Sunday 4 May 2014

"It Starts With a Week"

The Lorax

I have a question for you. If you were to gather twenty of your friends or colleagues in a room and you were to ask how many of them have had a cold at some point in their life, do you think anyone would hesitate to raise a hand? Probably not. No big deal, right? Just a simple question.

OK, how about this? Take the same twenty people but ask them a different question. This time, ask them to raise a hand if they have ever suffered a mental illness. I would be willing to bet big bucks that you would see a different kind of response.

May 5-11 is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada. It's a week dedicated to talking about mental health issues. As a society we mostly shy away from the hard topics. You know the rules - never discuss your salary, religion or politics. You can add mental illness to that list.

We all have physical health just like we all have mental health. So let's stop pretending that mental health issues don't impact a large percentage of us, because they do. One in five Canadians will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Now think back to those twenty people in that room. Even I can do the math (!) on that. There's a very good chance that if it isn't you, you at least know someone who has had some really difficult struggles with an illness that is not well understood.

The company that I work for has a great group of employees who form the Diversity in Action Team (DIA). They recently identified people with invisible disabilities as a group that they wanted to support. So they came up with a plan, a way to get the entire company on board with Mental Health Awareness Week.

The DIA will send the management team a daily email this coming week that will contain a theme, some suggested ways to easily implement it, resources, and myth busters. When I heard what they were planning I was overjoyed. This is not a mandated event - there are no leaders saying 'you must do this.' Quite simply, it's grass roots driven. Our employees identified that this is a hot topic and chose to address it head on.

The theme for Monday is recognition. I think this is a great way to start the week on a positive footing. Self esteem is a complicated thing and something that plays into mental illness in a big way. When you are suffering from depression you rarely feel good about yourself. You question yourself, your choices, and most importantly, your self-worth.

As managers and as colleagues, we all have a responsibility to contribute to the work environment in a positive way. I believe in thanking my colleagues when they help me out, recognizing them when they achieve something, and sharing my appreciation for the support that they give me in challenging times. We all need to support each other in this world because we all have challenges and we all struggle at times.

As an advocate for those of us who suffer from mental illness, it sometimes feels like a lonely, uphill battle. It can feel a little like people get that something needs to be done but 'someone else will do it.' And quite frankly, I sometimes feel like perhaps people would just like me to talk a little less about it. I am so happy that these fellow colleagues on the DIA team, most of them whom I have never even met, are taking a stand and creating positive impact.

It starts with a few people and one week out of 52. My silly, little dream of eliminating stigma and creating understanding and empathy is maybe not so silly after all. Thank you, DIA team, and to those of you who don't think I should be quiet after all.

KB xo

P.S. For more information about the relationship between self-esteem and depression please read this article from

P.P.S. To learn more about mental illness please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association

P.P.P.S. Would you like to learn more about how to invest in workplace mental health? Check out the great resources available through Partner's For Mental Health's Not Myself Today campaign.


  1. Inspiring as always. Thanks for being so open to sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    1. Thank you, Danielle. Open is the only thing I know how to be. :-)

  2. The company that my daughter works for has become more and more understanding as time has gone by. As for some of her fellow employees...not so much. This is why it is so important to get everyone informed of the battle that some are fighting.

    1. Yes, hat is often the case. I have mostly had good response from colleagues but one did tell me that "mental illness is an excuse for bad behaviour." That one was hard to swallow!

    2. My experience with that type of comment came from someone whose behaviour was atrocious. They wanted to blame everything on everyone else...and I think using mental illness was just another way they could avoid looking in the mirror. I guess we never really know what people's motivations are, but I would say that the person who said that to you either doesn't really know what they are talking about, or they know all too well and are deflecting. Just my 2 cents worth.

  3. I am now at the point that I know I can feel better but maintaining is difficult. I mean there are so many triggers that I don't even know what they are. A glance, a word, a gesture, silence. There are so many things that affect my mood and bring me down from where I think I should be or where it is that I want to be. My day was decent yesterday but all it took was a negative comment last night to ruin it. I slept well but woke up playing that comment over and over in my mind and I will spend a big part of today trying to work through it. It's like I lack the confidence to ignore it and stop taking things so personal. Not sure I explained myself but it did help to put it in writing to someone who will listen and understand. I know Danielle reads these as well.

  4. I think I undersatnd what you mean. That's really a hard thing to let go of, Dave. I have found that cognitive behavioural therapy has helped me with the negative thoughts in my head. It can be so hard to believe in yourself when you are depressed. Try and stop the 'ants' - the automatic negative thoughts that march through your head. It's OK to have the thoughts, just try to recognize them and them stop them from taking over. And hang in there!


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