The ballroom was packed, a speaker at the long podium testing the mike. I’m not a conference goer, with the exception of the occasional writer’s conference. So, it was intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers at the Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero in San Francisco that first day in mid-February. I was there for the 7th International Together Against Stigma Conference.(TogetherAgainstStigma.org).
I’d been invited to attend the conference by Dr. Patrick Corrigan (https://humansciences.iit.edu/faculty/patrick-corrigan), a leading researcher in the field of stigma related to mental illness and a distinguished professor of Psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) (http://comingoutproudprogram.org). This was the first time the conference was held in the States. More than 750 researchers, advocates, policymakers and mental health professionals attended. It is the only international conference focused on eradicating the social stigma of mental illness.
As a person with lived experience, as they say, a survivor of the mental health system, I was hoping to meet others who have had similar experiences as my own. Trying to make a connection. Find a foot hold.
In the hall outside the ballroom, tables were lined up displaying information about various organizations sponsoring the conference and others. I kept seeing lime green: the title of the conference program, highlighting topics and headers. lime green scarves, lime green buttons, lime green candy, lime green bags, a lot of people wearing lime green accessories, just a lot of lime green. I didn’t realize until later that some of my everyday possessions are lime green—Lime green glasses case, lime green iPhone case, etc.—and this before I had any idea that the color was linked to this particular cause. (And then there’s the irony of the lime green wall color in the abandoned mental hospital that is the header for this blog!) I was drawn to the color without realizing it although I may be reading too much into it. Still. So, what is, was, the significance of lime green and why that color for this particular movement? I’d never really thought about it before–colors and how they represent or signify movements.
Of course, green, in general, is the color of renewal, spring, rebirth, of safety, permission. Hope. Social Justice (the Green Movement). But lime green? According to old-earth.com the principal of lime green is truth. The color is associated with striving to manifest in a positive way situations that have caused a great deal of stress and worry that have been hard if not impossible to surmount. “The meanings of Lime Energy tell us that sometimes we think that we won’t get what we want so we either give up or force issues before others are ready to give.”
When I read that last sentence, getting past the New Agey prose, I remembered Pat Corrigan saying during one of his conference presentations that often times people with a history in the mental health system think, “Why bother?” (disclosing/telling my story) They either keep silent or spill and both ways of disclosing feel terrible and unsafe. To not live in fear, to feel the freedom and affirmation of being recognized as a fellow human being, to feel empowered, not labeled as different or crazy, this is the hope, the goal of this anti-stigma movement. After all, one in four people will suffer a mental illness in their lifetime. It might be you.