A 48-year-old restaurant owner from Cape May County has completed a more than 80-mile walk from Seaville to the New Jersey Statehouse to raise awareness of mental health issues.
The plywood coffin Greta Schwartz pulled behind her for three days displays the names of more than 90 people who committed suicide or died from drug addiction.
“Part of the problem is there’s such a stigma with mental health that people don’t speak out. They don’t come out and ask for the help and demand change because they’re ashamed or they’re afraid they’ll be stigmatized so they don’t speak up, and we need to change that,” she said. “Everybody needs to know that it’s OK, and you deserve to be treated.”
Overcome with emotion at the end of her trek, Schwartz said a crisis with a family member convinced her that mental health services are woefully lacking. Mental illness, she said, should be treated the same as physical problems by the medical community and insurance companies.
“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,” Schwartz said. “Four therapy sessions isn’t going to cut it. Two months of therapy isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t work that way.”
Schwartz, who said she got a positive reception from people during her journey, said she had some difficulty finishing it.
“My feet are covered in blisters,” she said. “My legs started seizing up with really bad cramping. I’m kind of like numb right now. My body was in so much pain. I can’t believe I actually did this.”
The discomfort, she said, will be worth it if the walk draws more attention to the need for better mental health care.