I started speaking openly about depression and anxiety the moment I realized that sharing my experiences would help others in the same boat. It was important to me that they know that they’re not alone. If I had someone that talked to me when I was a youngster about his or her own encounters with despair, suicidal ideation and worthlessness, I believe I wouldn’t have white-knuckled my way through life, anticipating a tragedy every moment. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself if I’d known I was dealing with a real illness, not something I conjured up.
Having taken steps to improve my wellbeing through therapy and medication, the purchase of a medical bracelet and wallet card felt like the next appropriate move. I doubt that few will notice the eighth-inch high font at my wrist, but to a person trained to look for it, those thirteen letters engraved to the right of the Rod of Asclepius just might save my life.
There is one week left of Mental Health Awareness Month, and we want to keep up the conversation about fighting stigma and discrimination!
My husband and I raised a seemingly happy, healthy, and talented son, who flourished throughout his childhood until his freshman year of college. Beneath his tall, handsome, athletic, easy-going exterior was constant emotional turmoil. To everyone else, he was called the “golden boy” and it seemed like he had it all, but inside he was struggling with crippling swings of anxiety and depression.
I encourage everyone to talk about mental health. Tell your family, your friends, your therapist, your doctor. Tell them exactly how it feels. If they’re really there for you, they’ll listen. If not, it’s good practice for you. They’ll never know you the way you know you if you don’t talk about it. Living with stigma is a lonely gig. Mental health is better. So talk about it.
Thank you doubters and gossipers. You watched me fall and doubted my ability to get back up. Perhaps you talked about me and told people I was crazy. Maybe you think that I should remain silent about my past journeys. I forgive you. Truthfully, I am grateful for your presence in my life. You have taught me that it is okay to be honest and have a strong voice.
I never aspired to be a mental health advocate. I’m an entrepreneur, a business guy, a creative type with an appreciation for the bottom line. If things don’t work, you fix them.
When one of my three beautiful children became sick with a mental illness, our family faced tremendous pain and confusion. Stigma kept our struggle private, fear kept us on heightened alert, and treatment options were hard to navigate. We were now on the front lines of mental illness, and experiencing stigma first hand.
I talk about mental health because stigma prevents too many people from seeking the help or support that they may need. At BC2M, we talk about this 365 days a year. And, each May, we talk about it with a wider audience reached through the increased media attention generated by Mental Health Awareness Month.
Changing the name will not undo years of prejudicial thinking. People living with schizophrenia will still feel the sting of the invisible apartheid. Authorities will still profile us as violent criminals, even when statistics prove otherwise. Society will continue to abandon their own over misunderstandings that have everything to do with the symptoms, and nothing to do with the word attached to the diagnosis.
Acceptance can happen at any time. But, when it doesn’t, it can be painful. Don’t let the ignorance of others impact your life. We all know the power we possess and the empathy of which we are capable. Use that power to focus on improving your own life and then the lives of others. I did, and now my life is good, even wonderful at times.