On this World Mental Health Day, we’re telling you the inspiring story of Jill Merrell. After a traumatic brain injury followed by the unexpected suicide of her husband, Jill, a realtor and fitness club owner in Florida, found her way to peace through meditation and mental health advocacy. Her family’s foundation, Merrell Family Foundation, is working towards erasing the stigma surrounding mental health disorders.
The mission of a lifetime
A former marathonian and triathlete, Jill Merrell was out for a run one day in 2000 when she was struck by a cyclist.
The resulting brain injury left her hospitalized for more than a month, and, as of today, she still deals with its consequences. For instance, she can’t drive a car anymore because of what the injury did to her peripheral vision.
During her recovery, she learned to meditate and has since become a certified meditation and mindfulness teacher and practitioner.
The practice of resilience certainly helped her get through the most difficult time in her life: the suicide of her husband John, after years of battling depression and anxiety disorder.
John’s death instilled in Jill — and their two adult children, Justin and Jessica — the need to destigmatize mental health disorders.
They formed the Merrell Family Foundation so that other families struggling with these issues would have the tools and resources to tackle them.
“I would inspire a movement to erase the stigma around mental illness and help others recognize that mental and physical health occupy the same body and should be looked at and treated in the same way.”
You can erase the stigma, too
The conversation around mental health should be honest and open, and mental health should be promoted to the same degree as physical health.
You can help continue to open the conversation around mental health by talking freely about it! Talk about your mental health in the same way you would discuss a physical ailment. Have compassion for people who are dealing with a mental health issue — we all deal with mental health issues throughout our lives.
These simple steps can be summarized into Jill’s favourite mantra: “Do onto others as they’d like you to do onto them.”
Train Your Brain
The Merrell family, in partnership with Palm Healthcare Foundation, Inc., has created a campaign called “Train The Brain.”
Each year in October, Train The Brain invites participants to make a pledge to brain fitness by incorporating into their daily routine five healthy habits. Feel free to incorporate them into your daily life as well, to combat stress and maintain your mental health:
- Sleep at least 7 hours a night. Proper sleep is vital to mental and physical health.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. This does not have to be vigorous exercise — get outside and go for a walk, talk the stairs or dance!
- Manage your stress. There are many free meditation apps that you can download to your phone — give it a try! You can also decrease stress by calming your mind in a quiet place; that could be listening to gentle music or reading.
- Watch your diet. Be sure to eat your leafy greens and fresh fruits!
- Socialize. Isolation has a negative impact on your mental health. Make a point to spend time with friends or family members who you enjoy and make you laugh.
For Jill Merrill, the hope behind “Train The Brain” is to help another family prevent what her husband went through. “One way to honour him is to start an open dialogue. We need to have a conversation.”