How a 1980’s song inspires our mental health advocacy

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There’s no shortage of non-profit organizations and individuals working tirelessly to help people struggling with mental illness and addiction. This is what Tim and I have learned since selling our home, homeschooling our girls, and traveling the United States to help change the narrative surrounding mental health and addiction.

It has been an honor to meet so many mental health advocates and other hardworking people/organizations that give hope, support, and save lives.

Each month since February of this year, our bus has driven into cities and held events to provide ways that we can end stigma for mental illness and addiction. And, in each location, Tim and I find ourselves coming away with the same question: a question that plays over and over in our minds…

What would happen if all of us advocates raised our voices together?

***

When I was a little girl, living on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia, I remember laying on our patio sunbathing in my sarong. The song We Are the Worldblasted out of the boombox and throughout our two-story house. 

 

My brother Anton and I sang in unison at the top of our voices. Him, while inside mopping the kitchen floor (his chore for the week), and me while lathering baby oil on my arms.

 

“We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
Oh, there’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me.”

 

You don’t have to have growth up in the 1980s to experience the profound sense of togetherness the song conjured up, however. If you have no idea what I am talking about, stop reading right now and listen here.Trust me, your mood will be better for it.

 

We are the Worldwas a charity song to raise funds to provide humanitarian aid in Africa and the United States. Top recording artists of the time, e.g., Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, came together to passionately help with the cause—and that doesn’t include all the people it took to produce, edit, etc. the music. 

 

My point is, they came together. They brought the power of each of their platforms, and they sung for the world—as one—together.

 

I’m not saying we need a song. I’m asking what roar could we make if all of us advocates, mental health organizations, and other passionate community members came together and used our voices—together.

 

We Are the Worldsold over a whooping 10M copies. It was the fastest-selling American pop single in history. It raised over $63 million—equivalent to $144 million today,[1]for humanitarian aid in Africa and the United States. It had a massive impact on getting children the help they so desperately needed and deserved.

  

***

I sit outside the bus in which we have been using to travel for seven months now. The morning heat of Boston warms my arms. While I prefer sunblock to baby oil these days, I still carry the hope and passion of that song with me—and am reminded of it each time we meet a fellow mental health advocate or organization. Each time I leave an event, I question if the event will leave an echo and ask myself again that same question: What would happen if all of us advocates raised our voices together?

  

“There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one”

The narrative surrounding mental health and addiction needs our attention. Now. With suicide rates at an all-time high, and people in high places accusing mental illness for the most horrifying of crimes that take place within our country, it has become evident that we need to join forces and raise our voices, demanding to be heard.

“There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all”

 

Each year, one in five people within the USA will struggle with some form of mental illness; further, 16% of our children will have seriously considered suicide.[2]Shouldn’t we be screaming about this on the streets demanding we, as a country, as a community, as the world, do something?

 

Where’s our marches and protests to end stigma of mental illness and addiction?

It’s time! Let’s raise our voices together.

 

Thank you to our sponsor’s Eating Recovery Center/Insight Behavioral Health.

 


Sources:

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Are_the_World

[2]https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6630a6.htm