"For those struggling from mental health issues, hang in there; you are no different than any other family," Michelle Riley, Kennidy's mother, said. "We all struggle in silence in one form or another." Kennidy Riley lost her battle with mental illness to an overdose at 23 years old.

Those not personally affected with mental illness often struggle with why the answer to the problem, getting help, isn't done more.   However, help is a simple word for a complex subject when it comes to mental health. Can you imagine going to the doctor for a sickness that can't be seen or articulated because you can't understand it yourself? There are no outer wounds to guide the doctor on straightforward action. Honestly, the only guide to treatment is a conversation no one wants to have, leaving several with seemingly one option - keep quiet and self-medicate.
Michelle believes putting an end to the silence is the first step in saving a life. "One day at a time, I am confident we will fight the disheartening stigma on mental health and eventually conquer almost completely."

Michelle tried desperately to understand the struggles that consumed Kennidy and enhanced the addiction just before her life ended. Michelle wrote to Kennidy after her death in a journal entry and shared  - "I wish we had been in a better place. Dad did a much better job in the end. I just knew you weren't yourself and I wanted so much more for you.  I'm so sorry I couldn't cope better, and I wish I had never missed a day of saying I love you regardless of things you said or done. I realize now it hurt you worse. But, mom wants you to know I will always remember the beautiful young lady you were, and for the rest of my life, I will long for you."

Although Michelle may struggle with not understanding mental illness or addiction before Kennidy passed, it hasn't stopped her from fighting to understand now wholly. As Michelle seeks answers, she has spent much time reflecting. As a result, she has gained foresight she wants to share with other families battling the same challenges.

"Allow your children to be accountable for their own actions without bailing them out. It will sometimes be the toughest challenge you will face as a parent but don't give in."

Because Michelle learned those words from personal experience, she believes it is time for parents to discuss solutions openly.
"We need to encourage one another and make parenting strategies more of a priority. You can be the best parent in the world, and your child still battles mental health issues. You can even battle them yourself. But if we want to see real change and want to look forward to a better future for our children, we have to start following through, making small changes today."

Understanding mental illness is only one piece of a larger puzzle for Michelle. She is also seeking to understand addiction, as they often walk hand in hand. Unfortunately, Michelle is quickly learning there is a large cloud of stigma surrounding addiction, much like mental health.

"Our story may include mental health, addiction, and even overdose, but throughout the chapters of our life, our love for one another always prevails." - Michelle Riley.