For me, today sucks. Today marks two years since we lost Lynn. It’s just a tough time for me and those of us who were close to Lynn. Anniversaries are a time when the waves of grief crash hard.
I’m a bit of a mess today but with this being the 2nd anniversary of Lynn’s passing … I just feel I the need to “talk about it”. Given how we lost Lynn, I thought it would be appropriate to write about something I shared with my colleagues at work. At work we have an initiative that’s focused on employees’ personal health … it’s called Health Ahead. Now I think, often when we talk about health, we focus too narrowly on physical health and don’t put enough emphasis on mental health. So, I shared, from my perspective via an internal “blog” post, how important it is to focus on mental health. Here’s what I wrote …
“I’m proud to work for a company that puts an emphasis on the health and well-being of its employees as demonstrated by an initiative such as HealthAhead.
I want to take a few minutes to focus on an aspect of health that doesn’t get the emphasis that it should, mental health. I know from personal experience how incredibly important it is for us to take care of our mental health.
As many of you are aware, I lost my beautiful bride, Lynn, to suicide. June 15th will mark two years that after returning from a Caribbean vacation, she made the irrational choice to take her life. Lynn was so many things to so many people: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend, just to name a few. It’s hard to put into words how immense her loss is.
Let’s be honest, suicide is an uncomfortable subject. For me, talking about losing the love of my life in such a sudden and tragic way wasn’t something that I ever imagined I’d be doing. But from the very beginning, I made a choice to be very open, honest, and transparent … to talk about it.
There’s a stigma related to suicide and mental health illness, and there shouldn’t be. So, I’m talking about this to join the fight against suicide by raising awareness of this leading cause of death and the mental health issues that lead to it. I’m talking about suicide because I want to help people avoid going through the tragedy that my family and those who knew and loved Lynn have had to go through and continue to deal with.
Let’s look at some facts about mental illness to help put things in context … according to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a severe mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness
These statistics illustrate that mental illness is a big issue in our country. Furthermore, according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country and in the vast majority of suicides there’s an underlying diagnosable mental health condition at the root of it.
So again, I know it is a tough subject, but it’s real and I just wanted to reach out on a personal note to help raise awareness. I encourage you to increase your knowledge on these topics because the chances are either directly or indirectly you’ve been touched by suicide and/or mental health.
I also want to take this opportunity to say to you that if you’re struggling personally with depression, anxiety, or just not feeling “right” mentally, please know you are never alone and believe me it’s not hopeless. The first step towards feeling better is to speak to someone. So please, if you’re in a bad place talk to someone, seek professional help, make an appointment with your doctor or call our confidential Employee Assistance line. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness … it’s a sign of incredible strength.
How you can get involved …
As a way to get the word out and raise money for this cause, I’ve launched a blog, Lynn’s Love Story at lynnslovestory.com and started a non-profit (501c3) organization, Lynn’s Love Story Foundation.
If you’re interested in supporting the cause, you can donate directly to Lynn’s Love Story Foundation. I’m also hosting the 2nd Annual Lynn Hall Memorial Golf Tournament on July 3rd in Connecticut. Last year we raised close to $22,000 for suicide awareness and prevention. If you’d like to support the tournament, please see the attached flyer for information on how to get involved.”
Now, as I’ve said, I never envisioned myself being such a vocal advocate for suicide awareness and mental health issues … not a job I signed up for … but here I am. And as I said in my post to my colleagues … it’s an important subject to talk about. With that, I’ll wrap with an example of some feedback that I got from a work colleague on my post that illustrates how important this topic is and gives me motivation to keep “talking” about it.
We do not know each other, however I am a fellow employee in GE Power. I work at the Wilmington, NC facility. I wanted to reach out to you to say thank you very much for having the courage to share your story and advocate for help in the Mental Health community. I am tremendously sorry for the loss of your wife, just know that what you are doing without a doubt has a tremendous impact on others.
I also suffer from some mental health conditions. My issues are a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of my time in the military. It has been a long struggle for me being willing to open up about my issues and understanding their effects on myself and others. I concur with your statement regarding being “proud working for a company that puts an emphasis on health and wellness of its employees.”
As a fairly new employee to the company my issues became worse and my condition deteriorated to say the least. I asked for help and GE was quick to respond. Even without enough time in my position to receive full benefits, GE stepped up and gave me the help and time off I needed to recover. I am proud to say as I sit here and type this email to you, I have come a long way in my personal health journey as well as being an advocate myself with helping others with mental illnesses. The most positive impact came from a simple post on social media explaining my condition and the fact that I was going to submit to my needs and get help. Those who know me most understood how big of a step this was for me. Most of all the support I got was tremendous. I also received so many emails saying that my post and weekly follow-ups to that post had helped them with their issues whether it was seeking help or helping others.”
In short, I guess what I was trying to say was thank you soo much for your post. It helps me and it WILL help others to get past the stigma of mental health. It is not a weakness….It is a condition and can be treated.”