May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m on a mission to challenge biases — conscious and unconscious.
It was the spring of 1983, my boyfriend, who later became my husband, shared some distressing news with me. His mother had just been hospitalized at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, MD.
“When are you going down to visit her?” I asked.
“My dad doesn’t want me to go,” he replied. (Years later I would learn that his dad thought he was protecting his son.)
“Would you visit your mom if she was hospitalized with a heart attack or breast cancer?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied.
“Would you visit your mom if she was hospitalized for a surgery?” I prodded.
“Of course,” he replied.
“Then why aren’t you going to hop in your car and visit her?” I argued.
The proverbial light bulb went off. He took time off from work and hopped in his car to visit his mom six hours away at NIMH.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. About four weeks after being discharged from the hospital she died by suicide.
Call to action
Please treat mental illness like any other disease. Visit your friend or loved one who is hospitalized or suffering at home. Send cards. Pick up the phone. Express your love. Listen with compassion.
Don’t remain silent. You need support, too. Tell your close friends, colleagues, and/or family if your spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, or other family member is suffering from mental illness, just as you would if he or she had a heart attack or were diagnosed with cancer. Of course, just as you would with any illness, ask their permission first.
Until we can both act and talk about mental illness like we do any other illness, we will never remove the stigma and get the support and compassion we all need to heal. Will you join me?
This post was originally written by Margaret H. Greenberg and titled, “What if We Treated Mental Illness like Any Other Illness?”, and first appeared on LinkedIn.” Margaret’s bio is impressive: “I am a writer, executive coach, speaker, workshop leader, and veteran entrepreneur who is so grateful that I get to do what I love every day. I get to coach amazing leaders, write about topics I care deeply about, and travel to interesting places giving talks and workshops at Google and other companies, associations, and universities around the world. I’m the co-author, with my dear friend and colleague Senia Maymin, of the Amazon best seller Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business (McGraw-Hill Professional) which is now available in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Last year our book was developed into a Certificate Program which is rated among the top 11 positive psychology courses you can take online. Both Senia and I graduated from the inaugural Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania more than a decade ago and are also the Positive Work columnists for Live Happy Magazine. I also occasionally write for Forbes Woman, Positive Psychology News, and the Association for Talent Development. My other LinkedIn blog posts can be found here. Please click “Follow” if you enjoy my posts and connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter @ProfitBook.”