Helping To End The Stigma Around Mental Health By Talking About It

I’m super lucky. I get to work with many incredibly brave and insightful people. One of them is Chris Heivly who is now working at Techstars with me and a few others on a new set of products around the concept of startup communities.

May is mental health month. Jenny Lawton, Techstars COO, led off Techstars commitment to engaging with the post Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Health. Her call to action, before she goes on to talk about her experience with mental health issues, follows:

“May is Mental Health Awareness month and Techstars is driving to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Let’s open up the conversation around it and what it means to our community and industry.” 

Today, Chris went public with his story in the post That Time I Could Not Break My Depression. If you’ve never met Chris, he’s a gregarious, energetic, fully engaged entrepreneur who has had multiple successes. But, he has struggled with depression, as he says in the lead off of his story.

“None of that prior success prepared me for a moment in 2015 where the evil thoughts in my head had overtaken the rational startup brain.”

As I read his story, I was incredibly proud of him for being able to talk about it and provide leadership for others. Then I read Lance Powers (founder at Sigmend – Techstars Class 68) post The Vital Role of Community in Mental Health Support where he talks about his bipolar disorder.

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be writing a post discussing my Bipolar disorder for my friends, coworkers, and entire community to see, I wouldn’t have believed you. Thanks to the hard work of my local community in Boulder and Denver, I am not only comfortable writing this post, I am proud.”

Lance has two statements that encapsulate what I believe.

  1. “The problem is less about the disorder and more about the way we handle it.”
  2. “The one thing I know to be absolutely true is that a supportive community is vital to recovery.”

Lance points to Dave Mayer for paving the way for him to speak openly with the Mental Health in the Startup Realm panel Dave led at Boulder Startup Week 2016.

On Saturday, Amy and I participated in the annual BCH Foundation Gala which this year was in support of the BCH Foundation Mental Health Endowment. As part of it, we announced a lead gift for the new BCH Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion which will be used primarily for behavioral and mental health issues.

While more is coming on the work Amy and I are doing with BCH, for now, I’m going to end with the simple statement. I am incredibly appreciative and proud for all the insights, support, and bravery of all my colleagues and friends, around the issues of depression and mental health in general. Thank you.

Also published on Medium.

  • Billy Dalto

    Congrats for sharing this post. I don’t know about the startup environment, but one of my biggest disappointments in law school (there were many) was the dean’s approach when a classmate lost his struggle with depression and took his own life. They warn you that some students get sick or experience idiosyncratic (read: weird) medical problems due to the stress of law school. But they don’t say a peep about depression or mental health challenges. I suggested to the dean at a memorial for my fallen classmate that it may be a good opportunity to discuss mental health, suicide, and depression as a school. I was told that wasn’t possible because “who would want to send their kid here?” In some sense the dean was right: maybe consider a different school that doesn’t bury their head in the sand at mental health issues. I hope that institutions wake up to these issues and am glad that industry is once again driving positive change.

  • Prince Harry has made a big contribution in the UK along these lines. I’m no big fan of the royals, but hats off to him.

  • Pamela Herrmann

    My daughter is a nursing student and recently did her clinicals at a psych ward in a south Chicago hospital. A whole new world opened up to her in the best possible way. For her to see the full spectrum of people who are struggling – and to dig deep within herself to find an empathic connection was something I was very proud of. Thanks for the article on this Brad.

    • You should be proud – awesome of your daughter. Thanks for the note.

  • TedHoward

    We keep our medical lives a secret. This creates a strange illusion that everyone’s medical problems are rare. It’s a lie that creates mass insecurity and further secrecy. Everyone is lying by keeping their medical lives a secret. If as a society we could learn to let our medical treatments be more public, everyone would feel more secure confronting their potential medical issues.

  • Mark Nolte

    I am a member of The Stability Network- . We share our stories to inspire hope among those who struggle with mental health conditions and confidence among employers who might hire them. We are proof that you can recover and achieve stability – and that life and work can be better for it. Because of my past struggles with depression. It inspired me to start an online therapy company that makes it easier and more accessible for people to get the help they need with less stigma because it does not require them to go to a therapist office- . Would be interested in sharing my story to organization who might be interested in reducing the stigma of mental health.
    Mark Nolte
    [email protected]

  • Lance Powers

    As always Brad, Thank you so much for amplifying the voices of the Colorado Brain Health Community! In the two weeks since this was first published we’ve seen the community pull together to bring the conversation to a new level of inspiration and impact with a tone of hope, compassion, and empathy. Something I think we should all be very proud of.

    The response we’ve received has been incredible. Especially the amount of people who have signed up to turn the conversation into action through OPEN Labs – Posts like this are so important because they give people the courage to be open about their own experiences. I know it certainly has for me.