My mother tells an amazing story about a call she got from my guidance counselor when I was in the 6th grade. My aunt Judy had just passed away, my dad was suffering from depression, and I was getting anxious:
"The guidance counselor called and said, "In my 20 years of work as a guidance counselor, I've never had this happen. Your 11-year-old son just walked into my office and asked if he could see a therapist."
I saw that first therapist, Mary, for 2 years, and she was very helpful. And I've been fortunate to see some terrific therapists throughout my life so far who have helped me work on myself. My therapist Bonnie helped me to build more positive relationships. My therapist Jack helped my wife and me work together as business partners. My long-term therapist Judy was so valuable, she ended up at my wedding. My current therapist Kelly Flynn I met through my new job as CEO of mental health care marketplace startup UMA.
I've been able to be "mental health positive" for all of my life - but for many people, it's not so easy. For some reason, when we want to work on our bodies, and improve our physical fitness, it's a point of pride and excitement. People even share gym selfies.
Yet people wanting to see a therapist to improve their mental health often feel shame and embarrassment. Tell someone you're going to see a trainer to work out, and they'll say, "Way to go!" Tell them you're going to see a therapist, and they'll say, "What's wrong?"
As I shared in my wrote in my recent article about destigmatizing depression, there is an enormous business imperative to make therapy more acceptable in our society:
- Depression is a leading cause of lost U.S. productivity, with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers, according to the Depression Center at the University of Michigan.
- Employers are losing 27 work days per depressed worker, with two-thirds coming from "presenteeism"--when workers are present, but less productive.
- Entrepreneurs are particularly at risk: 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed were dealing with at least one mental illness and about one-third of entrepreneurs struggle with 2 or more mental illnesses
- Mental illness is estimated to result in $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
It's not just a business issue. Clearly, just like most people benefit from working out their bodies, most people benefit from therapy. Whether you're an entrepreneur or not, successful or not, or even happy or not, you can benefit from therapy.
So yesterday, I took a #therapyselfie and shared it on social media. The results were immediate and impactful:
"What a great example you set for people struggling to deal with mental health."
"This is brilliant! i hope it catches on."
"I saw your post about visiting your therapist...Today I was feeling even more down. Like how and why was I led here to this point? Really questioning life, and your post was just such a gift. A much needed reminder that I'm not alone in my struggle. That life hasn't forgotten me. That having the will to seek help should be celebrated and shown."
"Brilliant! This shouldn't be considered brave but, given our social climate, it is."
The last quote is precisely my point: A #gymselfie is a point of pride, and yet a #therapyselfie is considered brave.
Let's change that, together.
Please consider posting a pic of you with your therapist on social media, and hashtagging it #therapyselfie and/or #ImWithTher. Tag me too.
Together, we can help change the stigma around therapy and mental health.
Who knows, your selfie might even save a life.