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Helping Others Through Your Personal Narrative

If you are scratching your head wondering what I mean by “personal narrative,” you likely are not alone. Most of us get swept up by life’s frantic pace without taking the time to consider how sharing our triumphs and struggles might help others cope.

As a society, we are blessed with endless vehicles for communicating, including social media sites that offer instant gratification. Yet what do we usually post? Idyllic vacation photos. Friend and family get togethers. Photos that make our lives seem perfect. Instead, what if we used these outlets to tell the story of a life event that profoundly impacted us?

Those of us who are communications professionals are accustomed to framing the narrative for corporations. In the healthcare arena in which JWA specializes, the messages we create and disseminate for clients enable the public to better understand certain medical conditions and innovative treatments that can help patients improve their quality of life. Even though we know how to engage audiences with compelling facts, we may be hesitant to share our own powerful stories.

For me, my personal narrative began to take shape growing up on a farm near a small town of just 500 residents. Mental illness was prevalent in that rural community, but it was a taboo topic. When my nephew died by suicide in 2012, it was a chilling wake-up call. While certain neighbors wanted to sweep his tragic passing under the rug, my mom took a bold stand to talk about it with the goal of helping others. I’ve carried on this legacy by supporting organizations that focus on eliminating the stigma of mental illness. In particular, I am committed to making a difference by pulling back the veil of silence about mental illness in rural communities.

I have many other passions, including showing purebred horses and dogs, operating a dairy farm and, of course, providing communication solutions to our valued Jeff Winton Associates clients. But casting a light on the problem of mental illness in rural communities is my true North Star. It is my personal narrative – the story that can potentially change lives.

How do you find your personal narrative? You may come upon it as I did, with a life event triggering a sense of urgency. This may include a health issue that personally impacted you or a loved one. As for having the courage to openly discuss potentially sensitive issues, I can attest that being transparent is its own amazing reward. While my goal is to make a difference in rural communities, my efforts are also giving me a fulfilling sense of purpose. I highly recommend it!

—Jeff Winton
   Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Jeff Winton Associates

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