On Tuesday, July 19, AEGIS sponsored the Beacon Health Options 4th annual Stamp Out Stigma golf outing at Bayville in Norfolk, Virginia. Once again this year, proceeds went to the National Military Family Association to improve support for servicemembers, Veterans, and their families recovering from mental illness. While it was also AEGIS’ 4th year sponsoring the event, it marked my first time attending and playing. When I say “first time playing” I mean first time ever playing the game of golf! It turned out to be a great experience which capped off, for me, a crash course over the month leading up to the event. Along the way, I have picked up a number of life lessons already in my brief experience with the game of golf. Some of those lessons apply directly to the cause we’re playing for.
The stigma surrounding mental health in our culture is a real barrier to people seeking and receiving the help they need. Those people are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. The stigma leads unnecessarily to more pain and suffering and sometimes even loss of life. Let’s all work together to replace those divots of poor perception and Stamp Out the Stigma of mental illness.
One lesson is that even if you know the right way to do a thing, that doesn’t necessarily mean your body will cooperate with doing it that way – even if you try really hard. That’s very much the case with many types of mental illness. A person doesn’t want to feel the way they do, and they may try different approaches – both constructive and, unfortunately, in some cases destructive – to fix those bad feelings. We need to encourage the positive approaches. Getting help, whether that means a coach for a golf swing or, much more seriously, counseling for a mental health condition can be tremendously helpful – even critical to improvement. Learning techniques to help get better at more consistently controlling your challenge – and then practicing those techniques – is a path to getting better.
Another lesson came courtesy of my irons and it may be the best lesson around this particular event. Sometimes those of us working to develop our swings will hit the ball “fat” as they say which results in taking a sizable divot out of the finely manicured fairway. The moment before I hit the ball, that grass looks pristine. After I hit it, it is still mostly pristine, but there is an ugly gouge carved into it. The problem is, as one gazes on that part of the fairway, their eye is drawn to this gouge. They perceive a stigma associated with that gouge, suggesting the fairway is somehow ‘broken’ or no longer beautiful. But the truth is, that gouge is repairable and it says nothing negative about that fairway or that course. In fact, all we need to do is pick up the chunk of grass, lay it back in its place, and press it down with our shoe – in other words, we quite literally stamp out that stigma so we once again see the fairway’s beauty and look past the injury now being healed beneath the surface. That’s why we played golf this week.
I’d like to thank may playing partners, Mario Hyland (@interopguy) the founder of AEGIS, COL Mike Wixted (US Army, Ret.) a longtime friend of AEGIS, and my new friend Mr. Ronnie Spruill a retired Fire Captain from Norfolk. Despite being saddled with the handicap of a rookie player, we managed a respectable 3 under par to finish exactly in the middle of the 27 team field. Thanks to Monica Holzle and Carie Hammond from AEGIS for staffing our sponsored hole #14. We all thank Beacon Health Options for organizing this most worthwhile and enjoyable event. Finally, I’d like to thank Mr. Bob Benning (http://www.benningolf.com) for his wise guidance and unflappable patience introducing me to the game these past few weeks.
The stigma surrounding mental health in our culture is a real barrier to people seeking and receiving the help they need. Those people are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. The stigma leads unnecessarily to more pain and suffering and sometimes even loss of life. Let’s all work together to replace those divots of poor perception and Stamp Out the Stigma of mental illness once and for all.