Let’s Talk – Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. The premise is to get us all talking about mental health, putting it out there, and working to remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness and too frequently prevents

Photography by Marlen James

people from seeking the help they desperately need. It was this day that got me talking, openly, about my many years of struggle with depression.

Talking about your mental illness isn’t easy, but no matter where you go the professionals will always tell you how vital it is to have a support system of people who you can reach out and TALK to. Admittedly, I am not the best with this. Hence why I took to the internet, because it seems easier to articulate the complex and roiling sea of my feelings in the written word. I am extremely fortunate in that I have always had an incredible support system who, despite not being able to truly understand what I go through, has never backed down and has always offered up whatever they could to help me through.

As I shared the Let’s Talk Day hashtag on Instagram, I started thinking about just how deeply the stigma around mental illness goes. When your illness is so misunderstood and frequently belittled, that stigma isn’t just something that surrounds you, it’s something you internalize. I didn’t realize the extent to which my self-talk has been stigmatized until I caught myself in a meeting yesterday. I was mulling over meeting new people, and fearing that maybe knowing about my depression and anxiety was going to cripple my relationships for the rest of my life. I told myself that it was best to just keep it hidden for as long as possible, that no one should have to be burdened with the weight of it, lest they jump ship and run away. THIS IS ALL SO WRONG.

Firstly, not once have I had someone jump ship when I told them about my illness, or my suicide attempts, or my inability to answer telephones. Not one time. Secondly, this is who I am. This is a struggle I will al

ways work to keep at bay, but hiding it is exactly what Let’s Talk Day is working to prevent. There is no shame in fighting this battle, as much as your brain will tell you otherwise. You are stronger than you realize, and you are loved more than you realize. If we don’t keep talking about mental illness, it will continue to lurk in the shadows and stealthily occupy the space in our minds that secretly fears we are rendered unlovable.

TL;DR: Living with mental illness is like maneuvering a bed of nails

Alone, it is impossible, painful, and dangerous. But distributed amongst many, the weight of that illness ceases to have the same effect. To lay down on a bed of nails is to know that it cannot harm you- you are safe, and you are loved. That bed of nails isn’t going away, but neither are the people that love you.

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