From health concerns to financial instability, 2020 took an emotional and physical toll on many of us. There has been a sharp increase in anxiety and depression on a global level which is worrisome given its impact on a person’s well-being. Karestan Koenen of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health equates Covid-19 to the physical and mental effects sustained by other types of trauma such as sexual assault or natural disasters.
Jordan Corcoran is intimately familiar with some of the mental health issues facing people today. She understands the lasting effects of untreated anxiety and depression and has made it her mission to help others struggling with these disorders. In 2013, she launched Listen, Lucy, a mental health organization that uses lived experiences with mental illness to end the stigma that discourages individuals from receiving treatment.
At 19, Jordan was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. “Today, I see how much I was struggling prior to my diagnosis. When trusted people in my life suggested I seek help for anxiety, I was so embarrassed and humiliated I refused it for two years,” she says. Jordan perceived her mental health symptoms as weaknesses rather than illnesses.
When she began college, Jordan’s condition escalated. “Things went from bad to unbearable. I was having panic attacks daily. When I wasn’t having a panic attack, I was fighting off another attack with every fiber of my being. I lost weight and couldn’t sleep. I was in and out of the hospital often, taken from my college campus on a stretcher in an oxygen mask. I was scared, lonely, lost and sick.”
A candid conversation with her boyfriend (now husband) encouraged her to begin therapy. During treatment, Jordan learned coping techniques that set her on a path of healing. Rather than fear it, she began to understand her mind and pinpoint stressors that induce panic attacks. With the tools she gained, she slowly learned how to curb her anxiety. Recalling her days before treatment, Jordan says it was messy and terrifying. “I was angry for so long and couldn’t figure out why my life felt so hard.” In therapy, she accepted this as a part of her life, and made the choice to stop feeling like a victim and be a survivor.
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Jordan decided to share her personal journey with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks in her college newspaper. The response she received was overwhelmingly supportive and empathetic. Jordan realized she wasn’t alone in the emotional turmoil she had experienced for so long, and decided to create a space where others could receive the same support she did from sharing her story. The feeling of connection was desperately needed in order to heal. From this, Listen, Lucy was born.
For 7 years, Jordan has been public speaking to end mental health stigmas and help others out of isolation to reclaiming their lives. She has addressed mental health organizations and was a keynote speaker for conferences held by leading mental health organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Having experienced anxiety as a teen, her outreach extends to middle schools, high schools and colleges. She has appeared on hosting panels with Broglie Box founder Julia Broglie, Kate Spade’s social impact team, Carl Radke from BravoTV’s Summer House and the Heart Advocate’s Ta’LorPinkston. “While these big names have been moments in my career when I have had to pinch myself, some of the most impactful impressions were quieter times working with the incredible kids at Holy Family Specialized Learning in Pittsburgh, kids lining up to share their stories with me after an assembly, an older gentleman telling me I gave him the courage to speak up for the first time. These are the moments I will take with me for the rest of my life,” she shares.
Jordan has written three books, including Little Lucy and the Little Butterflies, a picture book for kids ages 5-8 that approaches anxiety in a conversational and colorful way to reduce the trepidation adults may feel introducing these topics to them.
When the pandemic hit, Jordan’s public speaking came to quick halt. Panicked, she began applying for public relations jobs. At one interview, she was told “to take out any mention of mental illness on her resume because people may not want to hire someone who had a nervous breakdown.”
That incident reminded Jordan why she starting Listen, Lucy: to address misconceptions around mental health and prevent hiring managers from discrimination. She pivoted her work and conceived a creative media hub exclusively for the mental health industry. “There are so many incredible stories, triumphs and missions that need to be shared with the world so everyone knows how common it is to struggle with your mental health. These issues do not mean we cannot achieve. We should not have to be afraid of our employers finding out if we have a mental illness.”
While growing Listen, Lucy, Jordan is launching a new PR agency, The Corcoran Collective this month, listing Listen, Lucy as one of its top clients. Her goal is rapid expansion and a comeback country-wide speaking tour in May 2022. “The work is not done and neither am I,” she says.