Anti-Stigma Advocacy Award
The Maryland Foundation for Psychiatry, Inc. presents this annual award, established in 2016, to recognize a worthy piece published in a major newspaper that accomplishes one or more of the following:
- Shares with the public their experience with mental illness in themselves, a family member, or simply in the community.
- Helps others to overcome their inability to talk about mental illness or their own mental illness.
- Imparts particularly insightful observations on the general subject of mental illness.
- A Maryland author and/or newspaper is preferred.
The award carries a $500 prize.
2016: Amy McDowell Marlow
“My dad killed himself when I was 13. He hid his depression. I won’t hide mine.”
Published February 9, 2016 in the Washington Post
Description: In this piece, Ms. Marlow gives a very poignant description of dealing with her own depression and emotional experiences beginning in childhood while dealing with a parent’s depression and eventual suicide.
Amy Marlow’s comments at November 19, 2016 Anti-Stigma Award Presentation
I am so deeply grateful to be the recipient of this award, and would like to thank the Maryland Foundation for Psychiatry for giving me this honor. I spent 17 out of the past 20 years of surviving my father’s suicide in relative silence about my experience. Until recently I had never heard of “mental health stigma” yet I had lived with it for most of my life. I continue to be amazed and humbled by the impact that my story has on those who have shared similar experiences.
In February 2016 I was published in the Washington Post. I wrote about my father’s suicide in 1996 and my own struggle with mental illness. On the day that my article went live, it was viewed over 300,000 times. By that evening I had received more than 500 emails from people who personally connected with my story. People who had lost a loved one to suicide, people who struggle with mental illness and people whose eyes were opened about how depression impacts everyday people like you and me.
I was stunned and overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to begin with responding. There was one email I received on that first day that I answered right away. The subject line was “Weeping.” Steven was 50 years old and married with an 11-year-old daughter. He hid his depression from everyone around him, including his own family, and was contemplating suicide. He wrote, “The moments you describe [with your father], those few days before his suicide – I have had those with my daughter. You have given me permission to tell my wife that I am sick.”
I told him that his email was brave. That he deserves the love and support of his own family. I encouraged him to seek professional help and to let someone else know when it gets too hard. I wrote, “When it gets bad, think of me. I believe in you. And it will get better.”
In August I received this reply:
“It is now 6 months later. I edged out, began to speak, and things flowed. Some time in the hospital. New medications. New awareness. I did think of you and your story. Almost daily. It mattered. Some days it was the ONLY thing that mattered, that I thought about. I showed my email to you and your reply to my wife this morning for the first time. We both thank you. It is always difficult to know some things for sure, but it is possible and perhaps probable that your article and reply saved me. More importantly, it saved my daughter and wife.”
This award is for Stephen. For Stephen’s wife and his daughter. For those whose lives are impacted by mental illness and suicide. For those we have lost and for those who keep going and live to fight another day. I am one of them. May our stories continue to open hearts and minds so that, in the words of Jenn Marshall, a friend and mentor of mine, one day talking about mental illness won’t have to be considered brave. It will just be considered talking.