News Article Details

Project I'm Not Ashamed puts mental health in public eye

The Hawk Eye - 8/13/2018

Aug. 13--Ross Trowbridge never thought he would be homeless. His second day on the street in Des Moines in 2016 Trowbridge found himself looking up at the buildings to determine which ones were tall enough to kill him if he jumped off.

Trowbridge has borderline personality disorder, and thoughts like these drive ten to 15 percent of people with the mental illness to kill themselves. Trowbridge had been laid-off from an eliminated senior human resources position after seven years on the job, and found resources and treatment for his disorder in Iowa scarce.

"Something hit me where I just knew that if I didn't do something I'd end up committing suicide," said Trowbridge.

So, he went to a UPS store and asked for a cardboard box and a marker and made a sign that read "I have borderline personality disorder, and I'm not ashamed. Break the stigma. Silence=death." Trowbridge held the sign in Sculpture Park, pushing the importance of a public conversation on mental health in Iowa.

His public statement blossomed into a mental health awareness campaign called Project I'm Not Ashamed that he hopes to spread much farther than the park on August 18.

On that date, Trowbridge hopes all people with mental illnesses will go outside and hold signs similar to Trowbridge's sign. He encourages them to engaging in conversations about mental health with people in their communities, and post photos of themselves holding their signs on social media with the #ProjectI'mNotAshamed.

"People go out and they educate," said Trowbridge. "They simply read their sign, and go to a high foot traffic area and educate the individuals in the street, putting faces and names to mental illness and talking about difficulties as well as successes."

The project aims to stop the mental health stigma and draw attention to the lack of resources available for mental health treatment. From personal experience, Trowbridge said the most affordable treatment he could find for his own disorder in Iowa was a three or four day program in Chicago for about $5,000 out of his pocket.

"It's about supply and demand," said Trowbridge. "If we don't get enough people talking about it and going out to seek help and demand help, then there won't be any change in resources."

So far, people from 15 states, about 40 cities and four countries have confirmed their participation in the August 18th event. In Iowa, other participating cities include Trowbridge's hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluff Fort Dodge, Knoxville, Mingo, Lowden and Manchester. Burlington is planning an event at a later date.


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