Health

Upcoming event aims to stem stigma against mental health

Ross Trowbridge, creator of Project I Am Not Ashamed, which is set to take place Saturday, Aug, 28, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Ross Trowbridge).
Ross Trowbridge, creator of Project I Am Not Ashamed, which is set to take place Saturday, Aug, 28, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Ross Trowbridge).

There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

That’s what Ely resident Gretchen Dennis tells her son Brady Dennis, who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when he was 8 years old. She said Brady, now age 10, has concerns about people treating him differently because of it.

“It shouldn’t be something we’re ashamed of,” said Dennis, 43.

So to spread that message, Dennis will be joining individuals across the country — and across the world — to participate in an event that aims to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

For four hours on Aug. 18, individuals will stand in a public place and hold a sign declaring their mental health condition to spark conversations about mental health during the Project I Am Not Ashamed event.

Project Creator Ross Trowbridge, a 39-year-old Cedar Falls resident, said events will be happening in more than 100 cities across 31 states and 18 countries worldwide.

Participants are encouraged to hold a sign, declaring their name and mental illness. For example, a sign reading “I have borderline personality disorder. And today, I’m not ashamed,” will be carried by Trowbridge.

Trowbridge was diagnosed with the mental disorder characterized by varying moods, behavior and self-image in 2015. He found himself homeless in Des Moines shortly after due to unforeseen circumstances, including two job eliminations in two years.

During this period, Trowbridge decided to write “I have borderline personality disorder and I am not ashamed” on a sign that he held up in Sculpture Park. He said dozens of people stopped to listen to him as he talked about the mental disorder and his experience dealing with it.

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It was this moment that inspired the event Trowbridge will host in August as a widespread effort to educate others on and to combat stigmas against those with mental illness.

He said he created the event with two goals in mind. The first was to provide individuals with “an opportunity to tear off their masks and be authentic and real” by discussing their mental health with others.

Trowbridge also hopes to use Project I Am Not Ashamed to eliminate the stigma of those who have mental health disorders.

“We fight the stigma by interacting with people who hold the stigma,” he said. “It’s the only way we can make an impact.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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