Breaking Down the Walls
Fighting back against mental health stigma.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression in the past and has come out on the other side; I would like to offer a few words. Mental health is not something that you can always see, it is something that most people suffer from in silence. Mental illness does not just happen, against popular belief. Mental illness is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors, not due to personal weakness or a character flaw. People are often so quick to judge others and place blame, but no one and I mean no one would live this way by choice.
As someone who has suffered, I can only compare it to an earthbound form of hell. The worst part for me was the self-bullying, being tortured by my own thoughts. The second worst part is the feeling of loneliness and isolation. I felt like I couldn’t talk to others about what I was experiencing, due to very negative experiences and what often felt like consequences. Talking to a therapist only goes so far and getting to see a mental health professional comes with its own set of challenges. Unless you have the cash to pay out of pocket, expect to be put on a list, that is longer than Santa's.
Mental Health Services are extremely limited in Nova Scotia and most seem to have a primary focus on severe, visible types of mental illness (ex. Schizophrenia). Sadly, for those of us who have less visible mental illnesses, there is the big goose egg, when it comes to available services. The ER turns away countless amounts of people daily, who are suicidal and most healthcare providers aren't trained to deal with mental health crisis. I could sit here all day and list the problems with our mental health care system but, sadly that would do little - to no good. However, what we can control are our individual actions.
I can’t stress enough the importance of recognizing when our loved ones are reaching out for help. To be able to see behind the fake smiles and dig beyond the surface is not easy but, it is possible. I truly believe that if we can spread awareness and take the time to educate ourselves, we can make a change. It surely won't happen overnight, and maybe not even in the next decade but, to tackle mental health we need to first reduce stigma.
Please be kind to others, even those who act unkind to you. Often it is those people, who are suffering the most. Take the time to reach out to others and help their voice be heard. Instead of offering empty words of advice, listen. Your words will mean a lot more when you take the time to truly listen and understand.
Remember to also be kind to yourself! Taking time for yourself is not selfish it is necessary.
As I sit here writing this I am suddenly struck with fear of the stigma and disapproval of others but, at the same time, I say fuck it! Someone needs to stand up and be the voice for change. If we don’t speak up and talk openly about these issues, then we can’t break down the walls? So, folks let’s get talking!