Full text of mediator Dan Berstein’s talk: How to talk about mental health without offending everyone at TEDxCooperUnion conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Dan Berstein – Mediator, Trainer, and Mental Health Communication Expert
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was told that the best way to talk about mental health was to say nothing.
My psychiatrist in the hospital warned me that I had so much to lose if I told anyone about my experiences. He said, “Dan, the stigma against mental illness is different from the rest. It cuts across race, gender and sexual orientation. It is unbeatable.”
Ooh! What a scary introduction to mental illness.
I was 19, and out of nowhere, I had just been hospitalized for my first mania. I hadn’t slept for four straight days. Over that time, I became filled with energy.
First, I was the life of the party. Then, I became obnoxious and irritable. And finally, after having not slept for so long, I was detached from reality.
By the time my parents came to take me for help, I actually thought I was going to travel back in time to fix it so they never got divorced.
When I was in the hospital, I was coming back down to earth, and I was also starting to realize that my life was going to be very different with my new bipolar diagnosis.
My psychiatrist wasn’t the only one scaring the heck out of me. My family warned me that if I spoke about my mental illness, I would lose all of my friends.