Be the One to Listen

On May 17th, the Office of Diversity and Equity hosted a panel discussion with the theme, “Be the One to Listen”. Alumni of the Lived Experience Academy spoke about their personal experiences of recovering from mental health and substance use challenges. They addressed common misconceptions that people may have about those with mental health challenges. One misconception debunked was that people who have mental illness cannot work or be valuable members of society. Several members of the panel are gainfully employed supporting others with mental health or substance use challenges. For some, they cited this meaningful work as part of their recovery: “When you help someone else, you can’t help but help yourself.”

One of the purposes of the panel was to share how loved ones and community members could be more supportive of those with lived experience. Here are some of the things that the panelists said would have been helpful to hear early in their recovery:

  • It’s okay to feel how you feel. You don’t have to hide your struggles.
  • Your life is worthwhile; you mean something in the universe.
  • You can do it and I will help you.

The panel invited audience members to ask questions and participate in the discussion, which several did. But most importantly, the panelists asked that everyone continue the dialogue outside of the event. To end stigma, we must all be willing to start the conversation AND be the one to listen.

Written by: Mai Le