The year is 2016, and we are now open to discussing so many things we used to shun. We talk about gender orientation and sexuality. We talk about intimate medical issues, including the right to die. We talk about some of the most sensitive, the most delicate and the most difficult topics, and yet we still struggle sometimes to talk about something that touches most of our lives: mental illness.I don’t know about you, but mental illness has touched my family. After the death of my mother I went through an intensive year-long depression that was profound and deep and dark and infinitely frightening. I thought I was Teflon when it came to mental health, despite knowing that my family history of mental illness stretches back for generations. When I realized – finally – that I was struggling with depression I was genuinely stunned because I had always been convinced it would not – could not! – happen to me.
Nobody is Teflon, and nobody is immune from mental health issues. The number of people who struggle with anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness is staggering. The number of attempted suicides is terrifying, and the number of completed suicide devastating.I have watched friends grapple with the loss of a child to suicide. I have watched others attempt to secure help for family members who have threatened or attempted suicide. I have seen the huge gaps in our support system for children, youth and adults who have mental health issues. And I have realized how much we need to talk.
Right now we are facing a turbulent time in our country, with an economy that is uncertain. That uncertainty can become a huge contributor to stress, anxiety and depression, and while it is always important to be cognizant of our mental health it may be more imperative now than ever.The statistics regarding mental illness are something we need to not only discuss but share openly. We need to have open and frank conversations about mental health, not just today but every single day. We need to have them in our homes, our schools, our places of worship, our coffee shops and our workplaces. The stigma we have attached to mental illness must end. It is 2016, and the time for stigmas is over.
You don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health. You simply need to care about the mental and physical well-being of the people around you. And you need to understand that you are not Teflon, and you are not immune. I am living proof of that reality.Let’s talk. And if you aren’t talking already, let’s start today. And let’s talk tomorrow, too. And the day after that. And every single day. Let's talk, let's advocate for better and stronger support for those with mental illness and let's be there for each other. Because trust me, some day we may need them to be there for us - and nobody knows this better than me.
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