On the stigma of mental health

I sat here the other day, appreciating nature and reflecting on my own challenges. A form of therapy.

People in positions of influence and leadership are beginning to write about mental health. My friend Ann Johnson is one inspiring example. So I’m inspired to do the same.

Mental health care providers are saying we’re in a mental health crisis at present thanks to Covid-19. It’s time to talk about this topic openly so that all of us can get the help we need.

I have lived with depression on and off for most of my life, starting in my early teens. Depression in my teens was as acute as I’ve ever felt it, which is the case for many who experience it. While my depression was surely evident to my parents and those around me, it was never acknowledged. And therefore neither addressed nor treated.

This is the mental health stigma in action.

I think back to that time and all the ways I could have been helped and suffered less. Acknowledgement would have gone a long way. Having an adult to talk with, such as a counselor or therapist, would have been helpful too.

In my twenties and thirties my depression subsided as it does for many, but returned under times of duress. Breakups, job challenges, any form of setback could trigger another cycle. I developed some coping mechanisms.

I’ve recently experienced personal losses. Depression made its familiar entrance again.

But today, I’m so much better equipped to ward off depression or at least to minimize it. I have healthy habits that I re-commit myself to. I reach out to and activate a network of friends with whom I’ve learned to be vulnerable with when it comes to times of struggle. I have years invested in therapy to better understand myself, my upbringing and ways to navigate life’s challenges.

I feel fortunate to have developed such tools and have such resources to turn to.

I’m sharing this in the hope that others can muster the courage to be vulnerable. Vulnerable enough to acknowledge to others their struggles. Vulnerable enough to seek help when it’s needed. Vulnerable enough to share the experiences that harmed them and left unhealed wounds.

Because in the end, mental health is, well, health.

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