I suffer from depression.
There, I said it.
You know why I said it first?
Because now you know someone who suffers from depression. You don’t have to read the rest of this article if you don’t want to, because I’m going to talk about mental illness and whom it affects—but if I had started this article with a statistic about how many people suffer from mental illnesses in Canada, I would be willing to bet that quite a lot of you would have skipped to the next headline. In fact, it’s taking quite a lot of self-control for me to not crumple this article up, per se, and start again with an opener that doesn’t reveal to the entire campus that I suffer from depression.
I’ve chosen to print the fact sheet from Let’s Call BULLS#!T, a campaign being run by the national charitable organization Partners for Mental Health. You can find it below this article. I’ve also chosen to put this article and the fact sheet on the first pair of inside pages of The Quill, rather than filling it with news stories. Some people might criticize me for that. But I think it is just as important, if not more important, for you to hear this message than it is for you to hear what’s going on in your community and on your campus – because, quite frankly, mental illness affects you just as much as a fee increase, a new prof, or a course cancellation.
I am fairly certain that most of you reading this know someone else who struggles with a mental illness, whether you know it or not. Mental illness is hard to talk about, even for those of us who have grown up with it – either a family member who suffers, or a friend, or a family friend … because there is so much stigma attached to it. In our society, an inability to function, for whatever reason, is condemned. While I am not making an argument against productivity (the clock does tick, and things do need to get done), I do argue that perhaps we need to focus more on our relationships and the health of ourselves and our family and friends before our work. The world is going to keep on turning no matter what, believe it or not, and I’d rather wake up in the morning feeling like a real person rather than a to-do list.
Those of you reading this who are not suffering from a mental illness: please help those who do. You would be surprised how much even just the option of having someone to talk to can mean. If a friend wants to talk, please listen – and please don’t assume anything at all about anything. Be prepared to toss your ideas of what mental illness is out the window. Don’t think you have to be perfect, either: just be there.
Those of you reading this who suffer from a mental illness: speak out. Talk to someone you trust, or call the Westman Mental Health centre at 204-578-2400, or call the Mental Health Crisis Line at 204-725-4411. You can get help, and there will be people who will care about you and want to help you. You do not have to live the way you are living now. Trust me. Life can get better.
Life can get better for all of us.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 18, January 22, 2013.