One of the most poignant scenes in Running From Crazy is when the documentary’s main subject, Mariel Hemingway, speaks at a walk to prevent suicide.
Hemingway, her voice strained with emotion as she addresses the crowd, wears seven strands of beads around her neck – one for each family member she has lost to suicide.
One of Mariel’s strands of beads at the suicide prevention walk was for her grandfather. Another was for her older sister, Margaux, a model and actress who took her own life at age 41.
Mariel has spent her adult life trying to come to grips with both the good and the tragic aspects of her family legacy, from the intense creativity of the Hemingway line to a well-known series of suicides, alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, depression and other mental illnesses.
Mariel shares her story – as an author, speaker and subject of the 2013 documentary Running From Crazy – as way to find peace as well as to help others who are fighting the same battles, she says.
She will deliver the opening keynote address at the American Counseling Association 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida, being held March 12-15.
Counseling Today reached out to Hemingway to talk about mental health, her upcoming keynote and the importance and healing power of telling your story.
Q+A with Mariel Hemingway
What made you want to speak at a conference for professional counselors?
I love to speak to people who are in the business of helping others. I have tremendous gratitude and awe for their journey. I also think that often they ignore their own “stories” because they are so busy helping others. So I feel it is important to acknowledge and listen to everyone — counselors, healers, psychiatrists, etc. We all have a story, and we can help others more profoundly if we are given permission and space to tell our own.
What can counselors look forward to in your keynote address at conference?
They will hear a piece of my story. They will hear my fears and vulnerabilities, and I think that they will be able to relate. In the past when I share, everyone feels heard by me opening up. The truth is there are not that many different stories in the world, just different wrapping paper. My path has so many truths that may touch, in some way, most people in the room.
What will you be talking about in your keynote?
I will talk about the amazing family that I come from. I’ll talk about how creative and blessed they were and also how haunted they were by life, addiction, fears, etc. I relate it to my own fears, triumphs and failures and how I have used mindfulness and lifestyle (food, nature, exercise, water, sleep and laughter) as a way to find balance and joy in my life.
You’ve been open about your journey to overcome your family history of suicide and mental illness, including in your upcoming book, Out Came the Sun. What advice would you give to counselors working with clients who are trying to overcome similar situations?
Again, I think that my advice to everyone always is to acknowledge their own pain and suffering. When you can do that, you are so much more compassionate and effective with others. My advice is to acknowledge the whole of yourself and to accept who you are, where you have been, and then move forward into your journey with helping others as an extension of your own existence. My feeling is that when we come from a place of compassion, it shows and creates a safe environment for others to begin to heal.
In a similar vein, what would you want counselors to know about overcoming the stigma of mental health struggles?
The stigma of mental health is no joke. It is crazy how you can speak of all kinds of illnesses or diseases, but if you suffer from depression or bipolar (the list goes on), no one wants to hear about them. That said, keep talking! Mental illness is more mainstream [prevalent] than any other illness and, therefore, if we all keep talking and doing good work, we can help it to come out of the shadows.
What made you want to go public, so to speak, about your journey to overcome your family history of suicide and mental illness? In sharing your story, what do you hope people will learn about mental health?
I think that I started to tell my story almost by accident, but I began to see the profound effect it had on the people I shared it with. Mental health is connected to every other aspect of our good and balanced health. The body and the mind are not separate, and we have to treat mental illness as part of the whole. Our brain is not separated from our body, so my initiative is how can we [best] live our everyday lives, from the food we eat, the water we drink, the movement we do and, finally, to the silence we take for ourselves. It is all imperative to our mental health.
My biggest message is: Live a healthy lifestyle and watch how it helps with mental stability. It may not be the sole solution, but it is absolutely without a doubt important to having a more productive, balanced life.
P.S. I only share things as they pertain to my own personal experience. I am not a counselor or doctor, but I know from my own journey what works for me. By sharing with others, I invite you, as counselors, to help yourself and others find that perfect combination of things that works for you and your clients.
Here’s to a happier life for all of us!
Mariel Hemingway will deliver the keynote address on Friday, March 13, at 9 a.m. at the ACA 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando.
Following the keynote, she will also do a book signing from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
For more information or to register for the ACA Conference in Orlando, visit counseling.org/conference.
Discounted advance registration rates are available through Feb. 15.
Author of Finding My Balance (2004), Running With Nature: Stepping Into the Life You’re Meant to Live (2013) and several others. She has two new titles schedule for release this year — a memoir titled Out Came the Sun and a young adult book, Invisible Girl.
Actress, known for her breakout role in Lipstick (1976); nominated for an Academy Award for the 1979 Woody Allen film Manhattan.
Mom to grown daughters Dree, a model, and Langley, an artist and model.
More information at MarielHemingway.com
Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org