Providing Hope and Truths for our Community
By Gina Heroux, Spurwink Link Coordinator
I’ll start with a quote from Mr. Rogers:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
I came across an article recently about Mr. Rogers; it was a write-up about his career and some of his best quotes. A lot of his quotes can be relatable to our work in mental health, but this one in particular had stood out, as I thought about my work here at Spurwink.
I am one of the Link Coordinators, in the department responsible for handling incoming calls for referrals and inquiries about many of our services. These calls come from many sources: providers, family members, and the clients themselves. In order to help these people, I gather information and listen, as they express their concerns and needs.
As callers do this, they need to tell me about where their emotional states lie in the current moment. The most moving calls have come from clients and their families, who while in the trenches of their current experience, have expressed their pain, confusion, fear, and hope. People call Spurwink out of hope.
By now, I have experienced countless moments such as these, and I have listened to just about every scenario that encompasses the dynamics around the population that we serve, and the community that we serve. As a result, I’ve come to better understand Spurwink’s critical role within the community, as a leading provider of mental health and developmental services. You see, Spurwink is not just a mental health agency, it is an agency comprised of people from the same community; we are not separated from those that we serve.
Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness have documented that approximately one out of five individuals (20 percent) have a diagnosable mental illness in any given year-inclusive of everything from depression, anxiety and PTSD, to addiction, personality disorder, bipolar disorder or ADHD, just to name a few. Spurwink staff are not immune to some of the same human struggles, just because we work in the field. So in general terms that means that in any given year, about one in five (or 200 out of 1000) Spurwink employees—ranging from entry level to senior leadership—also have a diagnosable mental health condition. Those statistics can also apply to the diagnoses of our husbands, wives, parents, children or friends: One out of five of our family members or friends also have a mental health diagnosis in any given year. Developmental diagnoses such as autism or learning disabilities are under a separate statistic, but they also relate to the point being made.
Many of us work in this field because there is something about mental or behavioral health that hits close to home; we have in some way lived through similar circumstances and dynamics. We are the products of our own experience; we understand the challenges first hand, and we are driven to help others with the tools and resources within our reach — to share.
We also tell you this because change does not happen though silence. The stigmas and discrimination surrounding mental illness cannot be eradicated if the very entities charged with empowering communities are silent themselves. This is not to say that we become open books in the workplace, but within our professional roles, we can at least admit that a gold-plated book cover is misleading and serves no honest purpose; many of us have torn or tattered pages within the book of our lives.
Even with torn pages, we are here in service to you and your families. We are here in service to a better future, where mental health is improved because of safe and honest dialogue in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. We are here to empower others, and to offer hope.
Back to that powerful quote from Mr. Rogers. Our feelings (or our truths) hold so much potential when shared with others. There is no way to know for sure what the outcome will be, but positive change cannot happen when our truths around mental health remain silenced or stigmatized within any segment of our communities. Lasting positive change may take a while, but our truths are the seeds, and future generations will benefit from those of us-who have cared enough to plant.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” – Fred Rogers