So, I’m a bit behind. But last week (actually, exactly a week ago), Bell had it’s annual “Let’s Talk” day. On this day, they try to focus on mental health and raise money (based on people texting and sharing images) for charities. They want people to openly talk about mental health, with the idea is to break down barriers about mental health. It’s a great idea. But not all talk on mental health is productive or helpful. In fact, it can often be the opposite.
There’s been more talk this semester about mental health on campus, because there were at least 2 students who committed suicide last semester. And so they’re trying to prevent this from re-occurring this semester.
I find mental health such a weird issue myself. Because I know I’ve struggled with it for years. The first time someone (my doctor) suggested I should probably see someone because I was more stressed out than I should be, goes back to early high school. And even though on this blog I’ve mentioned that I knew I should find someone repeatedly, I didn’t, until late November last year.
I had friends during my undergrad who met with a counselor, and I fully supported them. It definitely helped them out. And I also had a friend during my undergrad who attempted suicide (and thankfully didn’t succeed). I know many of my grad school friends have reached out to various counselors and programs to find extra support.
But, there’s still a lot of negative language that gets tossed around. And it makes it really difficult to go and deal with it, even when you know you desperately need to. Because that language, it sticks. And you don’t want to be judged the same way.
One of my sisters partners made a comment about how a kid of someone he knew is suffering from depression and that this couldn’t be true, because this kid hadn’t grown up poor, he had a good life, middle-class family. No one in those situations could possibly be depressed. Really, this just showed that this person doesn’t understand mental health, but you could see how this language makes it difficult for someone to reach out.
On campus, a member of the academic staff in our department has been out for a long time with mental health issues, and is finally returning to work. Now, most of my friends didn’t get along with this person (I didn’t actually interact with her, so was pretty neutral), and had horror stories from their interactions. And I get that she wasn’t ideal to work with. However, once it became news that she was away because of mental health issues, I still heard comments about how she shouldn’t be allowed to take this time off for mental health and if she was gone this long, they should fire her. And now that she’s back, people are continuing to talk pretty negatively about her. They’re groaning about her being back. Don’t get me wrong, maybe she really is just that bad of a person. But shouldn’t we be giving her a chance to show she’s changed and that the previous experiences were mainly based on whatever was going on? Listening to your friends talk like this, doesn’t make you ever want to mention what’s going with you. You already feel judged and you haven’t even said anything.
People will say that we need to be better about mental health. We need to talk about it more. We need to better fund it. We know that people suffering from mental health issues are often behind many brutal attacks that have happened across North America. And yet, these same people will make these snide comments about others who are having these exact issues. These comments make it really hard for people to reach out and get help.
And every time someone is prevented from reaching out, that person isn’t getting better. And you never know if that’s the person who is going to end up committing or attempting suicide.
I had one friend on Facebook recently openly comment about taking anti-anxiety meds and how they have helped her. And it opened the gates for others to comment back to her about their own experiences and what has or has not helped them. It was great to see a welcoming and open community, with no one implying that that having to be on these meds should be looked at as a problem and as something “wrong with her.”
So next time you’re about to make a comment on mental health, think twice about what you’re going to say.