In the first part of this topic, I shared how several well-known celebrities, writers, and athletes have taken bold stances to share what they are dealing with with their own mental health and their decision to go public and to share, help society. big eliminate stigma. A variety of positive aspects come to the fore when people speak from their vulnerable hearts. Awareness remains high on this list.
Elizabeth Vargas, an ABC news anchor introduced on 20/20, shared in Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction how her troubles began as an Army child. When her father shipped to Vietnam, the panic for Vargas began at the age of six, and unfortunately also the news that she was to be kept under lock and key and not to tell anyone about it.
Between breaths of Elizabeth Vargas
Source: Grand Central Publishing / With permission
In her memoir, Vargas poignantly reveals how a lack of anxiety treatment coupled with alcohol’s poor coping mechanism began her disentanglement when she took to the world stage as a television reporter. In a clear blue Manhattan sky, she writes, the puffy eyes, trembling hands and dry mouth that they experienced on September 11th could not be attributed to planes spinning into skyscrapers. She was hangover after a dinner party in town. Panicked because her parents had a flight from JFK to San Francisco that morning, she forced herself to drink, concentrate, put on clothes, and find out if they were safe. She ran to the ABC studios to help with reporting and relieve Peter Jennings at the anchor counter.
Predictably, their addiction affected their marriage and family. During a group therapy in one of several rehab stays, she said goodbye to the Chardonnay. She would have preferred to keep her illness private if a tabloid had not been willing to publicize the reason for her absence. At this point, Vargas got in touch and selected her Good Morning America co-host, George Stephanopoulos, to interview her as she revealed it all.
No one is ever cured of alcoholism, she writes. It is a choice to be present in every moment, to be aware of your recovery and never to take sobriety for granted.
Craig Melvin, a co-host on NBC’s TODAY, shared on POPS what it was like to grow up as a child with a parent’s addiction: learning to be a son and a father. Raised in South Carolina, Melvin shares how his father’s drinking got out of hand, caused emotional disruption, and how the two years later reconciled.
In A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Adddicts, Patrick J. Kennedy (co-authored by Stephen Fried) talks about life as Kennedy, the fear brought about by the son of the only living Kennedy brother, and how he put heavy medication to numb the pain of a college back injury.
This former congressman has so much history to offer, but his courage to break the Kennedy code of silence is most admirable. He discusses with rare candor the family tragedies and post-traumatic stress that led family members to alcoholism. He fought against bipolar disorder and drug addiction. The hard-won awareness caused him to seek treatment. Patrick Kennedy’s years of recovery later enabled him to help other known people through the addiction.
A joint fight between Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Friedd
Source: Blue Rider Press / With permission
He wrote about an aunt’s developmental disorder (Rosemary Kennedy) and mentioned Eunice Shriver’s commitment to helping this underserved group. His text offers a history of federal legislative and social endeavors how his Aunt Eunice started the Special Olympics.
In some ways, it was like a genogram of mental health lobbying that ultimately helped Patrick Kennedy chart a mental health parity and team up with members across the aisle to pass laws. It became an even bigger reality with the Affordable Care Act that made it illegal to cover mental illness, addiction, and intellectual disabilities other than other medical or pre-existing conditions.
After leaving Congress in 2010, Kennedy became a mental health attorney. The following year, he worked with Shari and Garen Staglin to create One Mind to advance brain disease research, and in 2013 founded the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral medicine nonprofit.
Put money into the mission
Like Kennedy, 2010 got another well-known public figure to start a nonprofit. Actress Glenn Close founded Bring Change to Mind to continue activism inspired by family members – a sister and nephew diagnosed with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder.
Bring Change to Mind, aware of the stigma that still exists, and cultivate relationships with others in the community – business, media, and others – to raise awareness. Their website has a unique conversation tool and explains how to get involved.
Close shared their family’s inspiration and stories with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry on their Apple TV series titled The Me You Can’t See, which is worth a monthly subscription to watch all the carefully researched rates.
The focus on what happened, not what is wrong
The Apple TV series makes the very important difference that the stigma persists and that one reason is the unsubstantiated notion that something is or is wrong with a person struggling with mental illness or even various anxiety and depressive moods . ‘Who of us is not affected?’ They ask.
This distinction is so telling and profound that Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D. wrote a book entitled What Happened To You: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing. When introducing this project, Winfrey says she was “beaten” if she spilled water, broke something, or couldn’t sit still as a child. These beatings she was subjected to made her a Fallen for much of her adult life.
Bruce Perry was invited to Washington, DC, by Winfrey, who had convened experts in child abuse and trauma. Her book describes a lot about how we are all loved, how we understand the world we are brought into, how we connect the dots, hunger for relationships that work, cope with dysfunctional relationships, and heal. The authors make the fundamental change of perspective clear, not “What’s wrong with you?” But “what happened to you?” Quite simply, the book is for all of us.