Mental Health

It’s #MentalIllnessAwarenessWeek in Canada – Many still suffer in silence.

MHAWThe difference in awareness of mental illness now as compared to even three years ago is astounding. Social media helps a great deal in spreading awareness. I follow several mental health-related handles on Twitter including CAMH, Elephant in the Room, and Mental Health Platform, to name a few. They have been and continue to be great sources of not only information, but comfort as well.

Why comfort? Because there is nothing like knowing that you’re not alone – that others are suffering, just like you.

Many of us who suffer with mental illness suffer in silence.

I was no different. While I have been writing about mental illness for several years (though few people knew about it), taking the step to vocalizing it was a whole new nest of bees. Of course, I had told my immediate family and some very close friends, but I had never gone beyond that – specifically, I had never told a colleague.

Several years ago, one particular colleague and I struck up a rather good work friendship. We would bitch about, and purge our work-related woes to each other (as work friends often do), finding that we had a lot in common. I keenly recognized her to be a high-functioning depressive, like me. I had begun to trust her but still, I just wasn’t sure how she would react and even more concerning, if she would keep my confidence.

One day, while walking back from getting an afternoon coffee, and in reference to some of the things we had been discussing, I took a deep breath and calmly stated, “I suffer from chronic depression.” We stopped walking and she looked at me. This was it: the moment of truth.

We stood for another ten minutes while I shared with her my history with mental illness, both depression and anxiety. And then something remarkable happened. My work friend shared some of her journey too. Not as much as I had, but that was okay. It was a start.

When we got back to our desks, she thanked me for opening up to her. I took a big step that day and in some small way, I believe I helped her. It made us closer and while she has since gone her way and I’ve gone mine, I still think ever so fondly of her and that indelible moment.

It was a risk. I understood it then and I understand it to this day. You have to read the situation and trust your gut. Since that day, I have shared my mental illness journey with quite a few people and it becomes easier each time.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Random Ramblings

News about #violence is everywhere. What’s a person to do?

Violence is everywhere. That’s nothing new. What’s new (relatively speaking) are the 24-hour news channels, and online news and social media platforms that put the violence front-and-centre – on repeat!

Setting aside war-related violence, which is beyond tragic and in a category of its own, I’m talking about neighbourhood violence, on the rise everywhere and seemingly out of control! Or, at least it feels that way.

It used to be (in my lifetime, anyway) that one learned about violence on the 6 or 11 o’clock news, or in the newspaper the next day. If the violence was of a particularly tragic, farther-reaching, or brutal nature, there would be a special news report interruption on TV or a newspaper “extra” (which I’ll admit, is a bit before my time).

Nowadays, learning about violence is just a click away.

Innocent, lazy channel surfing lands you on news channels where the story is told over and over, sliced and diced by experts and speculators alike, with up-to-date tragedy stats on a bright red streaming ticker at the bottom of the screen. You quickly click to the next channel or turn the TV off altogether.

Awaken your computer or smart phone to surf social media. Even though you’ve gone to extremes to only follow inspirational, funny or uplifting handles, it’s still there! Inadvertently, you see the violence trending or your inspirational, funny or uplifting handles have shared it.

If you don’t like it, disconnect!

That’s what people say. Even I say it – to others… to myself. But is it realistic? Even doctor’s offices, public transit, and shopping malls have big screen TVs, invariably broadcasting a news channel. What’s a person to do?

Besides, I like channel surfing and watching funny animal videos online.  I like the close connection with friends and special interest groups that social media affords. Is it just a case of taking the (sometimes very) bad with the good? How does one measure the benefits of one against the detriments of the other?

As I end this, I remind myself that there is still far more decency than deviance in the world. That while this vitriol on violence was spurred by a shooting in a home not ten minutes from where I live (that I learned about through social media), there are virtually thousands of homes between here and there in which live peaceful, loving families. Just like mine.