The idea behind #BellLetsTalk is great. Let’s get talking about mental health and dispel the stigma associated with it. But let’s be honest, we never actually talk about it. We repost, retweet, hashtag it and then move on.
So let’s really talk.
I remember the first time in my own life when I knew someone close who was sick. I was seven and my mother was placed in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after a lengthy standoff with the police. She was treated, released and we went on with our lives. The episodes tended to come in waves.
Jaimie Broughton, a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa, has lived similar experiences. She witnessed her mother struggle with bipolar disorder for much of her life.
“I learned quickly that there were good days and bad days,” she says. “She was sick during certain periods of her life, and it was upon reflecting that I understood.”
Let’s dispel a few rumours: it’s not necessarily a constant thing, you can’t catch it and it definitely doesn’t make you “crazy”.
Regarding the stigma, public health professional Sarah Kaff points out one of the major areas lacking in discussion about mental health: the school system.
“In my opinion, the best way to take down the stigma is continued education about mental illness. But also, easier access to treatment for those suffering from mental illnesses as well an attempt at normalizing these treatments. I think there’s a big gap in mental illness, amongst other things, education in schools,” says Kaff.
In a culture currently obsessed with fitness and physical health, Broughton makes a thoughtful observation on the double standard applied to mental health.
“It’s unfortunate that we associate so much stigma with taking care of your mind but it’s okay to talk about taking care of your body,” she says.