Opening Up About Mental Health
Getting the Conversation Started!
Karen and Jay invite us to open up and begin a conversation on mental health
It’s a difficult topic. But so very important that we begin a conversation on mental health. As we emerge from a full year of dealing with the pandemic, we are only now beginning to see the full impact these past months have had on our collective mental health as a nation. The signs are deeply troubling. Widespread feelings of loneliness and isolation – causing depression, anxiety and more. It’s against this backdrop that we need to get the topic of mental health out into the open. And, if there is one small silver lining from the pandemic, it may well be that it will now give us all license to address a topic that has been taboo for far too long.
Last year, as the world began to come to grips with the reality of the COVID-19 virus, it was hard to imagine at the time that we’d still be in the midst of a pandemic one year later. None of us knew what would happen or what to expect, only that we’d have to take things day by day and adapt to our new reality as best as possible. You’d be excused if the past year of social distancing, limited travel, and working from home has taken a mental toll on you. Even more essential though, it’s important to know that you’re not alone if it has.
Having lost much of the structure that we had in our lives almost instantaneously, these vast changes have made an impact on our overall mental health in unimaginable ways. Over the past year, 75 percent of Americans have reported struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic. It’s a silent consequence that rarely makes news cycles yet affects millions across the country daily. Even prior to the pandemic, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 5 Americans struggled with a mental illness. What’s needed now, more than ever is compassion through conversation.
Conversations about mental health are hardly something any of us enjoy or know how to have comfortably. Often, it’s looked down upon to discuss how we’re feeling, yet at a time when so many are struggling, it is so imperative. Whether you’ve struggled with mental health challenges in the past or are experiencing for the first time, being able to open up to others is an extraordinary first step towards managing, and hopefully healing our mental trauma. The reality too is that there’s no rule book either, the most important first step is recognizing that we’re struggling and seeking trusted help as a result. You’d be surprised where you might find a sympathetic ear. It’s important we too recognize the enormity of this opportunity, to normalize these kinds of conversations and remove antiquated stigmas that surround mental health, well after the pandemic has passed. When we look back years later, it may just be yet another silver lining of these unprecedented times.
Springing Back to Normal – The Shamrock Shuffle
In a sign of the times and maybe even a hint of the world returning to normal is the arrival of the Shamrock Shuffle in Manchester! St. Patrick’s Day and the festivities have always been a big deal for Manchester’s downtown. Last year, they were cut short as the this also marked the beginning for COVID protocols. Restaurants and bars were devastated as many had already ordered their St. Patty’s Day green beers and corned beef and cabbage. But this year, we are headed back to normal, so the beers will be poured, the corned beef eaten, and the races will be run.
As you may know, I am an avid runner and big fan of the sport. I have written about its many benefits – especially how running helps provide a quiet time to think and of course exercise. I cannot think of a better way to mark the beginning of the end of the COVID pandemic than with an in-person race (they have virtual too!). The Shamrock Shuffle is a wonderful 2 miles long, mostly flat, walk/run. OK, maybe it is not that taxing, but it is certainly a lot of fun and more importantly will be the first major event in downtown Manchester in over a year. So, let’s hear it for the return to normal and the return of the Shuffle!
Elm Street House of Pizza - Nostalgia 101
Since the start of the pandemic, 110,000 eating and drinking establishments have either closed permanently or temporarily, with nearly $250 billion having been lost in the restaurant and foodservice industry. Even more shocking is that the shutdowns have also meant nearly 2.5 million restaurant jobs have been lost. To put this into perspective, that’s almost the entire populations of Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire combined.
But as many of you may know, I always try to look for the positive, even in difficult times, and share that no matter what, obstacles can be overcome. That’s why it’s important to highlight the story of the Elm Street House of Pizza located in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire.
On March 14, 2021, Elm Street Pizza opened its doors to the public. Today, on the site of the iconic Theo’s Restaurant, Elm Street Pizza is defying the odds.
The Old Theo’s Restaurant was owned by Alderman Joe Kelly Levassuer. For those who don't know Joe, he is a passionate ‘doer.’ A Manchester native born and raised, everything Joe has, he has earned. He is a successful attorney, an established businessman, and dedicated public servant. As a child, Joe and his family would spend special moments and milestones at Theo’s. It was a place that forever stayed in his heart, so he purchased it. Joe's a preserver of nostalgia and an icon in the city of Manchester. The building he owns is now operated by another successful restaurant individual, friend of the community, and 2nd generation public servant, Tim Baines.
Tim operates Mint Bistro in downtown Manchester. He served a single term as downtown Manchester Alderman, a seat once held by Joe Kelly Levassuer, Like Joe, Tim fought hard for the downtown and for small business owners. Tim comes from a family of public servants. His dad was a high school principal in Manchester and later served 3 terms as Mayor of the Queen City. Fun little tidbit, Joe Levassuer and Tim’s dad ran against each other for Mayor and were sometimes at odds. But Mayor Baines and his family would frequent Theo’s and the commitment to a better Manchester grew a bond between the two families that holds true today.
You see, I wanted to share this story not only because I would love for you to visit a really cool restaurant, but I wanted to tell you a story about coming together, defying the odds, and making it happen. The two families were once at odds but always wanted what was best for the city. Tim Baines knew the odds and said let's bring back a memory that thrived for years – a restaurant on the site of today’s Elm Street House of Pizza. And even though 110,000 restaurant and eateries have had to close their doors, Tim Baines has opened not one, but two restaurants. He's creating jobs, he’s stimulating the economy, he’s making a difference.
Want to be inspired? Want to know that we can accomplish anything. Look at Elm Street House of Pizza, and of course get some food! Karen and I can’t wait to check it out during our next swing into Manchester. Congrats Tim! We are all so inspired by what you have done and Thank you Joe for always standing up for preservation, commitment, and community.
Positive Profile of the Week: Justice John Broderick
This week we highlight a true leader. A man who has embraced the mission to address the mental health crisis in our midst and is working tirelessly to make a real difference. Former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court John Broderick.
While serving on the Court, John’s family experienced the effects of mental health challenges first-hand, involving a very difficult situation with his son. Yet, through this trying experience, he and his family were quite open and sharing, leading by example to show us that it’s okay to talk about it and not hide it. As a result, John has made it his mission to educate the public about the challenges and remedies for mental health illnesses.
John has taken on the role as the Senior Director of External Affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and is leading an effort called REACT, a campaign to educate people on the signs of mental illness and how to help (themselves or someone else), in an effort to end the social stigma of mental illness.
In particular, he has taken his message to our schools. In fact, John has now spoken to students in states across New England and has addressed close to 100,000 students and adults. He carries cards outlining five signs of mental illness everywhere he goes - teaching people about mental illness and spreading the 5 Signs campaign. He wants to change the mindset surrounding mental health but more importantly share his story so that people can be educated and learn how someone is affected by mental health and what we can do to help those who may be suffering.
As John has said: “It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to have tough days. But I implore everyone to reach out and check in on one another. A simple gesture goes along way and a deterrent down a road of dark days. We can overcome anything if we do it together.” As John has shown, it just takes a little empathy and education.
Thank you, John, for your leadership and great work on this incredibly important public health issue.
Quotes of the Week: Mental Health
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals, but their families as well.”
“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It's the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.”
“Together with open conversations and greater understanding, we can ensure that attitudes for mental health change and children receive the support they deserve.”
“Mental health is often missing from public health debates even though it's critical to wellbeing.”
“Mental health is an area where people are embarrassed. They don't want to talk about it because somehow they feel they're a failure as a parent or, you know, they're embarrassed for their child or they want to protect their child, lots of very good reasons, but mental health, I feel, is something that you have to talk about.”
“Mental health can be just as important as physical health - and major depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses.”