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Global Citizenship

Bridging the Divide

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This morning at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., Edelman, Give An Hour and the George W. Bush Institute unveiled new research reinforcing the reality that everyone experiences mental health challenges – veterans and non-veterans alike.

The findings from Edelman Intelligence show that non-veterans (33 percent), employers (43 percent), and veterans (47 percent) have all experienced a mental health challenge during the past year. This data aligns with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that 50 percent of Americans will face some mental health obstacles over their lifetime, and that one in five has a diagnosable mental health condition.

For me, these issues are important and they are personal.

My late mother, Ruth Edelman, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, advocated for mental health funding in the U.S. Senate in the 1990s and was actively involved in furthering the goals of the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association through her visibility as a patient advocate and philanthropist. Like my mother, and many other individuals, those with mental health challenges can live productive lives with proper care. But in order for those who are facing a mental health challenge to seek and receive that care, we all need to change the way we think and talk about our mental wellbeing.

The results from Edelman Intelligence indicate that that 92 percent of employers assume veterans have mental health challenges and yet only 16 percent believe that veterans have access to the mental health care they need. In addition, a majority of employers listed exemplary traits and skills that hiring managers seek in a job applicant, such as responsibility, ethical behavior and strong collaborative and communications skills, that veterans say they possess.

After serving in World War II, my father found that the various skills and leadership traits he developed in the military could be applied to the evolving landscape of corporate America. Armed with many of the same skills that today’s veterans possess, he translated his skills and experience to establish what is now the largest communications marketing firm in the world. It is important that we bridge the divide around the public understanding of mental wellbeing so that a new generation of leaders with former military experience can be employed as the strategic business assets they are.

When commitment meets purpose, the result is positive impact. As communicators, we know that we can drive that positive impact forward through meaningful conversations and storytelling. Today’s conversation at the National Press Club was important for employers, communities, community partners and veterans themselves.

This is just the start of a conversation that we hope can begin to change the way we all talk about, and think about, mental wellbeing – for veterans and non-veterans alike.

John Edelman is managing director, global engagement and corporate responsibility.

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