One of the most difficult things facing our society right now is Mental Health. It’s not a new thing. This is an issue near and dear to my heart. The situation surrounding our health hasn’t changed, we experienced this situation in the past. What’s new is our awareness of it, but the fact that there is still so much shame about having a mental illness. What we need to remember is that when you know better… you need to do better.
I want to be clear here, Mental Health, is Health. Health is Health. Mental Health is not about a choice. We didn’t do something wrong that caused mental health issues any different way than physical health issues. If you eat food that is bad for you and it causes problems in our physical body there is good chance that it might affect your brain too. A physical organ in your body that governs our thinking but is also affected by all of the other things that affect our physical health. What we eat is being altered and as a result it can affect our physical health and our mental health. Things like preservatives, food coloring and other food additives have been proven to cause negative affects in our body and our mind. Not to mention our addictions to having alcohol or marijuana regularly. All of these things can affect the way our brain functions.
Issues can be related to a physical incident. The other day I noticed a note regarding how to report “incidents related to injury at work”. I wondered what would happen if people used this same channel to report the abuse, bullying, and other negative situation that happen at work that affect our health negatively. These situations end up leading to people taking time off work, so why wouldn’t we report it through the same channels as a slip or fall? But… we don’t, and I’m positive it would not be accepted if we tried. I’ve been somewhat open about my situation with my mental health, and the fact that there were very specific situations that caused a trauma that now make it very difficult for me to trust. The way I was treated before the situation and even after very blunt conversations about the way I was being treated and the negative communication that I received, I still feel like I’m the one being treated like it was my fault. I was told things like I need to take care of myself, but other people think there is a problem with me, that the other person had a different story. This story is so much bigger than I can share here and has taken place over the past 4 or 5 years and there still has been very little resolution. As a result of me speaking up for myself, people avoid talking to me, they assume my behaviour is an act of defiance rather than a act of self perseverance.
No one chooses to have a physical illness that prevents them from being able to get out of bed in the morning. However, no one tells that person, you just have to buck up and try your best. Who cares if you ache or can’t focus? Who cares if your stomach is so upset that you feel like you’ll end up in the bathroom in moments? No one says that. Yet…. When someone is depressed, it’s clear this is what people think…. even though, these symptoms can be exactly the same when someone is too depressed to get out of bed in the morning. The illness takes over their body with physical symptoms so bad that they sometimes can’t even see straight… Yet our response is…. you need to get out… You need to just do it. They seem to believe that you can somehow control your mental health. Sometimes a person just needs to stay in bed and feel safe enough to do so, so they can heal. Sounds simple for the person with the flu, yet questioned for someone with a mental health issue. Which is why I say… we stop making it different from physical health.
We don’t make big campaigns or awareness about Human Physical Health Research. We don’t require people to declare the difference between not feeling well physically or mentally, so why are we still stigmatizing so many people for having health issues that are along the same lines that people have suffered with for years. If someone doesn’t come to work because he or she doesn’t feel well, why is ok for people to judge him or her related to whether or not it is physical or mental. Why is it that we think people who suffer from mental health issues are “faking” it when they call in sick to an event or to work? Why do people feel guilty for needing to take a ‘Mental Health’ day?
“When it comes to mental health, every action counts. Helping to end the stigma around mental illness can help create positive change. It’s a fact: one in five people in Canada will experience a mental health issue or illness in any given year. One of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek help.” ( https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ways-to-help )
One of the best ways that we can support people who are suffering with any illness, is to be understanding, supportive and kind. One of the most difficult thing for someone to do when they are at a point that they need help, is to have to ask for help. If that help is not given, or if they situation is proven to not be a safe place, it can be a cause to create a worse situation. If you even find yourself in a position that someone comes to you for help, please just say “how can I help?”. If a person has found the strength to share their truth, honor them by showing them that you understand how flipping difficult that must have been, and then do what you can to make that person feel comfortable enough to know that they did the right thing.
People can struggle for a variety of different reasons. This can be a situation where they were born with a disease that causes problems, this could be a situation related to high stress, lack of sleep, food issues that are part of our society including the pressures that we are under, this could be a situation related the environment where they have been forced to be with someone who is abusive or has caused them harm in some way. Often as a result people will start to self medicate. This is when a person will say “I need a drink” after a stressful day, or they will try to feel better with comfort food, or even the opposite, by not eating. These illnesses have vast causes and outcomes. We all deal with these illnesses differently. Regardless of the reason, this is not their fault. This is a time when they need kindness and support.
Bell Let’s Talk day is a great way to get the conversation started about these issues. However, this is a story that shouldn’t stop today. These are issues that we all need to educate ourselves on, and we need to learn how we can be more compassionate, understanding and supportive of the people around us who might be suffering because they don’t feel it’s safe to share.
It’s difficult for me to talk about this kind of stuff because there are two responses. One people feel sorry for me, and they believe that I’m struggling. I am not struggling. Do I struggle? Yes, at times. However, we all struggle. Just because I talk about it…. does not mean that I struggle any more than anyone else, I just feel like I it’s important to share. The other side is, I get the response that I’m too negative, complaining… and once again just “need to do something about that”. Believe me, to get through the last 5 years, I’ve done a lot to take care about myself. I’ve also learned a lot about other people and try to be caring and compassionate first. I’ve learned a lot, so I try to be better while sharing my experience and my learning.
So…. Since we Know BETTER…. We NEED TO DO BETTER!