Today’s show is a special one as my better half, Denise Sprung, is my guest. Denise is the Chair of the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Keith died by suicide at just 27. Today would’ve been his 46th Birthday.
We decided that there’s no better way to wrap up Mental Health Awareness Month than to honor Keith’s memory, share his story, and share the tremendous amount of positivity that has taken place since he’s been gone.
Keith was a son, brother, and took great joy in being an uncle. He was fun-loving and always the life of the party. For those listening who knew Keith, take some time to remember your Keith stories. Share how he made you smile, how generous he was, and talk about his laugh.
For those that didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Keith, hopefully today’s show will shed light on who he was and the incredible impact he has had on others in this conversation about mental health.
Listen in for some great takeaways about Keith’s journey, and the impact he had on his sister, his family, and the entire world.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Denise shares Keith’s powerful story [3:17]
- Why Denise feels compelled to use his story to help others [5:41]
- The mission of the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at AFSP [8:48]
- How We’ve allocated the funds from the Keith Milano Memorial Fund [12:17]
- How we’ve raised over $1.7 million in Keith’s memory [14:52]
- How Denise raises awareness for mental health and suicide [18:27]
- The mental health conversation is evolving and changing [21:41]
- What Denise did today that brought her joy [28:01]
Why Denise feels compelled to use his story to help others
Denise chooses to be open and honest about Keith’s death because he struggled with the stigma associated with mental health. He often said, “No one believes I’m sick.” So on the night he died, she promised that he would never go quietly.
She had no idea what that meant at the time but if even one person heard his story and felt less alone, she knew it would be worth it. Denise seeks to create a space so others can be comfortable talking about their experience with mental health struggles or suicide. No one should feel they have to cover it up.
Denise and I are a resource for our community because we share Keith’s story. We’ve gotten countless calls—day or night—from someone struggling. Because people know there is help, and that it’s okay to ask for help, we’ve saved countless lives. Raising money is great. It does make an impact. But we care more about being a resource for those who are struggling.
The mission of the Keith Milano Memorial Fund
The mission of the Keith Milano Memorial Fund is to raise awareness about mental health. We partner with AFSP to raise funds. One of the first programs that we funded is “More than Sad,” designed to reach out to high school students about mental health.
Recently, we’ve helped fund the “Seize the Awkward” campaign. It was initially a social media campaign targeted at teens to help them learn how to engage with friends, classmates, and teammates to “seize the awkward” moment and start conversations.
The memorial fund has also funded some research grants on Bipolar Disorder. We still lack a fundamental understanding of the brain and chemical imbalances. We hope that research on mental health disorders becomes as important as cancer research.
How we’ve raised over $1.7 million in Keith’s memory
Within a year of Keith’s death, his employer (Envirotech) reached out, asking if they could host a golf outing in his memory. We partnered with them to host a golf outing for 10 years.
While this was ongoing, an author in the romance community—Katie Ashley—reached out and asked if she could donate the proceeds her novella made every May to Keith’s memorial fund. We invited a few other authors to join. This May will be the 11th annual mental health awareness book fundraiser benefiting the Keith Milano Memorial Fund.
All of the net proceeds from my book, “Financial Planning Made Personal,” will be going toward the Keith Milano Memorial Fund.
The mental health conversation is evolving and changing
We’ve come so far in two decades. When Keith looked around him, he didn’t see that anyone was getting better because no one talked about mental health. People were hiding that they’d been in a dark place.
Now, celebrities, athletes, and news outlets share freely. Robin Williams’ death by suicide and the pandemic made mental health issues come to the forefront. We’ve made huge strides in the mental health conversation.
Would today’s environment have changed the outcome for Keith? We think it might have. That’s why we will continue to tell his story.
If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal ideation, please contact 988 for immediate assistance. If you need guidance, feel free to reach out to us.
Resources & People Mentioned
- Donate to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund
- Financial Planning Made Personal
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- More Than Sad
- Seize the Awkward
More Information about the Keith Milano Memorial Fund
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