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Cumberland County man recognized for selfless mental health advocacy | Jefferson Awards

Louis Bianco has been both a patient and a nurse. He is now working to spread awareness towards a growing problem.

YORK, Pa. — "I was diagnosed in early high school with a mental illness." Louis Bianco of Cumberland County was just 15 years old when his world abruptly changed. 

"I was the captain of the wrestling team and the lead in the school play in 8th grade. Then, all of a sudden, my life was falling apart and I had to do school work in the basement of lockdown psychiatric facilities just to try to keep up with my classmates," Bianco said.

He wasn't expected to graduate high school, but he did. Louis even went on to graduate from college with a nursing degree. 

"I started working in the same facilities where I was a patient when I was in my youth. I learned so much important information when I was in the hospital after I lost everything I was working towards, [I figured] why can't we teach this to the general public so that they can possibly avoid that crisis?" Bianco told FOX43.

He set off on what he calls his life's mission, to improve the mental health system by educating others. 

Bianco spent the past decade serving on panels at colleges and high schools about how to increase mental wellness education in schools. 

He spoke to future police officers, lawyers and teachers at a number of places, wrote three mental wellness books in three years and now sits as the mental health chair for the Cumberland/Perry Mental Health, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Board. 

Bianco also works with York college nursing students in their simulation lab, acting as a patient in various mental health scenarios. 

"I'm good at what I do because I have the experience of being on the patient side," he said, "Although I can't make a living doing it, I have offered myself to the cause and will continue to do so."

As the demand for more mental health care continues to increase all across the country, Louis says he isn't giving up anytime soon.

"It's harder to do the job and more people need the help, so I'm doing it. There is a need for it both as a nurse and as someone who also has a mental illness," Bianco said. 

"My life depends on it and it's also my life's work.  What we're looking at needs more than just awareness, we're looking at a mental health crisis both logistically and in actuality for our youth and in our population in general," he continued.

That selfless mindset earning him a nomination for a Jefferson Award. 

"For someone to see that and nominate me and then to be a finalist is very gratifying and an honor," Louis said happily.  

If you would like to find out more about Louis' mental health advocacy, you can contact him here. 

For more information on the Jefferson Awards, click here.

Download the FOX43 app here.


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