28 January 2014

Let's Talk (Honestly) About Mental Health.

Source: theagenda.tvo.org

Today there is a campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues in Canada, spearheaded by Bell Corporation, call Let's Talk. (Click on the link if you wish to know more).The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of mental health issues through conversation, removing the stigma that is often associated with one who suffers such a condition. It is a great campaign.

Mental health issues have plagued my family for generations. My mother herself was hospitalised for depression, a condition that came into our home like an unwanted house guest every few months. I myself have had periods of my life where I have experienced the sensation of a tiny rain cloud situated permanently over my head. Mostly I just float around with apathy, not really caring about what is going on, especially to myself.

The thing with mental health issues is that it gnaws at you whether you realize it or not. 

Society has come to equate mental health issues as some sore of condition where emotions are dramatic and the person is unhinged. It's easy to spot the crazy person muttering obscenities in the wind. That is one aspect.

Most of the time though, it is this silent condition that you really don't notice because on the appearance, the person with whatever issue seems fine. Sometimes, the person themselves don't even realize they are experiencing anything until they are knee-deep in the condition. Others are aware, but like the song says "put on a happy face."

This week month, I have been feeling depressed, and most people would never know. I smile. I joke. But I also just don't care. I am tired. All I want to do is sleep or watch TV. The issues of my life and my struggles have piled on to the point where my default emotion, apathy, has kicked in and taken over. I am reminded this week of those I have lost - grandma, grandpa and Wendy. On the surface, everyone says I should have nothing to complain about. At least I don't have kids and can go wherever I want. At least I have a job. At least I have a home paid off. At least I am with someone. All are true. I am grateful. But that doesn't make things better for me or the emotions I feel. That doesn't mean I don't have struggles anyways.

Don't believe the picture people paint of themselves. We can all make our lives a Monet, when we really feel like a Picasso.

I have been lucky enough to have counselling services in the past. I have the tools that are helping me get through this. Writing seems to help. Getting out into fresh air. Talking about my feelings. Identifying though patterns and re-framing them. Removing myself from negative situations. I am using those tools to help me through this.

The truth is that not everyone is lucky enough to afford counselling services. Not everyone can pull themselves out. Not everyone shows their issues on their face. Not everyone realizes they are having mental health issues.

Dealing with mental health issues requires a fundamental way we look at all aspects of life, not just treatment. We need to review how schools both address mental health, and equip our children to deal with issues as part of the curriculum. We need to review workplace standards. Truth is, I pretty much have to lie about being sick just to have a day off. Would an extra week of holiday, or mental health days, or flex-days, or better mental health benefits work out for the employer in the long run? Do we do enough to promote preventative treatment in the health care system or society-at-large?

Mental health issues play such a big role in society, from crime to workplace productivity. The default reaction cannot be to sweep it under the rug and then pretend they don't have a factor in issues that emerge.

Let's start talking - and listening - about mental health issues everyday, not just today.


ellie may said...

you definitely need to write more....you are very good at it...the thing about on-line friends...it's a weird thing talking to someone, but never meeting them.most people are genuine and want to connect,but our lives are so busy in a distracted sort of way.this technology just adds to the disjointedness.having said that, I REALLY enjoy your posts...good luck in your endeavours this year

ellie may said...

sorry, I should have left this comment on your last post :)

Anonymous said...

Dani, what a wonderful concise perspective on what it means to be depressed! Without being that guy who over shares at the drop of a hat, I also have a depressive personality (not depressed now, but it could always come back) coupled with social anxiety (which is always) and BPD (which thankfully has subsided as it was THE WORST). I completely agree that our society at large needs to understand how disorder works and build in an infrastructure for people to deal with it like you give someone crutches who's broken a leg.

I have never been able to afford therapy and have only once been offered any type of counseling. Luckily, I'm low grade and have used creativity to lift myself, but others aren't so lucky. As much as I love Michelle Obama and feel the obesity crisis in the US is important, I wish there was someone of her stature talking about mental health. Anyway, I just wanted to say go you for writing this!

Jo said...

Wow, this really was a thoughtful and beautifully written post. Well done, my friend.