Philadelphians pledge to listen to those with mental illnesses

Hundreds of Philadelphians made a simple promise Tuesday — to listen to people struggling with mental health problems. 

Participants in the I Will Listen campaign shared their pledges by posting videos and photos on social media.

“Are we ready,” asked 25-year-old participant, Shaiheed Days as he stood in the video booth at Love Park. “Seventy percent of those with a diagnosis do not seek treatment … and I pledge to listen,” he said, looking into the camera.

“I wanted to tape the message because this is my community, I grew up receiving services,” explained Days when he was finished recording. “I believe that we deserve help, and we deserve to be listened to, and we have the capacity to listen.”

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The goal of the “I Will Listen” campaign is to encourage people to support those struggling with mental illness — and to encourage them to seek help.

“Listening helps us fight the stigma that comes up with mental illness. It can be one of the big reason that people don’t speak,” said Barbara Ricci, board president of NAMI New York City Metro, which organized the campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a supporter of mental health causes, stopped by Love Park to tape a pledge. He said this kind of promise could break the isolation that often comes with mental illness.

“You need people to be reaching out, and one of the more fundamental ways to reach out to people is just to be there for someone and listen to them,” he said.

Philadelphia is the first city in the country to host a citywide “I Will Listen” day. Dr. Arthur Evans, who heads the city department of behavioral health, said he was happy with the turnout.

“The response that we’ve gotten to this campaign has been phenomenal, and I think it proves a point that when you create a space for people to be positive and to support these kinds of things, people actually step into it,” Evans said.

This disclosure, the I will Listen event was supported by the Scattergood Foundation, which also supports WHYY

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