Never mind cowardly, impotent terrorists or overrated, ungrateful celebrities, the buzz this week is all about mental health.
Mental health. Those two seemingly-harmless words evoke all sorts of images, don’t they? A group of sad sacks gathered for a therapy session. A trembling hand reaching for a bottle of pills – or a glass of liquor. A figure huddled in a corner of a stark white padded room. This is how the world-at-large feels about mental health issues.
But the truth is, every single one of us is at risk when it comes to the state of our mental health.
We work harder then ever before – for a smaller reward. (Most of us anyway.) We spend far too much time worshiping/envying the rich, as though monetary wealth and fame are the key to true happiness. Society tells us we deserve everything and if we don’t get it? Well, we should consider ourselves doomed to perpetual unhappiness.
So what do we do?
Well, most of us ignore our fears and insecurities while others swing in the other direction and are consumed by them.
The solution? How the hell should I know? I carry luggage for a living. Personally, I think the answer lies in the simplicity of Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign currently unfolding on social media.
Pain shared is pain halved. Period. Then again, we’ve already established the power of the stigma of the words “mental health”, so again, what do we do?
We move past the stigma, just as we would any obstacle in the path of our happiness. Easy for me to say, right?
Fine, I’ll go first.
My name is Robert. (You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.) I’m a forty-something, Canadian white guy. I’m a smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls. Scratch that, I’m THE smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls.
I am also a rape survivor. (I hate the sanitized, civilized nature of the term”sexual assault”. Why do we use “clean” words to describe savage acts?)
It happened when I was a boy and in the time since that fateful afternoon, I’ve allowed the details to blur in my memory. I remember the knife against my throat, the sweat on my face, my fingers reaching through the long grass and into the dirt of an open field behind our house. As for the pain, I severed that connection years ago; its buried in some dark sub-basement of my memory, and that’s where it will remain. I refuse to be haunted by the past, though it creeps up through the layers of protection I’ve placed above it from time to time. I’m only mentioning it now because I feel stronger about the Let’s Talk campaign than I have about anything in a long time.
My secret? She’s standing a few feet away from me as I scribble this post into a notebook, preparing dinner, while Murdoch Mysteries unfolds on a small television in the background. Our daughter is safely ensconced in her room, devouring season two of Saving Hope. They are my secret. They are my salvation.
Do I believe in therapy or pharmaceuticals? Yes and no. Therapy can move mountains of pain but only if one is wiling to surrender fully to the process. As for medication, I have a loved one who has become addicted to prescription medication, thus eradicating my objectivity, but I’m willing to acknowledge the power of pharmaceuticals in the battle for one’s sanity.
That’s all I have to offer. Now it’s your turn. I’m not suggesting you bear your soul as I have. (Truth be told, my stomach is in knots. I’ve shared this truth once before on my blog but never so plainly. I’m actually afraid to hit the “publish” button.) The important thing when it comes to mental health is to share your fears, anxieties or horrors. Doing so will lessen their hold on your soul.
And if you don’t have anything to share. First off, that’s great! Secondly, don’t underestimate the value of being someone’s rock. You don’t have to become an instant psychological expert, just be a steadfast friend. The darkness only holds sway over us because of our innate fear of the unknown. But when we recognize and share our demons the light begins to pour in and suddenly the dark isn’t so terrifying anymore.
I stopped being afraid of the dark long ago but only because I was willing to acknowledge exactly what was waiting for me in its depths.
The rest is up to you.
Reach out as an individual and become part of a community. Let’s stop being silent on the issue of mental health.
Let’s do away with the stigma.