The below was emailed to our “Crazy Crew” from Paul C Furtaw, PsyD Associate Director Counseling Services at Drexel University (who hosted the Mental Health event on campus , 3/6/18) is so touching, and shows – the power of getting in the trenches with personalities to open up vulnerably with REAL talk.
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“I feel fortunate that the weather held out long enough to allow for this funky amalgam of artistry, dialogue and ‘teach-in.’
While making an event like this come together is no small undertaking, I know that it is a game-changer in the long run. The one ‘out of college’ former athlete who spoke up at the end was indicative of the healing that can happen when we strike the right chords. I don’t know him or how he found his way to the event but by his own acknowledgment, he’s been a ‘walking wounded’ for years and was given permission last night to let go of a truckload of suffering that has obviously weighed heavily on him – never too late! The isolation is often worse than whatever specific mental health issue. He can move on now and figure out his stuff without feeling ashamed or less than since he knows it’s not just him, that we all have stuff. In my professional community, that’s called a ‘save,’ no different than the person yanked from the deep end of the pool on the verge of drowning. You guys made a save in dramatic fashion but then you also tilted the deck in favor of all the young adults hearing loud and clear that they don’t have to pay the wrong price to have a successful, satisfying life, that they don’t have to go underground with their stuff just to fit in or pass some perceived social scrutiny that decides whether they get admitted to or kicked out of the club they want to join in life, in this case, peak performers across art, music and sport.
There are not enough hours in the week for me to have provided 1:1 counseling to all those in attendance – intervention is always too little, too late compared to prevention…and yet in the several hours that we gathered together, it was clear that people universally felt less alone, more connected and dare I say it, more ‘normal’ or okay. Several different folks referenced community and connection as a pivotal component of mental health and overall wellbeing. While counselors can tell people to seek out connection and even run therapy groups to jumpstart connection, the event last night built connection organically and convincingly, it activated previously untapped nodes of connection, capitalizing not on money, smarts or fame, but instead the lowest common denominator – life is hard and we are all works in progress.
Music bypasses our defenses and turbocharges our openness to our emotions and our desire for affiliation. Stories of overcoming hardship and wrestling with our demons inspire others to embrace rather than run from our ‘stuff.’ People with outward achievement and talent and tangible success who ‘come clean’ about their own struggles have an inordinate influence on the rest of us because we look to those who have achieved visible, tangible excellence for our ideas of what is good, optimal, possible and worthwhile. You each gave us permission to not be perfect, to be ‘works in progress’ while still ‘going for it.’ And sure, there is a supporting cast role there for mental health professionals to join in solidarity to remind folks that we’re all on the same path, learning to be ourselves, on the good days and the not so good ones too, and that it’s ok to turn to coaches, guides, teachers, supporters, etc. to help us navigate the distance between our here and now selves and the persons we aspire to become ‘one day.’
I happen to believe that I’m a very effective and capable therapist who has been a difference maker for many young adults who have found their way to my office over the years. I don’t attach ego to that reality. Instead, I take satisfaction in it being my contribution to the good fight you all stood up for last night. However, even on my best weeks, the formal role I serve falls short of providing the most basic need we all have – to belong to a community that accepts us on our terms. Obviously, we all find that in different ways but what was occasioned last night was to insist that everyone can find that belonging despite the lie that anxiety and depression tell us that we’re not entitled, can’t measure up, are too different in a million ways.
Some health complications repair and recover, others not so much, but we all need the salve of connection and universality – feeling normal by feeling not alone, not deviant, not uniquely dysfunctional. In reality, we’re all in the mix, in need of healing, a sense of purpose and meaning, a place to belong and be valued, and most of all an acceptance that we’re good enough as is, whatever we aspire to become one day.
You each created a wave that the folks in the room could ride on to a better place…looking forward to contributing my small part to keeping the wave going for all the other folks out there who need to hear the message and find their own peace of mind.”
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For more on our Global Mental Health Movement, check out: Programs and Initiatives here, or in the navigation bar.
For pieces of two of the performances last night, check out Darren Rovell on Instagram:
Luke James Shaffer performing “We’re All A Little Crazy”
Sydney Franklin performing a Song From Her Debut EP