1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness. 1 in 5. That’s 1 person on the daily FM96 on-air staff. That’s 1 person in my group of best friends. That’s 1 in 5 members of Pearl Jam. 1 of the 5 Backstreet Boys.
You’ve seen the tweets and the Facebook posts. You know that today is Bell Let’s Talk day. You know that for every tweet, text message, mobile / long distance call and Facebook image share, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives. Last year, the campaign raised more than $6 million dollars in support of mental health research and awareness in Canada with more than 125 million tweets, shares, calls and texts. They did break 2015’s record by about 100 thousand dollars – high five if you were apart of that, and another high five if you’re continuing that conversation today.
All of that is a big initiative for a BIG company though, right? Let’s not forget about some of those stories that have come out in the past on Bell’s annual corporate-charity day, there’s a new story from THIS MONTH too:
Maria McLean was an afternoon radio host at K93 FM in Grand Falls until she was fired on Jan. 12, just one hour after sharing her struggles with mental illness with her colleagues and giving her supervisor a doctor’s note stating that she needed two weeks off work to adjust to her new medication.
“It’s like a nightmare I can’t escape, I think about it all day, I think about it when I sleep,” said the 24-year-old.
McLean said the irony of the situation is that the radio station she was fired from is owned by Bell Media, part of Bell Canada Enterprises, the company behind a national fundraiser for mental health initiatives called “Bell Let’s Talk.”
But McLean feels that talking and sharing her struggles is what caused her to lose her job.
“I took that note from my doctor to my supervisor because I was admitting I needed help.
“I said, ‘In two weeks I am going to be better. I just need this time.’ And I was punished for that.” You can read more of Maria McLean’s story HERE.
Only click this link if you want to go further down that road >> http://bit.ly/1JHLClX
Now, can we actually talk?
I am blown away by all the brave individuals sharing their stories of strength today and even more impressive – to complete strangers on the internet. There are several companies with a foot in broadcasting but today it doesn’t matter that I work for Corus and Bell got the conversation started.
It’s a battle to erase the stigma surrounding mental health, and it’s because some of the terms we associate it have become embedded in casual conversation; the terms are being used wrong so often. That’s one thing we can all work on to help the conversation. For some people, words like bipolar, panic attack, psycho and depression have such different (and very serious) meanings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been sad before for short periods of time when I have lost a family member or a friend. I have never been diagnosed with depression but I truly believe that we all have some degree of depression. How can we not? The grieving process when someone you care about passes away…losing touch with someone you care about…self-esteem issues…the list goes on. We are only human and we encounter heartache and tragedy just as often as pleasure and bliss. Sometimes it is difficult to process what’s going on around us, or inside us. With that being said, I wanted to share a little bit about my encounters with other people struggling with depression and how mental illness has effected some of my personal relationships (both romantic and platonic). Even as someone who has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, I promise that you too have come across people going through these very difficult times and perhaps you may not have thought about what’s going on behind closed doors. I want to share two short stories with you about two friendships that have been impacted by mental illness; one which survived, one which did not.
This story is going to be tough for me to share because I still don’t understand it myself, but the lesson anyone can take from it is that sometimes you won’t be able to understand when it comes to mental illness as you are NOT going through it. Someone that was once VERY special to me walked out of my life over three years ago with a cold halt, out of nowhere. There were no signs that our childhood friendship would end. However, there were bold signs that this person was not happy in her own skin. This friend of mine went through roadblock after roadblock professionally, romantically, and financially during the time leading up to “the halt”. To be a good friend sometimes, all you need to do is listen, hear that person out, and let them talk. Let them know you’re there. Sometime’s there is not much more you can do. About 6 months before we stopped talking she let me know she was speaking to someone to work through her problems and that made me very proud of her. The first step will always be admitting you need help…Unfortunately in the process of her getting that help, our friendship reached one of those roadblocks. I believe that this person chose to walk away when I was arguably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I also believe this person simply could not handle seeing me be this happy when they were so sad. It has been equally painful being this happy without her. I just wanted to share a glimpse of depression from the receiving end. Sometimes you won’t understand why…sometimes there is nothing you can do about it…this is the type of illness that someone must work through from the inside-out.
Another story involves a close friend and depression / an eating disorder…this person went through the toughest of times during high school struggling with body image and ‘help’ was the last thing she wanted from me…from other friends…from family. That’s where it gets tough to be on the receiving end, if someone is pushing you away while they go through their ‘difficult time’ – the chase to remain part of their support system can damage you as well. I’m so thankful that with a little time and space to heal she is still part of my life. I’m so proud of the woman this person has become since high school and her new mantra and thoughts on her illness serve as inspiration for me often. I applaud her for opening up about what she went through. She was not ALWAYS comfortable having ‘the conversation’ and I’m so glad she can now.
Right now…in January 2017…there are people close to me who I love and care about very much who are working through depression that have chosen to share their stories with courage and positivity. Others are simply too afraid and would rather their stories stay quiet. We must respect either decision…but at least we can offer to listen and keep the conversation open if they so choose to start it.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is clinically diagnosed, who is the most mentally stable, or who is going through the toughest circumstances, we all have voices and it’s very easy to use them. Ask questions. Don’t just have tough conversations, start them. Most importantly, share with others. You never know who will identify with your strength or weakness; both can be equally inspiring. So let’s talk, everyday.