Wednesday 30 January 2019

"On Bell Let's Talk Day Count Me In"

Help end the stigma around mental illness.  It’s easier than you think! Here's a tip from #BellLetsTalk. #endstigma
I have a fantasy. Or maybe it's a dream, or a wish. Perhaps it's all of those things.

At a particular time, on a particular day - maybe it's a Tuesday or it could be a Saturday - every single person in the world who lives with a mental illness, and every single person who has ever experienced one, takes one step forward. That one step is a step out of the closet of mental illness.

That closet is a dark and lonely place. It's where shame and stigma live. It's where illness gathers strength. It's a place that encourages mythology to thrive outside of its dark recesses. 

We place people there because we don't really understand disorders of the brain. We still largely fear them. People with mental illness are crazy, unstable, emotional and dangerous. People with addiction are losers. They are lazy and lack self-control and discipline.

We tell ourselves so many stories - through media and through the language that we use. As a result, we take illnesses that are inherently isolating and make the isolation even worse.

Here are some startling statistics about the state of mental illness in our society today:

* Two in three Canadians suffer in silence fearing judgement and rejection. - Canadian Medical Association

* One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. - Canadian Institute of Health Research

*Less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research. - Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health

* Only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. - Canadian Medical Association

That last statistic is particularly heartbreaking to me. It keeps people isolated. Isolation, stigma and shame are what prevent people from seeking help and treatment. It is, quite simply, what ends lives.

So, how do we shift this? How do we create an empathetic world where you don't have to understand the illness, you just have to recognize human suffering and move towards it rather than moving away from it?

Last week my friend, Stephanie, messaged me. She said that she was planning to post about mental illness on social media as part of Bell Let's Talk Day on January 30th. And then she said this, "What else can I do?"

That is the first time that a friend has ever asked me that. 

What else can I do?

The power in that question.

Here is the answer...

We talk about it. We share our stories and we shift the narrative. There is incredible power in storytelling.

We challenge less than inclusive language and behaviors. We advocate for each other. We act just a tiny bit brave and perhaps a little bit vulnerable.

What Stephanie was saying to me in that message was this: I am not just an ally, I am also an advocate. I stand beside you, not behind you. Count me in.

On Bell Let's Talk Day and every day of every year can we count you in, too?

KB xo

Learn more about mental health and mental illness. Education and knowledge are power.


1 comment:

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