#LetsTalk: There's Still Stigma
We Need To Talk
No One Said Talking About Mental Health Would Be Easy
January's been a heck of a brutal month for me, and probably for countless others.
Two sick kids with high fevers. A car accident. A high car bill which had nothing to do with said accident.
I'm trying very hard to keep things in perspective. My kids, thankfully, did not need to go to the hospital as a result of their high fevers, and are now well - in fact, the teenager is back to running around in sneakers and a wide-open jacket even though it was -12 C with a windchill of -22 C yesterday. With the accident, no one was hurt and it happened at a slow enough velocity that the airbags didn't even deploy. With the bill, well, given time, even that can be paid off.
However, for someone with a mental health challenge such as anxiety (and I've spoken about my struggles with that previously), three little things such as that can leave darker feelings at times that follow you around like a bad smell.
Like so many others, I throw on masks when I have days like that. The big smile, the gregariousness, the optimism: all of these do a great job masking the racing heart or the unsettled tummy from the endless worries and questions tumbling through the brain. I'm a fierce proponent of the idea of "fake it til you make it" on days like these; it may not necessarily make the anxiety go away completely, but no one was ever killed by smiling or trying to have a good attitude even when things feel lousy. Very often, I end up feeling far better just from trying to maintain more positivity when it feels at first like there's not much to feel positive about.
You know what else helps? Talking about mental health, which is why I look forward to Bell Let's Talk Day every year.
At first, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I remember thinking at the time that there probably wouldn't be very many people engaged in retweeting about #BellLetsTalkDay or hashtagging about it on social media. I was hopeful that people would perhaps be willing to be a part of the conversation surrounding mental health, but at the time, I felt really like that a day like Bell Let's Talk Day might crash and burn because of the stigma surrounding mental health.
I was certainly wrong, and I'm glad for that.
Howie Mandel On Mental Health And The Importance Of Talking
"You Feel Very Alone...And That's The Point Of Talking" - Howie Mandel
Human beings are about connection. There's no two ways about it. We simply cannot go through this world truly alone.
Yet, when you have mental health challenges, it can feel as though you are the loneliest person on the planet. There's still the notion out there that you can't really talk about your mental health without getting a strange look or someone telling you to just smile more or feel better.
But that's why campaigns like Let's Talk exist: because we need to talk. Talking about mental health challenges demystifies what's happening and makes it real. It helps us forge those all-important connections with others so we have something of a "crew" who's got our back when things might feel at their lowest.
No one said it's easy to talk about. It needs to happen, though, so the stigma and the loneliness surrounding mental health conditions can diminish and so that we can understand more about each other as a result. It would be nice if someone with depression could just get a good night's sleep and feel instantly better the next day, but it doesn't work that way. It would be wonderful if people with anxiety all had similar triggers and situations so we could just look up how to stop feeling the way we do and feel truly calm and at peace inside. I'm certain an easy cure for a mental health disorder would also be wanted by those with OCD or ADHD (I was surprised when WebMD classified this as a "mental disorder") or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or any one of the whole host of mental health disorders currently plaguing thousands of people today.
The fact of the matter is, there's so many individuals out there living with mental health challenges and just not talking about them. There's so many who just don't have a good understanding of what these mental health conditions are or how to help those struggling with mental health. We need to talk about mental health so we can look at how to support each other in the same way those with physical health challenges are also supported.
So, come on - let's talk.