By Stetson Miller

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore interior designer Patrick Sutton is known for his work in high-end homes, stores, and hotels like the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore in Fells Point, but he also wants people to know about how mental illness impacted his life—especially during the month of May which is National Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Sutton’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s while he was growing up, during a time when mental health was not widely discussed. 

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“It became this dark secret at home, and I just was like sort of the kid sitting in the lunchroom with zero self-esteem,” Sutton said. 

He leaned on his creative ability to get through those tough times. 

With the help of therapy later in life, he learned that his mother’s condition was nothing to be ashamed of. 

“It wasn’t until I actually got therapy that I started to realize what all these things that happened in my childhood actually meant and I came to grips with it,” he said. 

Now, Sutton is working to end the stigma around mental illness by talking about his experiences publicly. 

“When I think about what it’s done for my life, it’s really important that people understand that there is no stigma associated with it,” Sutton said. “It is a gift.” 

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Sutton took his story public when he shared his experience in a speech at a Design Leadership Network conference. At the event, he spoke about how his mother’s illness impacted his life and his designs. 

He said that people then started sharing their stories with him. 

“Sharing what happened to me gave them license to share what happened to them,” Sutton said. “That’s what awareness does. It gives people the freedom to know they are not alone.”

He now works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Metropolitan Baltimore, to empower other people to share their experiences and seek help. 

“We want to make sure we’re elevating voices around the community and talking about mental health,” Kerry Graves, the executive director of NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore, said. 

Graves told WJZ that when local community leaders like Patrick share their stories, it encourages others to do the same. 

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“They are sharing their stories to encourage others to get the help that they need and talk about mental illness openly and in honest conversation,” she said.

Stetson Miller