So few share their stories about mental health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, common misperceptions and negative attitudes about mental illness often underlie stigma, yet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a majority of U.S adults experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.
“Most people with knowledge of the subject learn about the effects after having a personal connection,” expressed Carl Stern, founder of Imeriti Financial Network and local philanthropist with The Foundation. “Very few understand the complexities without living through it, and even fewer are willing to talk about it.”
This was the case for Carl, whose story is both heartrending and hopeful.
A Dedicated Son
Joshua Judson Stern loved playing sports and being active.
Growing up in San Diego, Joshua could be found running around rugby and football fields throughout North County. After graduating from Torrey Pines High School, his love continued as he remained an avid athlete while attending the University of Michigan.
Following college, his passion for life and adventure translated into his career and personal travels.
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Whether it was enlisting in the Army at age 30 and serving two tours of duty in Iraq, or traveling and photographing through southeast Asia with friends, Joshua believed in a life well spent and one of service.
But on October 15, 2010, at the age of 35, Joshua abruptly and unexpectedly ended his own life.
From Tragedy Comes Hope
Still to this day, Joshua’s parents, Carl and Jackie Stern, don’t fully know the depths of the mental illness that he was experiencing.
“At the time, we didn’t recognize what was going on or notice the signs,” Carl explained. “It wasn’t until after our son’s death that we started to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges Joshua was dealing with.”
For Carl and his family, the tragic story sparked a lifelong commitment to support research and solutions.
“From that moment on, I decided to do whatever I could to support mental illness and ensure no other parent has to go through what my wife and I have been through,” Carl stated.
Today, Carl works closely with San Diego leaders to bring resources to the region, similar to those offered by his and Joshua’s alma mater at the University of Michigan Depression Center.
According Mental Health America, 50 percent of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their lifetime. That amounts to more than 1.6 million residents in San Diego County.
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Carl hopes that San Diego will soon have its own nationally-recognized depression center. He is currently leading the charge alongside other community leaders to bring these resources and facilities to the UC San Diego Department of Psychology.
For now, Carl wants San Diegans to start talking.
He urges, “Mental health is not a bad thing and certainly not uncommon. We must be open to discussing the issue in order to fight the stigma and support those who are facing its challenges.”