Entertaining a Conversation about Mental Health

By Carol Harnett, President of the Council for Disability Awareness

My nine-year-old nephew had a conversation with my sister last summer.

“Momma, I’m happy on the outside, but I’m sad on the inside,” he shared. “Is there someone I can talk with about that?”

Gavin had every right to feel sadness. His father accepted a job 700 miles away for what he explained was “a great opportunity” – even though his dad already had a wonderful position where they lived. My nephew understood the definition of the word, opportunity, but not in the context his father used. Was the job change his dad’s opportunity to move away from him?

After navigating months of largely interacting with his father via FaceTime, and missing his presence at school events and basketball games, I’m incredibly grateful Gavin found the words to express how he felt.

After a few sessions with a recommended child therapist, he and the counselor pronounced that Gavin was back to his normal personality—inside and out.

I hadn’t thought about this story until I recently watched a video of the Duke of Cambridge speaking with a woman whose husband committed suicide. She worried whether her young son would recover from their shared loss. Prince William reassured her they would both survive and thrive because of her willingness to talk about what happened and how it made them feel.

You may wonder why I chose to share a personal story with you about mental health. I believed it was important, because it seems there are at least two things missing from our industry’s reflection on psychological and psychiatric challenges: (1) awareness that mental health is often the hub about which illnesses, injuries, and surgeries that place people out of work revolve, and (2) conversations about mental health through our own experiences rarely, if ever, happen. Instead, we are much more comfortable sharing our claimants’ stories and considering data, statistics and trends regarding this topic.

It turns out, however, that conversation is at the heart of recent efforts to both prevent and treat the growing trend of mental health issues. On March 30, the World Health Organization announced depression was the “leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide,” and that more than 300 million people are now living with depression (an increase of more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015). WHO’s motto for its year-long campaign regarding this statistic is: “Depression: let’s talk.”

Heads Together, the public awareness campaign championed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry encourages “simple conversations” in the hopes of ending the stigma around mental health. So, too, the American actress, Glenn Close, founded Bring Change to Mind to encourage dialogue about mental health, and raise awareness, understanding, and empathy.

My commitment during Mental Health Awareness Week is to continue to have personal conversations about mental health. My challenge to you is to do the same for the sake of the good health of the people of our two countries.

The Council for Disability Awareness, based in the U.S., is both a business league of companies working in and around income protection products and services, and a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people who work about the importance of insuring their incomes from injuries and illnesses.

Last updated 11/05/2017