More up front

When I published this blog a week ago for Bell Let’s Talk day, I felt like it was just the natural progression of my journey to understand my own mental health, giving myself a platform to regularly discuss my thoughts and junk.

I had a session with my therapist that evening after work and we had a good talk about the reaction to another year of progression on killing the stigma. I noted that more people are aware of the campaign and willing to tweet out the hashtag, but what was actually said varied quite a bit.

Some people did give heartfelt accounts of their own struggles or those within their families.

Some wanted to be a part of the movement, but didn’t have a great grasp of the subject so they used a general blanket statement.

Some, of course, just wanted some personal attention, but they used the hashtag so money was raised and we’ll let those creatures of social media slide for a day.

Some tried to play a weird hero role by inferring they don’t have any mental health struggles but stated “my DMs are open” (FYI no one suffering from mental health issues is going to DM a stranger who definitely doesn’t know what they’re going through).

Some – mostly men – just tweeted the hashtag by itself with no context.

Each year when this day comes around, I’ve generally been very pleased to see the noticeable progress of people coming out to help erase the stigma, but I think the discussion itself somewhat hit a lull in 2018, particularly with men. Scrolling through the posts on social media, I realized the ratio between women and men who were sharing legitimate experiences to fight the stigma was 5-1 at very best.

When I told my therapist about my thoughts on the movement stalling somewhat, she remarked something that had never occurred to me before: “You’re on the forefront of this. You’re helping to lead the charge, but this is a very recent change. Five years ago, no one was talking about depression in an open forum. It’s going to take time for people to come around.”

On the forefront? Sure, I guess I am, and I’m not the only one, but there’s plenty of room for more to join the fight. After three years of sharing a little more and more about my own personal struggles, I’ve found the open discussions to be so helpful – keeping things bottled up inside doesn’t help anybody.

Not to exclude the women in the audience, but if you’re a male who suffers from depression or anxiety or any other mental illness, I promise it gets better once you open up about it. I’ll throw out the “my DMs are open” line in this case, but I’m not a doctor and I can’t promise I can help with your specific situation. However, I can answer questions the best I can and help figure out how you can share your story/message/diagnosis in a safe, comfortable setting.

I don’t want to be on the forefront by myself. I can keep sharing and I will because I know it works for me. The best way I know how to fight this stigma is by talking about it until it goes away. It took me a while but I can now drop phrases like “I have therapy today”, “I’m too depressed to work my shift”, and “My depression gets really bad when ‘X’ happens” with ease. The problem remains that, as normal as I try to make it seem, the people I discuss this stuff with often don’t know how to respond, and that’s not going to change until more join the fight to end the stigma.

Let’s keep the discussion going, boys and girls.

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