I am very fortunate to get to work with some of the most amazing human beings at J&J. Serge is one of them. I met Serge through our newly formed Mental Health Diplomat Group. He is a project director based in our Belgium offices who works in the Janssen Neuroscience department. Every day he focuses on developing treatments for mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Like so many of us, he has also been impacted personally by mental illness. Below is his message. Thank you for sharing this with us Serge.
A message from Serge…..
“Mental illness is not a real disease but is a poor excuse for people who do not want to fit in our society or who are just plain crazy and cannot be treated anyway.”
This is a quote from a conversation I had a few years ago with a good friend of mine and which left me speechless. How could someone be so stupid, so insensitive? I had been living with a mother who had severe depression for years, ever since my father passed away. I witnessed firsthand how it ruined her life and the life of those around her.
In the days following this conversation I started probing my friends on what they knew about mental illness how they felt about people afflicted by it. Much to my surprise, most of my friends shared similar, be it less strong views on the subject. Many of them believed mental illness was within your control, something you could decide not to have, you could wake up one day and say, “I am no longer depressed”.
Today, more than 10 years later, you hear a lot more about mental illness, more people seem better informed, but the stigma linked to mental illness persists. What has changed is that today people suffering from mental illness and especially their caregivers have become more vocal about it, are more organized and those efforts are starting to pay off. Within J&J, the company I work for, there is a network of Mental Health Diplomats, who have taken it upon themselves to make J&J a safe and welcoming environment for people with mental illness and their caregivers. We organize support groups for people suffering from mental illness, information sessions for caregivers, and are planning to start organizing mental health cafés soon. I firmly believe that initiatives such as this will make the stigma around mental health a thing of the past. I encourage everyone, speak out and get involved, together we can make the world a better place for people with mental illness.