Eastern Iowa man asks others to help end mental illness stigma

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – One eastern Iowa man hopes to gather as many people as he can in August to publicly end the stigma behind mental illness.

Ross Trowbridge found out he had Borderline Personality Disorder in 2015. That same year he found himself homeless.

“I never thought that I would end up homeless, I never imagined that would end up in that spot but I was,” Trowbridge said.

His situation sparked the idea to speak out about his illness. He decided to let the community know in a public way.

“I simply went to the UPS location in downtown Des Moines and I asked them for a box,” Trowbridge said. “I wrote I have borderline personality disorder, and I’m not ashamed.”

Trowbridge then went to a public park and asked people to read his sign. He said the response was overwhelming.

“I had people coming up giving me hugs, I had people in tears, and it was such an overwhelming experience, and it was such a sense of freedom for me, to actually come out, be outed, and say this is what I have,” he said.

He wants others to feel that way as well. So, he’s started “Project I Am Not Ashamed”. Trowbridge asks people around the world to create their own sign naming their mental illness, and then go out into the community on August 18, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“When people walk by, all we’re going to do is ask them to simply read our sign, that’s it,” Trowbridge said. “There’s going to be people who disagree with what we’re trying to accomplish with this project. But, there’s also going to be individuals out there who are willing to engage in conversation and those are the folks that I want to talk to.”

He said his goal is to put a name and face to illness. By doing it publicly, Trowbridge said that’s how the stigma can end.

“Mental illness is a lot like cancer, in terms of an ailment that everybody, either somebody has it or they know somebody who has it,” he said. “We’re going to show the world that we can work together as a community.”

So far, people in 4 states, 9 cities, and 3 countries have signed up. Trowbridge hopes to turn the event into an annual one. To sign up for Project I Am Not Ashamed visit this website.

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