rates of mental illness, the prevalence of addiction, the shortage of resources for treatment – all of this and more has gotten huge attention in recent years at the 35,000-foot policy level.

But it’s the personal accounts – often shared with great fears about stigma – that arguably stick with people the most, and make them care enough to act.

Stitt’s story of growing up is one of “tumultuous” lives, beset with anxiety, depression and finding ways to cope. She is a survivor, now with her own family, and says she doesn’t really know how she avoided the worst.

Her parents live in an assisted-living facility in Tulsa and receive regular care. Stitt is pressing ahead in public with the family’s story – a quest for a breakthrough in small and large ways that stamp out the shame and inspire more help for Oklahomans in need.