My interest in the Break the Silence project stems from my belief that mental health should be as open and easy to discuss as any other thing that can be seen or not. If we can talk about mental health and stop pretending that it doesn’t exist. It would be easier to research treatment, if in fact treatment is what is necessary. Stopping the pretense would expand our little narrow world into a revolutionary place where we all could really live.
Maybe we who are calling the behavior of our brother or sister sick or weird or wrong are the ones who need to stop making others uncomfortable because we are uncomfortable. What if we let someone who was clearly suffering from mental illness live in our home? We would get to hear stories and make connections, forge bonds and facilitate communication. I believe if you get to know a person, if you have some idea of what makes them tick you are kinder to them.
I have had the opportunity to get to know some spectacular people from all walks of life who are touched by serious mental health issues like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Their stories of finding a place in their schools, communities, and society in general have inspired me to do what comes natural to me; ask questions, get people to talk about themselves. We are our brothers and sisters’ keepers so in order to know our brothers and sisters we must open our hearts and minds to something outside of our comfort zone.
I worked in an office where a man came in with other co-workers on a weekly basis. After a year or so I became close friends with him. He always found a way to make me laugh. I got to know his wife and family. I was invited to his mother’s home for big dinners. We became friends.
It breaks my heart to remember that once he made me afraid and uncomfortable because he took medication for his mental illness. That made me uncomfortable because I didn’t know what I was looking at. If I hadn’t broken my prejudice I would have never gotten to know this kind, gentle man with a big heart a great sense of humor.
In order to realize that we all have something in common we must communicate. It is cruel and stupid in my opinion to stigmatize a whole group of people because they are different. So let’s put some light on it. Get it out into the sun so we can see that there is nothing to be afraid of. Let’s talk.