Self-Esteem: Mental Health & You

menttal HelathMental illness. What is there to be ashamed of? Absolutely nothing! Mental health concerns us all. Mental illness does not discriminate… young, old, male or female, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental health issues every year.

 The human race has been affected by mental illness since the beginning of time. It has been suggested that Albert Einstein, the genius who developed the theory of relativity, had a mild form of autism or Asperger’s syndrome. William Shakespeare wrote of many characters who displayed a variety of mental illness symptoms (Lear’s madness, Jacques’ melancholy, Timon’s bitter cursing). Thomas Edison, world famous inventor who created the electric light bulb, had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Canada’s own, Clara Hughes, six time Olympic Champion, suffers from depression.

  The stigma that often surrounds mental illness is keeping many from seeking help. In fact, many mental illness sufferers say the stigma is often worse than the illness itself. They are told things like “snap out of it” or “it can’t be that bad’’. Would we say this to a diabetic? Someone who had a heart attack? Mental illness is just as substantial as cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and broken bones. The pain is real!

 Canada has many initiatives in place to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Bell’s Let’s Talk motivates people to speak openly and honestly about mental health. Have you heard of the Semicolon Project? People tattoo semicolons on their body part of choice. Sound crazy? I did it! I had a semicolon permanently inked on my left wrist. Why? A semi-colon is used when an author could end their sentence but chooses not to. I am the author and the sentence is my life. My semicolon reminds me of how far I have come in my own journey with depression, and of all those who are affected by mental illness.

 Educate yourself. You, a friend, a family member or a co-worker could be affected by mental illness, at any time. If you suffer with a mental illness, I beg you to not ‘become’ your illness. Do not label yourself. You are still you. No one else can be you. That in itself makes you unique. Your mental health is only a part of who you are. Like any other health concern, the earlier you seek medical attention, the better the outcome.

  If you want to support someone dealing with mental health issues, be gentle. You can not always do or say the right thing. However, you can reach out and show that you care.  Everyone, whether they are ill or not need to feel loved, supported and validated.

  I believe we should not give up until everyone experiencing a mental health issue gets both the support and respect they deserve.