Today in Canada is Bell Let’s Talk Day. A day that is focused on ending the stigma regarding mental health . We need to remember however, that although it’s important to talk about mental health it’s also important to listen.
In September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk began a new conversation about Canada’s mental health. At that time, most people were not talking about mental illness. But the numbers spoke volumes about the urgent need for action. Millions of Canadians, including leading personalities engaged in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle, with numbers growing every year.
As a result, institutions and organizations large and small in every region received new funding for access, care and research, from Bell Let’s Talk and from governments and corporations that have joined the cause. Bell’s total donation to mental health programs now stands at $79,919,178.55 and we are well on our way to donating at least $100 million through 2020.
Here’s a little of my story…..
It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I was told about chronic illness causing depression. I was young when i was diagnosed and nobody talked about mental health. All I know is I was sick a lot and when i wasn’t sick I didn’t feel well. I can to this day remember the first time I thought about “ending it”. As I got grew older I still had these thoughts and I just assumed that they crossed everybody mind from time to time.
It wasn’t till after my mom died that my family doctor put me on antidepressants to help me. I came off them 2 years later because i was better. At least I thought I was better. I should note that my doctor didn’t want me to come off them but I finally just stopped taking them. I did ok for a while than things started going downhill again. Thoughts were creeping back into my head, I started having anxiety attacks and it was truly awful. I went on like this for a while and just kept it to myself. I just associated it with being sick a lot and just being tired of being sick and not being able to do what other moms do.
I finally went back to see me doctor. She put me off work and had a very frank chat with me about my mental health and how living with a chronic illness is hard and this sometimes happens. It was nothing that I did and I shouldn’t be ashamed. Yet i told very few people about what was going on because I was ashamed at the way I felt.
The people that did know watched me closely. They knew when they hadn’t heard from me that I was struggling. Andy would take me for a drive just to get me to leave the house after being home for days at a time. As much as I like being around other people I just couldn’t do it and I cried – a lot!
I still have days that aren’t great and I still go through times were I just disappear and hide in the comfort of my home. I think those days are fewer and farther apart because for me i came to the realization that life is hard and sometimes I need help and i shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for it.
5 simple ways to end stigma and start a conversation
- Language Matters
- The words you use can make all the difference. Words can help but they can also hurt.
- Educate Yourself
- When it comes to mental illness, education is key. Having the right tools, knowing the right words to use and understanding how to correctly speak with someone experiencing a mental illness can make all the difference. View the Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit
- Kindness is Key
- Simple kindness can make a world of a difference. Whether it be a smile, being a good listener or an invitation for a chat over coffee, these simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you’re there for them.
- Expressions like “You’ll get over it” and “Just relax” can hurt more than help. Instead, offer your support and say “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well” or better yet, ask what you can do to help.
- Sometimes it’s Best Just to Listen
- Mental illness is a very common form of human pain and suffering. Being a good listener and asking how you can help, or simply just being there for people you care about, can be the first step to recovery.
- Talk About It
- Two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. Starting a conversation is the first step towards eliminating stigma.
- Know the facts, be kind, be a good listener and friend. Be part of the conversation to eliminate stigma once and for all.