#WorldMentalHealthDay

Speak out. Open the conversation. Raise awareness. End the stigma.

As a mental health advocate, these are phrases I’m passionate about promoting.

The stigma surrounding mental illness remains strong. But it’s beginning to lessen, as more people talk about their challenges with a mental health condition.

Today, October 10, 2017, is the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day. The World Federation for Mental Health founded the day in 1992.

The theme for this year is Mental Health in the Workplace.

Our jobs require us to execute-2

When I heard what this year’s theme is, I immediately thought of the interaction between an employee and her employer that went viral earlier this year:

Madalyn:

Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.

The response from Ben Congleton, CEO Olark:

Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.

Mr. Congleton also said, “It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace. It is so easy to tell your teammates you are ‘not feeling well.’ Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about mental health issues.”

He’s right. It’s really hard to be open and honest when struggling with a mental health condition. But I believe it’s starting to get a little easier.

My daughter Mackenzie is 25 years old. She’s had issues with anxiety this past year. And she hasn’t felt alone. She told me, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe how many of my friends and people at work talk about having anxiety and depression. They take medication and go to therapy. It isn’t taboo to talk about it anymore.”

Thank goodness.

The World Federation for Mental Health makes these suggestions to improve the conversation about mental health at work:

Commit your team to do your best at being proactive in promoting:

  • Appreciation of employees and workers
  • Creating a supportive environment
  • Identification of early signs of burnout
  • Creating an organizational culture which reflects value systems and beliefs
  • Stress management
  • Building awareness and reducing stigma
  • Mental health wellness and providing support for employees who need it

Use #WorldMentalHealthDay to spread awareness.

The conversation about mental health is open. Let’s keep talking about it!

Mental health

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Lean on Me

We aren't meant to do this alone...

It’s been a hard week. I can’t wrap my head around the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I’m  thinking of my old high school friend who was killed. My heart breaks for her family.

Today I was listening to The Highway (a country music station) on SiriusXM and was moved by what they said. The whole crew of The Highway was in Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest Festival. They told their stories of that horrific night, how they hid under buses and ran for their lives. They were separated and it was hours before they knew they’d all survived.

A similar thread runs through each of their experiences. Kindness. A sense of community. Family. Strength. Love.

I’ll help you.

You’re not alone.

Come with me.

We can do this.

Hold on. Please hold on.

We’re in this world together. We hold each other up, we fight for each other.

No matter what you’re going through, there’s no shame in asking for help. There will be a time when someone else needs to lean on you for strength and encouragement.

We cannot get through this life alone. We aren’t meant to.

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Unbelievable Tragedy

Be grateful for every second Be grateful for every second of every day that you get to spend with the people you love. Life is so very precious. — Unknown Author

I woke up this morning to the news about the Las Vegas massacre. I was saddened and sickened. Senseless. Tragic and sad. I prayed for the people killed and injured. I prayed for their families.

My daughter said three of her friends were at that same country music festival, watching Jason Aldean perform, on Friday night. I was so grateful they weren’t there Sunday.

I never thought I’d actually know one of the victims.

I just found out through Facebook that a high school friend of mine died from gunshot wounds.

I haven’t seen my old friend in many years. We haven’t kept in touch. But I remember her smile and sparkling blue eyes. I know she was married and had a son and daughter. I know she loved scrapbooking and country music.

She and her beautiful daughter were together at the concert, spending precious time  before her daughter left to study abroad.

Then, in an instant, tragedy struck. Their lives changed forever.

My friend’s daughter was not injured. She was next to her mom when she passed away. I can’t even imagine what she, her brother, and their dad are going through.

A life taken much too soon.

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A Time So Very Tender

There's a

I can’t get a song out of my head — “Last Time for Everything” by Brad Paisley.

Last call, last chance

Last song, last dance

Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be

Yesterday I heard it and thought about all “the lasts.” The lyrics remind me how special each stage of life is, and how important it is not to take those moments for granted.

When my daughter Talee was in preschool, she brought home an adorable art project that brought tears to my eyes then, and even more-so now. Her little yellow handprints were painted on a green spongy mat. She decorated it with buttons and stickers, placed every which-way.

In the corner of her masterpiece is a poem that the teacher printed out:

Sometimes you get discouraged because I am so small

And always leave my fingerprints on furniture and walls.

But every day I’m growing up and soon I’ll be so tall,

that all those little fingerprints will be hard to recall.

So here’s one final handprint just so you can remember

Exactly how my fingers looked this year — a time so very tender.

When my girls were young, some days it felt like there was so much time before they grew up.

Boy, was I wrong.

The years have flown by, and now my daughters are independent young women, working and living away from home. Sure, they still need me. But it’s different.

These days-1

I’ve been thinking about the “lasts” in life:

Last lullaby sung at 3am.

Last day of Kindergarten.

Last Back-to-School Night.

Last high school basketball game.

Last college Parent’s Weekend.

Last day before getting married.

Last Christmas at my childhood home.

Last snuggles with my dog.

Last kisses.

Last “I love you’s.”

Last goodbyes.

There are many lasts.

But — there are also a lot of firsts.

Today

First step.

First time riding a bike.

First day of school.

First soccer game.

First date.

First day of a new job.

First day being a fiancee.

First day in a new home.

First time hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

First time holding your baby.

These experiences — both firsts and lasts — are crucial parts of life. Some are good, and some bad. But all are meant to be treasured, and stay in our hearts and memories forever.

Those firsts and lasts are part of what makes us, us.

Nothing can be sadder

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Sharing My Birthday with Our Nation’s Tragedy

On my 37th birthday, I woke up to the horrific news.

My husband’s assistant called us early. She wanted to make sure we were watching TV. We turned it on and couldn’t believe what we saw. An airplane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. WHAT? How is that possible? And then the second plane.

A friend stopped by to pick up my girls and drive them to school. She was bubbly, wondering how my morning was going. Obviously she hadn’t heard.

The rest of the day is a blur, yet crystal clear.

My husband took me out for my birthday lunch. It was hard to eat. The events unfolding made me feel anxious and sick. The last thing I felt was happy.

It didn’t make sense. Our country, under attack by terrorists. I’d never dreamed that was possible.

I spent the afternoon at my friend’s house with our kids. We watched TV in disbelief. She made me a little cake. I felt like I shouldn’t enjoy it.

This is not a day to celebrate.

My husband, daughters, and I went to my parent’s house for dinner. They tried to make it special. None of us felt festive.

I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling I’d had since that morning. Like someone broke into our home, ripped it to shreds, and took everything that mattered. I felt invaded, shocked, terrorized. Of course, on a far greater level.

9/11. For 36 years, my birthday was simply, 9/11. Now those numbers mean so much more.

When I tell people when my birthday is, some give me a look as if to say, Oh no, I”m so sorry. Someone suggested I celebrate my half birthday instead. I couldn’t do that. September 11 is the day I was born, and I can’t change it.

Now I share my special day with everyone, in remembrance of what we lost. But also the strength of who we are.

Every year on my birthday, the first thing I do is reflect on the events of that heart-wrenching day. I think about the people in those airplanes and buildings, and how terrified they must’ve been. And the first responders who sacrificed their lives  with the hope of saving others. I pray for the thousands of beautiful souls who lost their lives, and for their families who still grieve.

9/11 is not only a reminder of how the world changed for millions of people, here and abroad.

It’s also a reminder that our lives can change in an instant. Treasure our loved ones, hold them a little closer. Celebrate them, and celebrate life.

That’s what I’ll be doing today. Spending time with my family, thanking God for this beautiful, amazing, and precious life.

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A New Mindset

A few weeks ago, I watched a vlog by Danny at Dream Big, Dream Often that inspired me. I keep thinking about it and have been trying to incorporate it into my life. So I thought I’d share it here, in case you hadn’t seen it.

The main point is simple: Instead of focusing on what you need to stop doing, focus on what you need to start doing.

Danny said, “We don’t have to focus on quitting anything. Just keep doing enough of the right stuff and the negative will not have room in your life.”

The positive changes will eventually push out the negative behaviors.

It’s important to make a plan and stick to it. Here are some ideas:

Instead of Saying: 

  1. I have to stop eating junk food.
  2. I need to quit watching so much TV.
  3. I should spend less time on social media.
  4. I need to lose weight.
  5. I need to stop wasting money.

Say This, and Make a Positive Change: 

  1. I’ll add more fruits and veggies into my diet. Have blueberries, strawberries, or apples with my yogurt. Eat carrots and hummus at lunch with my sandwich. Make broccoli or grilled zucchini and peppers with my chicken at dinner.
  2. I’m going to read more. Go to the bookstore and browse for a good book or magazine.
  3. I’ll call a friend. Make plans to meet for coffee or lunch.
  4. I’m going to take a walk every day. Can be short or long, just get out and do it. Wear my Fitbit or pedometer to count my steps.
  5. I’ll make my lunch two or three days a week. Make my own iced coffee.

These may or may not apply to you. But the idea remains the same. Add positive  behaviors to replace the negative ones.

Here’s the link to watch Danny’s vlog. Sign up on his YouTube channel for more inspiration!

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What I Never Expected When I Watched the VMAs

Sunday night my husband, daughter, and I tuned in to MTV’s Video Music Awards. It was fun to watch Katy Perry, Pink, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus perform. I love to see what everyone is  wearing and their hair and makeup.

Later in the show, I didn’t expect it to take a serious and emotional turn — advocating for mental health awareness.

I never thought the VMAs would take my breath away.

It started when Kesha spoke. She said, “Whatever you are going through, however dark it may seem, there is an undeniable truth and strength in the fact that you are not alone. We all have struggles, and as long as you never give up on yourself, light will break through the darkness.”

Then she introduced a rapper named Logic. I have to admit, I didn’t know of him, but of course my 22-year-old daughter did. Logic was joined by singers Alessia Cara and Khalid.

The song is titled “1-800-273-8255.” The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The stage was covered with the phone number. Logic sang his heart-wrenching lyrics with so much intensity, I was in awe. So were many others. Cameras scanned the crowd, and showed people tearing up as they watched and listened.

That wasn’t all.

Dozens of suicide attempt survivors went onstage. They wore t-shirts that had the suicide hotline number on the front. On the back, the shirts read, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”

One of the survivors broke down and cried as she heard the powerful lyrics:

I know where you been, where you are, where you goin’

I know you’re the reason I believe in life

What’s the day without a little night?

I’m just tryna shed a little light

It can be hard

It can be so hard

But you gotta live right now

You got everything to give right now

The message of hope and the importance of reaching out for help was heard by millions of people around the world.  Another step toward ending the stigma.

I want you to be alive

You don’t gotta die today

You are not alone

I was inspired by Logic’s speech after his performance:

“I just want to take a moment right now and thank you all so much for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about,” he said. “Mental health, anxiety, suicide, depression and so much more that I talk about on this album.”

MTV released a statement that said Logic’s passionate performance “helped drive a 50% spike in call volume to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the hours following the show.”

Thank you, Logic. Thank you for speaking out.

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