Today is Bell’s annual Let’s Talk campaign -an initiative to raise awareness of and funding for mental health.
This is how it works: for every text you (as a Bell customer) send, phone call you make (mobile and long-distance only), tweet you…tweet with the campaign hashtag, and share on Facebook of the campaign logo, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives (regular text and long-distance charges apply, by the way). It sure seems like a great publicity scheme.
But here, briefly, is why I still think it’s a great thing.
As uncomfortable as I am with the heavy branding of the campaign, I have to say, at least someone is doing something about mental health awareness. While people are racing, walking, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and once again, running across Canada for cancer research (as they should), people with depression are still being told to, “Snap out of it,” and mental health days are still used as a euphemism for hangovers. So, way to go, Bell -hell yeah, let’s talk.
Also, of all the causes Bell could have chosen to get behind, mental health, as an often invisible illness, is truly not the sexiest -picture that homeless man yelling at his own reflection in a store window, that friend who never returns your calls anymore, that parent who could never hold down a job.
So -Let’s Talk.
Let me tell you, briefly again, about my depression. I don’t talk about it very often, because it’s not the kind of thing you bring up in everyday conversation. For a long time, I didn’t talk about it with anyone, because I was afraid of what people would think of me. But the more I have talked about it, the more I’ve realized that depression is something that has affected nearly everyone, whether directly or indirectly.
So, I had my first bout in my early teens, which went away relatively quickly (I think it took a year or two), and stayed away until after high school. It began to creep back during my first year of college, and I spent my late teens and most of my twenties either dealing with the direct onslaught of depression or living in the shadow of it -once you’ve had it, the chances of getting it again are way higher (in fact, 80% of people who have had two episodes are likely to have more -in other words, it’s far more likely than not that it will come back).
I did not ever get the help that would have really made things better. The reasons are numerous, but in my (un-researched) opinion, can be boiled down to a few factors:
1. I was too unwell to advocate for myself, and getting help for mental health requires a lot of self-advocacy. I saw a counsellor for a few months who proclaimed me “better” when I admitted to having lost the ability to feel anything after a particularly gruelling night of wishing to be dead. I believed him.
2. Not enough resources exist in our health care system to educate dotcors or assist patients. When a professor convinced me, a year after my attempt at counselling, that I wasn’t, in fact, better, I went to a doctor to ask about medication. At the clinic, I was given an online, multiple choice quiz that spit out my “depression score” at the end (à la Cosmo), and was told, yes, I was depressed, given a perscription for Effexor, and told that I should consider putting myself on a waitlist to see a psychiatrist (the wait was to be at least 3 months -at that time, I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t be around by then, so there was no point). No follow-up appointment was suggested, no explanation of possible side-effects.
3. Understanding of mental health is limited. I spent the first two years or so of my depression trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and half-convinced that I was just lazy. There was very little inormation available to me that suggested otherwise. When I finally started talking to people about what I was going through, even the most supportive friends and family didn’t really know how to help. When I started to look for ways to get better, the only options I was aware of were counselling (which I was understandably wary of) and medication. Diet, exercise, a change in scenery and weather were never mentioned by anyone, ever.
Anyway, my word count has gotten out of hand on this post. I just wanted to take the opportunity offered to talk. In case you don’t know me, I am currently depression-free and have stopped living in fear of it coming back, leaving me free to explore all the nooks and crannies of joy that were invisible from a distance.