Written and shared by a person with lived experience
For many years mental health disorders were thought of as “the elephant in the room”.
It was taboo to say the words mental health, or identify actual disorders. In a restaurant 10 years ago, I mentioned to my lunch date I had a class at the mental health centre later. My date looked to see if anyone had overheard the words “mental health”. This was confusing as it seemed the best way to de-stigmatize our “elephants” is to bring them out in the open.
I find more people are now readily using the term “mental health”, and some are encouraging others to talk about their illnesses. I must admit there are still people who are uncomfortable with the terms, but I also feel that is their problem, not ours.
The Bell Let’s Talk 2017 special with Howie Mandel was fabulous. If there is a well-known person associated with an illness, we tend to really listen. For me the biggest message of that show was that it’s okay to say the words “mental health”. If that is all it accomplished, then good – we need to hear that message.
Perhaps climbing on the backs of our elephants, we too can embrace the normalcy of mental health illness. There is no shame in talking about it. The real shame is hiding behind our “elephants”. Most do not know they have an elephant in their lives until it appears in the form of an illness suffered by themselves, family members, or friends. We need to show others we are not afraid to address the terminology of the illness that affects us.
There are many types of mental illness, and many programs and ways to address them. The more involved we become with the mental health care system, the better we can access programs and supports. Often we require changes in medication, extra attention by professional teams, or hospitalization.
Most supports are accessed through professionals, such as family doctors. A chat with a fellow “traveller” may point out other options. All supports are invaluable to those who feel lost at times. If you don’t like a first choice, try another. A silent voice covers more important mental health issues. We need to speak up.
I am proud of the work I have done regarding my own issues. I am not afraid to jump on the back of my elephant (okay, it took a while). I hope others can do so too. Say “hello” to mental health, and feel confident about expressing yourself. This could rid the inner demons of fear and anxiety that accompany our illnesses.
Safe travels on your elephant!
The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For local resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.