Woman pulls casket for mental health awareness

NEW JERSEY (WTXF) The morning commute included a strange sight for drivers in Mercer County. A woman was dressed in warrior paint, pulling a full-sized casket along the side of the road.

An Ocean County restaurant owner is speaking out on the sensitive subjects of mental illness, addiction and suicide. She's using a symbol of death to make a life-saving point.

48-year-old Greta Schwartz says her feet were blistered, and her legs were cramped.

 "But once I started, the adrenaline kicked in and kept me going," she told FOX 29.

And going, and going, and going.

80 miles over three days, from her home in Seaville, to the Statehouse in Trenton, with a full-sized casket in tow, to send a message about mental illness, addiction and suicide.

 "To not be ashamed.  To speak up, if you have a problem, and to demand that the brain be treated equally as any other part of the body," she explained.

Greta was in the audience at Stockton University last November when former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy detailed his struggle with addiction and mental illness.

That speech, coupled with her own family's experience, convinced Greta to as she puts it get loud.

"People hide.  They don't tell their stories.  It's gonna take everybody standing up and getting in the faces of the politicians and in the community and saying, 'you know what?  Our family is suffering.'"

During the long trek, more than a dozen people came by to add names to the casket- symbolizing those who've taken their own lives due to mental illness or addiction.

Schwartz says mental illness and addiction carry a stigma that keeps families suffering in silence and allows politicians and insurance companies to downplay the crisis.

By midday on this third day, Schwartz arrived at the Statehouse for meetings with the few lawmakers willing to hear her plea. State police tell her the casket must stay outside, but Greta, and her message have made it.

There are resources available for mental illness and addiction. But to access them, you have to admit the problem. Greta Schwartz has begun the conversation and she wants us to continue it.


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