I wanted to share with everyone a post from one of my best friends. She is one of the many reasons I continue to keep the discussion about mental health issues open and current.
I’ve known Stephanie for over fifteen wonderful years. We went to school together; we lived together; we even attended each other’s weddings. For over a decade, she has been a loyal friend to me. Now that we are older, we’ve drifted apart a little. We see each other far less, but the love and appreciation for one another is as strong as it was fifteen years ago. Any time she crosses my mind, I am rewarded with warm memories and a full heart.
When you first meet Steph, her infectious smile will draw you in immediately. Her sparkling personality and limitless creativity will win you over, no matter who you are. She is accepting of everyone, come as you are, and will always stick up for the little guy when the time arises. This is always how I’ve known Steph, and whenever I think of her, her warm smile and bubbly laugh come to mind first.
When I found out that Stephanie tried to take her own life, it shocked me. I felt guilty; I felt ashamed; I was deeply saddened. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t about me; it was about her and her daily struggle with mental illnesses. It didn’t matter how it made me feel. What mattered, and still matters, is that Steph was courageous enough to make it through and share this information. It really made me take a step back and look at how I approach and treat people on the regular.
Like the well-known iceberg analogy, what you see on the surface is but a small part of what is truly stirring underneath. When someone appears fine, they could be struggling. If someone is throwing a shit-storm, there could be underlying causes that have nothing to do with the present moment. If anyone ever tells you they are suffering, stay and listen. It could be your only chance.
I am incredibly grateful that Stephanie shared this story with me. It means that she is still alive to share it. She fought through, and made it to the next day, and the next. And here she is today, still fighting.
I guess my key point is, never judge a book by its cover. Someone who appears to be the epitome of health and happiness, could be suffering in silence. Statistics show that 1 in 5 people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness. 50% of Canadians will have or have had a mental illness by the age of forty. That means it’s quite possible that 1/5 (if not more) of your closest friends is experiencing some sort of mental health problem.
It doesn’t take much to help. A smile, a phone call or text message to check on a friend, a kind word or gesture. These are all simple (and free) acts that can go a long way in helping someone who is suffering. When someone tells you they need time, give it without judgement. If they don’t message you back for a while, don’t think they’re ignoring you or brushing you off. Maybe they need time to look after themselves before they can reach out to you. If someone tells you they are thinking of suicide, drop everything and listen. Tell them you are there for them and that they are not alone. Put aside your own anxieties and distractions, and focus on the life you could help to save.
If the idea of saving a suicidal person’s life seems daunting, the most important thing you can do seek help. Do what you can in the moment, even it it means just sitting and listening. Then when you are able, tell someone else. Don’t know who to tell? Get on the phone with Crisis Services Canada toll-free any time at 1.833.456.4566.
Never keep someone’s plan for suicide a secret.
Their life is worth more than your friendship.
I don’t know what I would do if Stephanie weren’t around today. I honestly don’t. I’m amazed, and very thankful that she can fight through every day. She continues to smile and laugh, and knowing her makes my life richer.
Steph, you are an inspiration, and part of my motivation to keep #mentalhealthawareness on the forefront of people’s minds.
For more resources on mental health in Canada, please check out the links at the end of this blog.
Reposted from @stephlawscabinetofcuriosities
Are y’all still talking about Mental Health now that #bellletstalkday is over? As someone who has been clinically diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD it just didn’t feel right for ME to hop on the hashtag trend yesterday just because a corporation said so. I get what they are trying to do, and yes, I think it’s very important that we talk about and de-stigmatize mental illnesses – and there is nothing wrong if you did post, share or donate yesterday, in fact, good for you! I don’t want to lessen that experience (it’s really validating btw, so thank you)… However, I just hope Bell’s ally-ship isn’t just performative…
Because I live with these illnesses every day, not just one convenient day. Every day I take meds. Every month I see a therapist. Some days are a breeze, others I can shrug it off. I’m really good at pretending if I have to, and then there are just horrific days of suffering. But these are just my experiences, and they are forever changing, and there is absolutely no shame in it. Will I be on medication forever? No, probably not. I’ve been on a mix of different kinds and doses, and I just have to follow what works for me. Will I need therapy forever? Also unlikely, but I really do like my therapist, she keeps me grounded and in control. I used to see a psychologist when I was suicidal, but I’ve grown a lot since then.
I’m no longer uncomfortable revealing this honest and real part of myself. And it gets easier to identify what’s going on the more I talk about it. So let’s not wait for another hashtag day to talk, let’s keep the conversation going every day. If you’re ever struggling, or even when you’re not, you can reach out and share your story. I will listen. #bellletstalk
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