When I was a teenager, I suffered from teen depression. When I tried to talk to someone about it, I was told to “pull myself together”. I didn’t mention it again, because I didn’t think it was OK to talk about it.
When I was in my early 20’s, my life fell apart. I managed to pick up the pieces, but I also picked up anxiety, PTSD and an eating disorder to go along with the depression. I didn’t talk about it, because I felt that my own bad decisions had led to the state I was in. In other words, it was my own fault, therefore I didn’t deserve to be helped.
After the birth of my second child, I found myself drowning in postpartum depression. I didn’t talk about that either, because I was so ashamed. How could I possibly be feeling so bleak – suicidal, even – when I had two beautiful children? What kind of horrible person was I, that I would even think about leaving my sons without a mother?
For pretty much all of my teen and adult life, I have dealt with mental health problems that I haven’t wanted to talk about. I struggled alone with the fallout from the crisis in my early adulthood for a full twenty years – twenty years – before I sought professional help.
Sadly, I am not alone.
The Toronto-based Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) reports that in any given year, one in five Canadians suffers from a mental health problem.
We lose about eleven Canadians a day to suicide, with women being three to four times more likely to attempt it than men. The human, social and economic costs of mental illness are immense.
And yet people don’t want to talk about it – especially moms, who are so adept at tucking away their problems so they can take care of the people around them. People who suffer from mental illness tend to have this weird idea that it’s their fault, and that it’s a stigma that shouldn’t be spoken about. They fear that if their mental illness is known, it will hurt them socially and career-wise.
It is an unfortunate reality that stigmas surrounding mental illness do exist. According to CAMH, 55% of Canadians would hesitate to enter into a relationship with someone who has mental illness, and almost half of the population believes that mental illness is an “excuse”. All of this perpetuates the notion that mental illness is something to be ashamed of. And that in turn results in tragic loss of life and all kinds of trauma for those left behind.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As moms, we are great influencers of the generation we are raising. I believe it is within our power to greatly reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. If we instil in our kids the idea that it’s OK to talk about mental health issues, they will grow up to be more accepting of those who have problems, and they will have the freedom to talk about their own experiences.
If people talk more about their mental illnesses, and if they feel that it’s all right for them to seek help, how many lives could be saved? How many tragedies could be averted? How many children would be saved the sadness of losing a parent, a friend or a sibling?
Today is a special day in Canada, as one of the biggest companies sponsors a mental health awareness campaign. Today is Bell Let’s Talk day. For every tweet sent using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, and for every Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image, Bell Canada will donate another five cents to mental health initiatives.
Let’s do our part, to raise awareness and let people know that there is support for them. Let’s send a positive message to our children and create a newer, brighter future for those with mental illness issues.
This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto for World Moms Blog. Kirsten can be found at her blog, Running for Autism, or on Twitter @running4autism.