Woman Drags Casket 80 Miles for Mental Health Awareness
Author: Justin Mckibben
In May many people were doing amazing things in order to raise awareness for National Mental Health Awareness Month. It seems while there were many events to rally behind or acts of solidarity, there is the story of one woman who chose to make a huge statement. She did it by dragging a casket 80 miles. Talk about going the distance to make a difference.
A Strong Symbol Against Stigma
Greta Schwartz is a 48-year-old woman from New Jersey who walked 80 miles in just 3 days while pulling a casket from her home in Ocean County to the state Capitol in Trenton. Owner of the Red Sky Cafe in Seaville, Schwartz is taking these innumerous steps to raise awareness for mental health issues, including suicide and addiction.
Schwartz set out on her journey Monday with a backpack of water and the large wooden casket connected by a strap fastened to her waist. Her face was covered in war-paint, and the casket itself had the word “revolution” printed on its lid. Even more powerful than the symbol of devastation caused by mental illness was the fact that the casket was covered with names of over 70 people Schwartz said she had a personal connection with who had suffered. Along her travels about a dozen people came out of their homes along a residential stretch to share their stories involving suicide and even added names of loved ones to the casket of people who had killed themselves.
She said her son knew two students at Ocean City High School who killed themselves in 2014 and 2015, and talked passionately about why she felt this was such an important issue for her to act.
“I can’t just sit around,”
With her mission came the message to those out there struggling to get the help they need, beaten down by the stigma that surrounds mental illness, addiction and suicide.
“To not be ashamed- to speak up if you have a problem and to demand that the brain be treated as equally as any other part of the body”
“I’m not a professional in the field. I’m just a mom with experience. So my goal in this is to use this election year to really get people to talk about it.”
Schwartz said she was inspired to put her previous acting experience to a good cause after attending a discussion on mental health from former Rhode Island U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, who spoke in November at Stockton University. Kennedy currently lives in Brigantine and has been a political advocate for mental health issues. And according to Schwartz, Kennedy told the audience the only way to make a change was to be loud about the necessity for it. Schwartz stated,
“People hide, they don’t tell their stories and it’s going to take everybody standing up and getting in the faces of the politicians; getting in the community.”
Schwartz spoke adamantly about the need for proper treatment for those who face mental illness saying,
“If you have cancer you’re going to go through a full treatment plan until you’re cured. It should be the same for mental illness.”
When she arrived at the State House her eyes were filled with tears and an empowered smile spread across her face. As she arrived to meet state officials she was allowed in, but the police told her she had to leave the casket outside. Still, this demonstration is no small feat.
In America, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death. The foundation also stated that the national suicide rate was about 13 per 100,000 people in 2014, but that New Jersey tracks lower than the national average at about eight per 100,000.
While maybe not everyone would want to carry a casket through the streets, we can all find our own way to make a statement about how crucial it is to treat the people who battle with mental illness with compassion and exceptional care.
Activists working to raise awareness for mental health treatment often understand the importance of adopting a mental health stand-point on substance abuse and addiction. This is especially important given that so many people are struggling with drug and alcohol problems in the Unites States today. Dual diagnosis and holistic treatment methods are essential to a comprehensive and effective recovery plan for someone struggling with both a mental health disorder and an addiction.
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