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Ignore the Whispers…Start the Conversation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the post from yesterday because it impacted me greatly.  The idea that 1 in 6 Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness is astounding, and I’m a mental health professional.  The biggest problem and I’ve seen in it my own family, we don’t talk about problems like depression and bipolar disorder so they stay closeted, but the signs are there and medication is prescribed and still the whispers.  This doesn’t even take into account the genetic factor involved with any diagnosis.

The public service announcements outing mental health diagnoses is truly a piece of art.  The fact that they didn’t use actors but real people with a diagnosis and their family/friends/support persons shows there is support when we take the illnesses seriously and get the right treatment.  It always helps when you have star power behind the message and having Glenn and Jessie Close spearhead this campaign is amazing.  I encourage you to go to the website http://www.bringchange2mind.org and not only watch the public service announcement but the side interviews with Ron Howard the director and the “real” people in the public service announcement.

The bigger question and this applies to both physical illness and mental illness is how do we begin the conversations.  What if everyone in the world wore a t-shirt with the word(s) that signifies their own personal struggle.  There has to be some way to begin leveling the playing field so that conversations can begin and we don’t create a caste system based on how serious one’s diagnosis is, within the grand scheme of things.  We’re all “real” people and we have “real” problems.  Facing any health challenge whether it be physical or mental health related is serious.  We have to improve our filters when it comes to those who whisper behind our backs.  Unfortunately, I believe it’s on those of us with a challenge that have to initiate the conversations and that’s never easy.

Start small, you don’t have to do a public service announcements.  My personal example begins when I go out to dinner with friends/family.  We all sit down and people offer me wine or other alcohol and I refuse.  Their next question is often, “Are you in recovery?”  That’s my opening,  I explain that I have an auto-immune disease and the medication I take metabolizes in my liver and kidney and since I don’t want to add fuel to the fire I take my doctor’s recommendation and I don’t drink.  It’s been 17 years…if nothing else all my friends know they always have a designated driver. 

How will you start your conversation?  I think this public service announcement is the beginning of something beautiful!

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