This week we cast a spotlight on mental health advocate Glenn Goldman in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month (which occurs each May). Max Donatelli, a Family Advocate who is part of the organization Lets Talk Stigma had an opportunity to Zoom with Glenn and shared highlights of their conversation.
Max: Could you talk about your role as an advocate and why it is so important.
Glenn: I have been living with a mental illness all my life, I have a bipolar disorder and a developmental disability, I am on the Autism spectrum having a small case of Asperger’s syndrome. When I was younger many people could not understand me and it took a long time for me to find a therapist that could help me. With support I was able to come out of my shell as they say. So, I was able to become more productive. With much of the talk today about mental illness I felt that I could contribute by sharing my experience since it is not something you’d get in a textbook or publication somewhere.
Max: Who is the audience that you would really like to get to?
Glenn: I want to get to schools, families, and anyone who I feel I can benefit. I know this will take time, because what works with one group won’t work with another group. I believe communication is key. I would like to change the mental hygiene laws here in our community. When someone comes out of mental health facility here it is culture shock. The places are depressing like in One Flew Over the CucKoos Nest. There is a need for the residents to be treated with respect and dignity and we would be better off.
Max: What kind of impact would you like to make?
Glenn: I would like for people to open doors for me and let me share what I have to say. I believe that if I can make a difference in one person’s life, I can make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I have the stamina, the enthusiasm, and am a positive person that wants to make a difference.
Max: What kinds of things have you done so far that is a part of your mission to affect change?
Glenn: I have presented to Mental Health Advocates, Disabilities Advocates, and Peer Advocates, and plan to present again soon. I have also written several essays about my struggles with my family and how I have been able to overcome my issues. My writing is mature and my family is treating me as an adult and not like there is something wrong with me and that’s a plus. If I can get my family to change I can get anyone to change.
Max: What motivates you to get you going?
Glenn: I like to work out and when I ride my bike the endorphins kick in. And this gives me a lot of positive energy. When this happens, I can think more clearly and help deal with what’s bothering me. I live by myself and fortunately I have a good therapist who has helped me to function in the world emotionally and psychologically.
Max: What is the most important message that you would like to get out to people reading our interview for My Jewish Buffalo?
Glenn: You are not alone, if you can believe in yourself anything is possible and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. If you believe in yourself you can overcome most anything. You can say an affirmation every day, and it may take time just like everything else.
Max: Can you share with us the proposal that you and I spoke about?
Glenn: The proposal is very simple, I want people to talk about mental health, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities. It’s important to be able to talk about these and not be afraid of the stigma that some people have. Getting people on the same page is the first step. Second, I would like to change the mental hygiene laws as we talked about. Also, I want people with disabilities to know they are important and they can contribute. Not just giving them a spot on the six o’clock news for a sound-bite.
Max: Thank you Glenn. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Glenn: For the first 45 years of my life, people stigmatized me, they patronized me, they treated me badly, then I got mad. Then I decided to get some help and here I am today and I am living proof that things can get better if you try. If you are willing to have an open mind and hear what I have to say it might affect you. Everything I am trying to say comes right from the heart, not from my brain, not from the public sector, not from the private sector, but right from my heart.