It is Mental Health Week here in Canada this week. I have done two big things. Firstly, I joined a blogging challenge. I have said I will write one post a week for the month of May. Since it has been nearly a year since the last post, this might be a challenge.
The other thing I did was to put on a lunch and learn at work this week. I recently joined an organization, through work, of people who will share their lived experience with mental illness. I did just this on Thursday this week. It is the 4th time I have done this, although the first time where I opened it up to anyone in the organization who wanted to come. I had about 30 people altogether, including my boss, his boss, her boss and his boss. Basically my direct line to the Chief Operating Officer (who was there). Amazing.
All of the times I have given my talk, the same thing has happened and it is so cool. When I am done talking, I through it open to the audience for questions and comments... and every time people have talked. Some about their own experience, some asking questions to try to find ways to help, either in their personal or professional lives. I basically talk for 1/2 hour and then listen for 1/2 hour.
Someone who heard me talk the first time said she hoped I knew what I am was doing with these talks. Her message is that I am giving people permission to talk by being vulnerable myself in the first place. It's true. And always the "me too" from one or more people in the audience, either publicly or just to me. Either way, they are talking about it. After I give my talk, I get lots of bravos, which is nice. The main reward for me though is watching other people get out of their silence. I have started saying that if you want to get a good feel for the mental health of an organization, ask the people who are most vocal about it. I know an awful lot of information about this. (Of course I would never tell other peoples' stories).
Stigma certainly still exists in places. I am so thankful to be able to do something concrete to break it down in the places I have influence.