Let's Talk starts with 'I'm listening'
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 03:45 pm
In the summer, I got increasingly irritated by an image I saw being shared on social media – a picture of beautiful sun-dappled trees was labeled “This is an antidepressant,” while a picture of a Prozac pill underneath it was labeled, “This is sh - -.”
Mental health is a topic that should be important to all of us; modern medicine and doctors can prolong lives, but what is the point of living longer without a good quality of life? I agree that diet, physical activity and taking time to relax, breathe and enjoy the outside world are certainly ways to improve your mental well-being and quality of life. But this meme was not only judgmental of people and their ways of coping with mental health and well-being, but also too simplistic, as though if everyone who suffered from depression just went outside in nature and took a deep breath, they’d miraculously feel better.
Tomorrow, Jan. 25, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign is once again running, to encourage people to talk about mental illness and reduce the stigma around the topic. The Bell Let’s Talk hashtag has certainly taken off in the seven past years of the campaign, but despite all the conversation, it seems like many still treat mental health issues like the proverbial skeleton in the closet. One in five of Canadians will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their life, yet the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety indicates less than a quarter of Canadians feel comfortable talking to their employer about their mental illness, for fear of facing discrimination or dismissal.
Like everyone else, I have had low points in my life, times I wished I didn’t have to get up in the morning and face the world. I have seen people I care about try to escape the pain of their life by trying to commit suicide, and I have felt guilt, wondering what I could have said or done that might have made a difference, that might have stopped them from making such a desperate choice.
When I attended Hope Day in Saddle Lake a little over a month ago, an event meant to raise awareness and prevent suicide, a speaker urged each of us to turn to the person next to us, to look into their eyes and to hold their hands; she urged the students attending to turn to one another, to support one another, and to reach out for help if they needed it.
There’s a lot of things we can do to make our communities better places for mental health, but first and foremost, we need to rely on each other to be kind and supportive, and we need to watch our language around mental health. It’s not helpful to tell someone to “Get over it,” or criticize and attack them when they may be facing an internal struggle you know nothing about, post a meme saying that medication they might take is garbage. Instead, we can start by saying, “I’m here for you,” and “I’m listening,” and let them know they have nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a small step, but openness is the best place to start when we’re letting the ones we love that we’re beside them in – and hopefully through - their darkest hours.