“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I hate printers. 

Sure, we all get “Office Space” style impulses when the printer jams – but my loathing can be traced back to a single event when I was 14 years old.

While sitting in my room, a document mistakenly printed out titled “Insurance Claim for Perry Galloway’s Suicide Attempt.” My flustered Mom rushed into my room and found me in tears. Along with my Dad, Perry, she had been keeping this secret from my sister and me for months. She explained that my Dad was bipolar, not depressed as we and the doctors had thought. Because of this misdiagnosis, his medication had exacerbated his mental illness and driven him to this, thank God, unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Every day since, I’ve wondered what I could have done differently. I always settle on: deeper listening. Despite continued strong performance at work, Dad was no longer himself at home – often sleeping through entire weekends. If we had all listened to the emotion behind his words, perhaps the hollowness behind the “I’m fine” would have alerted us sooner. 

From now on, I will always listen deeply to the words of co-workers, friends, and family. With 1 in 5 Americans suffering from mental illness, I will also continue to fight the battle against its negative stigma. If I can do both of these things, perhaps that printer did me a favor that day.

— Ross Galloway