On social media today, particularly Twitter, you’re going to see the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Every time that you use this, Bell Media will donate 5¢ to Mental Health initiatives in Canada.
Why is this so important? Although Western society has come a long way in terms of accepting that disorders like depression, anxiety and related mental health issues affect millions of people and psychotherapy doesn’t have the stigma that it once did, we still have a long way to go and there are still many, many people who don’t believe in asking for help, think that a mental health issue will just “go away on its own,” or the worst, “it’s all in your head.”
Just because you can’t see a physical symptom or a person doesn’t “look sick,” it doesn’t mean that the person isn’t suffering in pain on the inside. We need to stop making these assumptions just by looking at people. Many so-called “invisible” diseases and disorders include arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and many more.
But another, far more pernicious “invisible” affliction that affects millions of people worldwide every single day is depression.
Everyone has a different comfort level talking about their personal experiences publicly or even among friends. I know many brave friends who have spoken about their individual experiences with mental health issues, including people who, on the surface, look like they’re as happy as can be, but the truth is? They’re very good at hiding what’s bothering them.
And so am I. Now, I’m not quite ready to speak publicly about my issues, but I do want to draw attention to the Bell Let’s Talk campaign going on today. Making the decision to get help for my own issues and my personal demons has been one of the most positive steps that I have taken in my life. People with similar issues often hope that this type of thing will “go away” or that it will resolve itself on its own or that they just need a few years to go by and then they’ll feel “okay” or “normal.”
It won’t. Not if you don’t do anything. Not if you just sit there asking yourself repeatedly what’s wrong with you and why can’t you just buck up and cheer up like everyone tells you to do. Not if you continue to hide your pain and expect it not to do long-lasting damage to you.
Let’s end the stigma around mental health issues and be mindful of the fact that mental health has a huge impact on a person’s well being. Please don’t assume you have any idea what’s going on in a person’s head. I know I used to make this mistake, and I have called myself out on it to stop, because it adds to the problem.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in the past few years is that sometimes, we make the huge mistake of assuming we know what a person is thinking or what must be going through their head. The truth? In most cases, you could not be more wrong, and you have no idea what’s going on with that person.
We love to psychoanalyze others and pretend we know what exactly is “wrong” with them, and we’re so confident that we’re right. We’ll say, “Oh, well, she (or he) was acting rudely because she or he is insecure,” or any number of other theories that we come up with to explain to ourselves why we have had a not-so-positive interaction with another human being. I see people do this all the time at grocery stores or shopping lines in general, thinking the worst of a “difficult customer,” or someone who is taking “too long.”
We’ll say things about them like, “Oh, this woman (or man) must be unhappy in her or his personal life so she or he is taking it out on the store employee,” or we’ll look at a “difficult” employee who is perhaps being not-so-nice and assume, “Oh, she (or he) must hate his or her job and his or her life, so it’s no wonder why he or she is being so rude to me.”
Let’s stop the negative assumptions, realize that there are millions of people out there who need help dealing with their mental health issues, remove the stigma of having these issues, and hope that this campaign and similar ones will encourage people to get the help they need and deserve.