Saturday, April 20, 2013

End the Stigma Workshop

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

On Monday the MHWTC hosted an End the Stigma Workshop. It was an important night of education and inspiration with a goal of raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Club members shared profoundly touching and deeply inspiring personal stories, a panel of experts in the mental health field provided information and answered our questions on mental health issues, and local resources were provided.
My friend Alicia was one of our members who worked very hard to make this night such a success. She is also one of my blogging inspirations. You have to check out her blog- she is a pro! 

I was asked if I would be willing to share my story when we were discussing the topic of suicide. At first I thought no way- I haven't even talked to my closest family members and friends about some of my thoughts and feelings surrounding my dad's death. But then I had a familiar feeling creep up. It was the feeling I had the days and months after my dad's death when I thought about how awful I felt that I did not speak up when I knew he was in a terrible place. Regret is a slippery slope. Most people are quick to say that you should have no regrets in your life. I agree to an extent. Do I know that it was not my fault that my dad committed suicide, and do I know I could not have stopped it? Now- yes I do. However, knowing what I now know, would I have done things differently? Yes. I also want others in a similar situation to know what I would do differently. 

When preparing for the speech I started with my original My Biggest Fan post but since this forum was a perfect opportunity to reach out to others who may be dealing with some of the same issues I added a little bit. Here is an excerpt:

The last time I saw my dad I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong. When I looked at him, looking at me, there was emptiness in his eyes where there usually was unconditional love. I could see a heavy blanket of despair wrapped around him. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. That is something I regret. I was uncomfortable talking to my dad about depression, anxiety, and his thoughts of suicide. My advice to people in a similar situation is, speak up! Speak up about your feelings, even if it is just to say you are scared. Speak up to medical professionals by asking questions. Then ask more questions. Continue asking questions until you get a clear answer. There are so many people who devote their lives to helping others cope with mental illness. Did you know that the National Suicide Prevention hotline is not just for people in crisis? If you are concerned about a loved one they encourage you to call so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area. I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.

I knew that sharing my story was going to be extremely emotional. However, I was not prepared to be in tears before the speech because of the courageous stories the three women before me shared. I reminded myself of the quote a good friend shared with me earlier in the week. 
"Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something great will come of it."

After a hug and kiss from my mom, I walked up to the podium in tears already. Honestly, after that it was a total blur. I was able to get through my speech, and look up at so many encouraging faces a couple times. Afterwards, so many people approached me and thanked me for being so brave, and they shared their personal stories with me. I never considered myself brave and felt incredibly honored that others felt comfortable and safe sharing their stories with me. I could not hang around for long because it was such an emotional couple hours. I needed to take a deep breath and have a couple drinks (we are all human right)?! More about "all natural Stoli Doli's" later :)

In summary, it was one of the most important nights of my life. Thank-you to my mom, Milena, Jen, Caroline, and Talia for being there to support me. 

Alicia and Leanne worked so hard to make this night possible!

Two of our very knowledgeable panel members   


We did it!


  1. So happy for you! And so happy to be there to support you!!

  2. Hi Kate, You were absolutely incredible that night. Even though the vulnerability of your tears (and who looks that cute crying??? Not me!) was a poise, resolve, and deeply profound and well-articulated message. To stand there completely emotionally shattered and raw but do it with dignity, professionalism, strength and compassion left us all in awe. If I could describe one quality about you that night? Even in your pain, you were luminescent.

    Your story, your words, stayed with me for several days. I thought about you all day Tues morning... all that you and your family have been through and all your Dad must have gone through. The way you told the story, and create meaning from it to pass on to others is a gift. Some say things happen for a reason. I tend to think that sometimes that may be true, but sometimes shitty, unfair, unexplainable things just happen. It is up to each of US to take those times and make meaning from them - turn tragedy and pain into something, anything, good and positive. To create a ripple in this world. You did that - created a ripple that spread out across that room and each of us carry of piece of you, your dad, your story in our hearts forever. One day, Im certain, the telling of your story will help another. Maybe even save a life.

    You and the three other women who shared their stories are some of the bravest people I know. Thank you for doing this. If it were not for the four of you guys, the night would have been an average night - YOU guys did the hard work. YOU guys are ending the stigma. :)

    Thanks for the shout out to my blog btw. I am totally obsessed with both your blog and you :)
    x0x0x Alicia

  3. I so wish I could have been there. But reading this is seriously emotional too. I'm glad you were able to speak; and I am sure you will be an inspiration to many!