The city of Brotherly Love will play host to a major event aimed at increasing awareness for mental health issues.
#IWillListenDay is set to take place at Love Park on June 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. NAMI-NYC Metro, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) and the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation all played a part in creating the event and campaign.
During the event, Philly will host a citywide discussion on mental health and wellness.
“With one in four Philadelphians facing a mental illness this year, it’s important that everyone will pledge to listen without judgment, not just on June 3rd for #IWillListen Day, but each and every day of the year to help fight against the stigmas associated with mental illness,” said Wendy Brennan, executive director of NAMI-NYC Metro. “This event will not only welcome the one in four Philadelphians directly impacted by mental illness, but also the four out of four to play an active role in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.”
Dr. Robin L. Smith, a psychologist, author, ordained minister and TV personality who is participating in the event, also acknowledged the importance of listening, in the truest sense of the word.
“Listening is different than hearing,” Dr. Smith said. “This isn’t called ‘I Will Hear You.’ It’s called ‘I Will Listen.’ Hearing just requires that our ears function. Listening requires the ears functioning and the heart being open. How open is your heart to hearing someone’s plight, someone’s suffering or someone’s grief?”
Smith hopes the event will inspire those who suffer from a mental illness but are too ashamed to reveal it to come forward and seek help from others.
“There’s an Ethiopian proverb that says that he who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured,” Smith said. “We could think the proverb is about those people who have been diagnosed or have gone undiagnosed. But it’s also true for the rest of us who have been concealing our sorrows, concealing our grief and pretending to be okay when we’re not okay.”
Smith also believes the event is equally important for other people who are unfamiliar or ignorant when it comes to mental health.
“One of the reasons why I made a commitment to be involved in this is because I wanted to apologize to all the people who feel alone in their struggle, who feel ashamed and alienated,” Smith said. “If all of us on June 3 told the real truth about our own stories, lives, marriages and families, all of those people who are feeling ashamed would soon recognize that there’s a much bigger tribe and village who are on the same path with them, to differing degrees.”
As for those with mental health issues who are looking to reach out to someone, Smith recommends finding another person whom they trust.
“Find a worthy person who will listen,” she said. “There are people out there. Let’s expand the parameters of where that person is looking to find a worthy person. They may not be able to be the person who helps you but maybe they can take you to someone who can help you.”
According to Dr. Smith, self-awareness also plays an important role.
“It’s important not only that we listen to other people but also that we listen to ourselves,” she said. “Sometimes we want people to give us the gift of listening when we won’t pay attention to our own suffering and our own feeling. Make sure you give to yourself the very thing you want from someone else.”
While Smith acknowledges that it’s a difficult journey, she also believes the road to relief for those suffering from a mental illness is easier for those who have a strong support system.
“We all have holes,” Dr. Smith said. “We all want to be whole which is a holy journey. If we take our hole in route to being whole to the right person, they can travel with us on that holy journey.”
To find out more about the event and campaign, visit the #IWillListen website.