May is mental health awareness month, but the conversation around mental health is ongoing and ever-evolving. This is especially true amongst the youth, who are now more than ever aware of the importance of protecting their mental health and speaking up about issues.
The Tell Robert Foundation is here to be a valuable resource for our young adults. Joining me for an interview today is co-founder of the foundation, Robert David Fenstersheib, and president of the foundation, Stephanie Fenstersheib.
We decided to start this foundation after a tragic event that involved our brother and father. My brother suffered from a lifelong issue with mental health, but was in denial that he had any mental health issues. He also suffered from a drug addiction, which I believe is directly related to mental health. Unfortunately, on September 9th, my brother lost that battle and took my father with him in a murder-suicide, which was devastating for everyone. It was a complete shock.
We started this foundation as a means to provide people with the knowledge and awareness that it’s okay to speak up and seek help; it is okay to tell someone that you’re suffering.
The primary goal of the foundation is to raise awareness about mental illness. We knew that our brother suffered, but we did not know the extent of it. He was very quiet, and I think he didn’t want anyone to know.
We want to raise awareness of the many people who are suffering by themselves. And if they think it’s okay and they feel comfortable expressing themselves, then we want to be there for them.
We are also trying to raise money through different events, and finding local charities and groups that can help provide financial assistance for the youth in the community.
I believe the stigma exists because there’s a lot of media and television out there that is presenting it as something less than what it is. It has to do with not wanting to seek help, and when it comes to men, this often has to do with not wanting to feel weak or less masculine. As a result, some men might feel unable to express themselves, and hold everything in.
In actuality, everyone is going through something, and the more that we talk about it, the more awareness there is. We want it to be known that many people are going through the same or similar struggles, and they should seek help.
The more people talk about it, the more people will realize that they are not so isolated. During this time of COVID, everyone’s feeling extremely isolated. The more it is talked about and the more people see it, the more comfortable and desensitized people become to expressing their own feelings. If you’re suffering, you’re not alone.
The fact that mental illness can’t be seen on an x-ray or a medical record makes some people believe it isn’t there, but it actually is a real condition. It’s something that needs to be treated, whether that is by talking with someone, taking medication, or doing anything else that helps. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there, and that’s super important for people to know.
You shouldn’t apologize for saying ‘toxic masculinity’ on television because it’s a real thing that exists, and we see it everywhere; men feel that there is this antiquated image of what a man should be, and that men should not have feelings, which is so dangerous.
To your point, Stephanie, Dr. Drew Pinsky says you have to treat “above the head.” In other words, you can see a broken arm or leg, but you can’t see what’s going on inside someone’s mind. Sometimes, the people who appear most confident are the ones suffering the most, because they’re putting on this air of confidence and happiness that is inauthentic.
Thank you both so much for highlighting those points, because I think they have been exited out of the conversation and need to be entered back into the conversation.
I would tell them to go online, where there are tons of forums, community websites, and groups where people are looking for other people to talk to. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to go through this alone; you can find someone anywhere—all you have to do is look a little bit.
The one good thing that has come out of this COVID crisis is the blooming of telemedicine and the availability of help through Zoom or electronic meetings. Now more than ever, community groups and therapy resources are prevalent and can be found easily—all it takes is a quick search online. Soon, we’re going to have a lot of information available on our website for people who want to talk with others who are going through the same thing they are.
We continue to add information about community events and resources at www.tellrobertfoundation.com. The Tell Robert Foundation is a completely non-profit organization; we’re not taking any payments, and we’re not being paid for anything that we’re doing with the foundation. Everything goes to local charitable organizations that have experienced personnel who are dedicated to assisting the community. One of the first organizations that we helped was Tony’s Tribe, where the brother of the founder had committed suicide. The founder works with other professionals to provide therapy to people who are suffering.
We believe that people should only give their money to foundations and charitable organizations that actually provide services, and that’s our goal. When it comes to your donations, we believe in transparency, and we want to make sure that your money helps someone directly.
Thank you both for what you do. As someone who is a survivor of depression myself, I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable and how immensely needed it is. We appreciate you Robert and Stephanie Fenstersheib.