Since my first involvement with Bell Let’s Talk in 2013 (through a college project), I’ve wanted to share my thoughts about the campaign. While I absolutely love Bell’s mental health initiative, I can’t help but counter their simple premise, “Let’s Talk.” Oh, Bell, if only it were that simple. If only talking about my Depression (and Anxiety) were enough to stop the tears, the pain, the anger, and the shame. If only publishing a blog post about my most recent mental health struggle was enough to erase the stigma of having a mental illness. But it’s not. The fact is, I have talked. Many times. The trouble is, people don’t listen.
Yes, we should be encouraging people to talk about their mental health. But we also need to encourage people to listen to those of us who ARE talking about our mental health.
Do you know how many times I have opened up about my Depression and been ignored, laughed at, belittled, and embarrassed? I actually had the BALLS to tell someone that I have Depression, and they wouldn’t even listen to me? They literally have to do NOTHING but sit there and let me do ALL of the work. But, no. People feel the need to preach, minimize, challenge, and shame.
Now, I understand that mental illness is a sensitive subject by nature, and that many people are not comfortable talking or hearing about it. And I get that. But in my case, I’m referring to the people who SHOULD and are expected to be listening. People like doctors, counsellors, teachers, friends, partners, and family members. If I can made the giant leap of faith that is required for me to discuss my mental illness, I would expect these people to at least listen to and validate my experiences. What I don’t expect is to have these people tell me that I have nothing to be sad about, that I just need to get over it, that I should try diet and exercise, or have them change the subject. Just let me talk!
I have spoken openly about my struggles with Depression (and lately, my increasing awareness of Anxiety symptoms). And thankfully, some people have listened. But most people haven’t.
So, Bell, while I appreciate the effort behind your mental health initiative, the real work to be done lies with those who don’t suffer from mental illness. If we can find the courage to talk about our mental health, then they can take the time to listen.
Note: I am happy to say that upon visiting their website today, I found a page titled “5 simple ways to help end the stigma around mental illness” which does mention ways to support someone who wants to talk about their mental health.