Shawn Brook, Issues Ink President
Shawn Brook, Issues Ink President

I felt I had to create a title that would not freak everyone out, but I can tell you that this column has nothing to do with seed. If you want to pass it by, I’ll understand.

Everyone has endured a difficult period in his or her life. Difficulty is not discriminatory. It takes hold of the wealthy just as it does the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the urban dweller and the ruralist. I believe that if we knew just how hard it is for the person standing right beside us, we would be exponentially more kind and generous.

My wife of 22 years, the mother of my children and the love of my life passed away almost one year ago – she had been battling bipolar and could endure no more. This is a disease that most of us, myself included, will never fully understand or comprehend.

For my family and for all those out there who also struggle with it, I wish I could make it just go away. But the hard reality is I can’t, and it’s not going away. This means that we must learn to talk about mental health, and we must get a better grasp of what it is and what it means.

Make a Stand

During the past year, I’ve had hundreds of conversations and heard about the fight that so many families are going through as a loved one battles mental illness. It seems we must continue to have these conversations, even though they make us feel awkward and exposed, so that we can truly be there for our loved ones and make a stand for their mental health.

But, I’ve found that it’s impossible to take a stand without some solid understanding of what it is we are battling. I do not profess to be a mental health expert, so I ask that each and every one of you take one hour to learn, to ask questions, to check in with someone you know who is suffering and expand your understanding of mental health.

Most importantly, if you are suffering, please don’t do it in silence; there are people around you who would move heaven and earth for you and will be there to help. Whether you’re more comfortable talking with a professional health care provider or someone in your family, you cannot expect to walk this path on your own. And don’t stop asking for help until you get it.

I wish I could guarantee that the first place or person you connect with will be the right option, but I can’t. There’s a great deal of confusion about mental health, and not everyone has all the information they need. So it’s up to you to remain steadfast and diligent in seeking answers, care and help. And remember: you are not alone — that I can promise you.

Through this tragedy, I’ve been blessed with the embrace of a number of strong “communities,” including my family, my friends, my town and my industry friends. It’s an embrace that I will never forget.

The hurt is still very powerful, and quite frankly it knocks me off my feet … some days completely. Knowing that I am a part of these many and varied groups keeps me thriving, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

In closing, I offer a challenge to each of you that is two-fold:

1) Tell someone what you love about them – TODAY!

2) Determine what it is that you love most about yourself and share it with someone – TODAY!

I would love to hear how your challenge goes,


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