Why is it important to talk about mental health?
Well, unfortunately in 2018 my sister took her life. As a result, it became important to me that people know how critical it is to take care of your mental health as much as your physical health. Removing the stigma around mental health so people don’t feel embarrassed for getting help. It is important to openly talk about issues and feel good that way when someone needs a tune up so to speak, they have access to get the assistance they need. I think sometimes individuals may not know where to go for available resources when they feel depressed, dealing with a death in the family, the pressures of work or life in general. In the past there may have been some shame or embarrassment associated with getting help and that shouldn't be how it's viewed. Because of what happened to my sister, suicide prevention is important to me. Sadly, suicide has been on the rise for many years across all age groups. The result of that act is so devastating and has a ripple effect that is far reaching beyond the person who took their life. By removing the stigma and openly talking about the importance of mental health and making resources available, we can prevent individuals from contemplating taking an irreversible action and give them hope. That's why I want to be involved in speaking openly about mental health.
How has your personal experience with mental health affected the way you speak about and view the discussion around mental health?
When you have an event take place in your life like I did with my sister, you can’t deny the importance of speaking about mental health. I don't think that it was something that before I had really actively thought about. However, with how much has gone in our society over the last three years with COVID and the stresses on everyone from children to parents to grandparents, it’s more important than ever for it to be openly discussed and for people to know that it's okay. Like I said before, your mental health checkup is just as important as going to get your annual physical. It does not have to be an uncomfortable topic and when I openly discuss it, my hope is that it becomes less uncomfortable for others.
How has the conversation around mental health evolved from generation to generation?
In my career I have been in many leadership positions, and I have seen a difference in the various generations of employees. It seems that for the younger employees they speak more openly, whereas the older employees do not. From a generational perspective, my real concern are the school age children. The kids that were shut out for two years in school because of COVID, and don’t necessarily know how to deal with it. Now, they come back into an environment where they have to deal with life. If you think about kindergarten-aged kids, they would have been going into third grade or second grade when they were able to go back to school. They had yet to develop social skills like making or choosing friends as an example. Suddenly it's all forced upon them, and I think that's just really tough for them. Even the population of young adults who graduated from high school or college and were entering the workforce during COVID. For many of them, they may have never been in an office environment or met their boss or coworkers in person because they've always been working remote. Now they have to adapt and face the challenge of learning those communication skills or the social office skills. COVID has created a very unfortunate environment from a mental health perspective.
How do you personally work on maintaining your mental health?
My wife and I go to the gym and work out every day. Staying physically healthy is a big thing. I try to wake up in the morning and have a positive outlook on the day. You know, making the choice to be positive and include people around you that are positive influences. My faith is also really important to me and I thank God for each new day. I work to keep things simple and uncomplicated.
What is your hope for the future of the conversation and stigma around mental health?
My hope is that the discussion around mental health is more accepted in society, that more resources are readily available, and that people don't see it as out of the ordinary to go see someone for some help.