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CEO Insights: Navigating the Path to Mental Health Awareness

While traveling by Uber one recent morning in early May, I noticed the US Army Veteran hoodie draped over the front passenger seat, sparking a conversation with the driver. As a fellow veteran, I inquired about his service, retirement, and the transition to civilian life. Despite some playful banter about my own years of service left on the table, the conversation took a poignant turn when he revealed his struggles with mental health post-service.

He continually reaffirmed that he would have never sought treatment if not for his brother’s urging. This admission underscores the crucial role of support systems in overcoming mental health challenges.

The army veteran confessed further that it took few years of counseling and a medication regiment before he was “better.” He insisted that the mental health treatment he received saved his life. He now frequents viaducts and Lower Wacker to visit veterans who did not receive similar support(s) in hopes of helping them along their journey.

This is near to my heart as a veteran myself, but you don’t have to be a vet to be impacted by mental health. During the month of May, we shine a light on the various ways individuals like you and I are affected by mental health challenges.

According to recent studies, veterans are disproportionately affected by mental health challenges, with approximately 1 in 4 veterans reporting symptoms of a mental health disorder. Similarly, in Chicago, where access to mental health services is crucial, over 400,000 individuals receive mental health treatment annually. And at C4 we see nearly 7,000 of those individuals through the work we do.

I am not one who believes in chance meetings and happenstance; certainly, considering the timing of our encounter. This encounter reaffirmed my belief in the power of timely interventions and support networks in mental health recovery. As advocates for mental health awareness, it is imperative that we demystify mental health and actively work to destigmatize it and foster environments where seeking help is encouraged and validated. Defense mechanisms like: “Ain’t nothing wrong with me;” and “I can handle it on my own” must be deconstructed, and replaced with safe spaces acknowledging that situations are hopeless, and that healing is possible.

At C4, we stand committed to the process of moving from trauma to living, working, and thriving, requires tremendous strength – strength we firmly believe is inherent to all we serve.

In honoring the veteran’s resilience and the unsung heroes who supported his recovery, we acknowledge and salute all individuals currently navigating similar journeys.

This month, I urge you to:

  • Engage in open conversations about mental health with friends and loved ones in an effort to foster understanding and support.
  • Take time for self-care practices such as meditation, exercise, or hobbies that promote mental well-being.
  • Advocate for mental health awareness in your community by participating in events, sharing resources, and challenging stigma.

Let’s continue to be partners in the journey toward mental wellness.