by Bonnie Hunter, Director of Talent & Innovation at North York Community House
It’s been ten years since I first started dealing with depression which, as I write this, seems like some kind of sentence handed down to me for past wrongs. Ten years is a long time to spend fighting this fight, and I have to admit, I haven’t always felt up to the task. On the positive side, depression no longer comes on like a sneak attack, scaring me out of my ‘normal’ – I’ve come to accept that this is a chronic condition that I’ll likely be dealing with, on and off, for the rest of my life. Yet this realization doesn’t give me the energy and motivation I need to claw my way out of the crater every time.
At the same time, I’ve found hope in the way mental illness has become a huge topic for public discourse, even if legislation and access to treatment haven’t kept pace. I remember at first being convinced I was the only one dealing with this, not knowing exactly what ‘this’ was, only to find out that close friends and relatives were in it with me – we just didn’t talk about it. So we’ve come a long way, even since 2006. I just hope that all the publicity, all the ‘coming out’ of celebrities who’ve faced their own struggles, doesn’t create a sense that this is now a problem solved because it has its own hashtag.
I worry that the increased awareness of the stats – that 20% of Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, that 8% of us will deal with major depression, and so on – will lead those more fortunate to believe they totally get it. And so ‘it’ will start to feel like no big deal, when in reality every single one of us lives with our own special brand of pain and fear and isolation.
But then I remember that while the majority will not have to go through any of this personally, they are likely to be related to, a colleague of, or in love with someone who will. And they will have a front row seat to their loved one’s journey through it, while trying to figure out how to listen, how to be supportive, how to stay, and how to not make it worse. (Those first three, by the way, almost guarantee avoiding the fourth.)
So we’re really all in this together, and I’m so grateful for the brave souls in my life who have the courage to ask hard questions and keep showing up when I can’t see my way out. I keep thinking that someday you’ll stop returning my calls but you never do. Thank you for accepting that this is part of who I am, and for helping me to accept it as well. Your love and bossiness and humour are what will get me through the next five minutes, and the next week, and the next decade.
Chances are you know someone dealing with some kind of mental health issue. You may not have heard from them in a while, and might think they don’t want to talk to you. For people dealing with serious depression, anxiety or other mental illness it can be extremely difficult to reach out and ask for help, even to those closest to us. You may be hesitant to reach out to them because you feel awkward and don’t know what to say. Please, give them a call or send them a text anyway – letting someone know you care is never the wrong move.
If you or someone you know is in distress right now, call 911, or contact Toronto’s 24-hour crisis support line at 416 408-4357.
For more information on mental illness and available support services, visit:
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