Question from a high school student after one of my presentations
I would not do what I do if I didn’t think it made a difference. I will admit, however, stripping mental illness of its taboo has been slow and my path has been riddled with rejection and push back. Carrying a 100-pound spiked ball uphill would be easier.
I have noticed been big changes since I’ve been involved with the topic since 2010. Back then, I was focused on that taboo surrounding youth mental illness and substance misuse/addiction. Suicide just wasn’t on my radar and we weren’t hearing about teen suicides as much back then. It was still a very rare occurrence.
In 2014, I wrote a bold article in our local paper about our family’s struggles. Charles was in boarding school in Utah and I needed to stop hiding because it was killing me. I figured he’d never see it. (He did but that’s another story for another time.) For a year, people would come up to me, thank me for writing the article and whispering that they, too were struggling with similar issues.
In those days, I was a regular speaker on the circuit for topics like, “Social Media on Steroids,” “Women Supporting Women in Business,” and other digital marketing topics. I co-owned a digital marketing business. But getting to present anywhere on mental health was a challenge. Rotary Clubs were the only place that would have an open-door policy on that topic and I’m forever grateful for that.
I think it’s the younger generation, the students at the high schools and colleges who will be the ones to spark that change. They’ll remove the taboo and already they see how ridiculous it is. For this to happen, all of us have to start talking about it openly and without shame. It will be a few at first, then more and then it will become the norm.
I see that happening already.
Back in 1974, my eclectic and exotic aunt from Baltimore invited me into her room to tell me behind closed doors that she had breast cancer. Back then you didn’t dare say the word “breast” in public. And definitely not breast cancer.
Today people run races with t-shirts that say, “Save the ta-tas.”
If it can happen for breast cancer, it can happen with mental illness.