Writing on my blogs and speaking about my struggle with Major Depressive Disorder has helped me gain the self-confidence to reach out and tell my story in more ways. Thus, while I had a Twitter account (@zelandroid009) that I used solely to expand the reach of the blogs, I’ve now started to use it to follow the tweets of mental health agencies, advocates, and campaigns and join in the conversation.
One such campaign is Bell Let’s Talk (#BellLetsTalk), a campaign I first learned of on September 3, 2014, the day I was released from the hospital.
On that day, though, I truly wasn’t in the proper mental state to appreciate just how important the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and the many other like campaigns, was and is.
Like so many others, I kept silent about my mental health issues. I grew up in a generation where these issues were “not talked about”. I grew up thinking “it was all in my head” and that I could, and should, “get over it”. In short, I beat myself up with all of the catchphrases that stigmatize mental health and felt ashamed at both my “weakness” and my illness.
Also, my personality is such that my privacy is closely guarded. If you didn’t ask, I didn’t tell and if you did ask, I still didn’t tell. This bias towards privacy was reflected in the requirements of my former career where confidentiality was a key factor.
So the stigma, the shame I felt at my “weakness” and my personal and learned inclinations all meant that silence was the preferred condition.
And I almost killed myself as a result.
Now, I understand just how important talking about my mental health is. I’ve learned that it took a great deal of strength to battle The Black for as long as I did and that succumbing to it was not weakness. I’ve learned that baring my soul and seeking help is a strength. I’ve learned that speaking up helps not only myself but many others.
Talking about my mental health challenges the social stigma and the personal stigma I placed on myself. It provides me with another tool I can use to counter any recurrence of MDD in the future because I can reach out and talk and not face the recurrence on my own. Asking for help is not weakness. It is recognizing and accepting your limitations. It is strength.
Campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk reinforce these truths. They let society at large know that it is proper, and essential, to engage in a frank discussion about mental health. And they let the mentally ill know that it is okay to display the courage they have and speak up to get the help they need.
So please join me on January 27, 2016, and each and every day of the year and #BellLetsTalk about mental health and #EndtheStigma!