While I was doing research online for my blog, I discovered quite a few organizations that were established specifically to speak to the issue that is so near and dear to my heart. GET RID OF THE STIGMA THAT SURROUNDS MENTAL HEALTH DISEASE. There are more advocates speaking up about that stigma than I ever imagined, and I happily read their websites for hours, truly excited about finding this treasure trove of validation.
Brandon Marshall, in conjunction with his wife Michi, started Project 375, an organization whose sole purpose is to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health illness. Marshall himself had shown signs of erratic behavior, but thought he needed to tough it out and remain stoic in the face of his problems. That stoicism was not working. In 2011, Marshall, a highly respected NFL wide receiver, had a decision to make. Either get the help he needed for his erratic behavior, or Michi was leaving. Devastated by the possibility of losing his wife, Marshall checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, and there he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. He spent the next three months at the hospital getting therapy, during which time Marshall realized that being stoic was not the same as being strong. Instead, he found that it took strength and courage to own his illness and get the help that he desperately needed. After a period in therapy, his personal and professional life began to stabilize. As a result of the progress that Michi witnessed, Michi and Brandon reunited. Marshall and Michi now speak out about his disease, their journey, and the mission of Project 375 to eradicate the stigma of mental health disease and disorders. Project 375 is making a particular effort to reach out to the male population that is resistant to owning any mental health issues. Through their programs, Brandon and Michi are trying to educate men to understand that it takes strength, not weakness, to seek the help needed to learn how to live with a mental health disorder. I was very impressed with this organization and its goal of promoting healing through understanding, and promoting the principle of speaking out and speaking up – of coming out of that old stuffy closet.
BC2M (Bring Change 2 Mind), started by Glenn Close, a well-known actress, has a similar mission aimed at erasing the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Close was spurred on by the fact that her sister and nephew live with Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia respectively. She wanted to understand their situations better, and then she wanted to help others understand people who are effected by mental illness. The organization’s position is that mental illness is a disease like any other disease, and there should be no stigma attached to living with any disease. “Start the conversation. End the stigma” is the phrase that greets you when you click on Programs on their website. It is a wonderful, strong statement, clearly reflecting BC2M’s goals. The website is replete with information about a variety of mental health diseases, how and where to get help, fact vs. fiction, and a terrific reading list. Additionally, BC2M partners with other organizations that have similar missions, and produces a series of Public Service Announcements featuring people living with mental health diseases who encourage others to get the help they need if they are experiencing erratic behavior. The PSAs are distributed through all media channels, i.e., television, cable, social media, and print, as well as being available for use at community events, conferences, educational events, and as the site says, “wherever a conversation needs to begin.”
The information and support that is available online to anyone and everyone who is impacted by or has a loved one who is impacted by a mental health disorder is plentiful and amazing. I hope that all who read this entry will find a path that helps in their own journey.