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With January being famous for its most depressing Monday of the year and with Bell's Lets talk campaign to draw awareness around mental health issues, I'm here to provide the Entrepreneurs perspective...
On January 23rd, I learned that a good friend had taken his own life the day before. The news of his suicide quickly overwhelmed our group of friends with feelings of deep sadness and confusion. We engaged in the heartbreaking exercise of wondering what we had missed and whether we had failed our friend.
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"I took that note from my doctor to my supervisor because I was admitting I needed help."
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Over the years, I have noticed many instances where professionals felt that they were supposed to be above all of life's challenges and obstacles. Not just health care workers ignoring their own health; but leaders who feel stressed by circumstances beyond their control and who live in fear of being discovered so that they feel anxious and afraid.
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We continue to be bombarded with graphically depicted messages that either romanticize suicide in terms of simplistic Romeo and Juliet dreck, or unfairly portray those in the midst of a mental illness crisis as "mad." We start believing falsehoods that keep perpetuating negative stereotypes and stigma.
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Postpartum mood disorders are so much more than just depression. Anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, the blues, manic states and, more rarely, psychosis all make up the spectrum. My own experience parallels the experience of so many, and yet has its own unique complications.
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In my family, the incidence of mental health problems runs high. My mother and her twin sister are both bipolar. On my father's side, one of my aunts was bipolar and two of my cousins are schizophrenic. While some people dispute the idea that mental illness can be hereditary -- and I, too, believe in the importance of social and environmental causes -- you can nonetheless see that the odds were pretty high that someone else in my immediate family might get hit over the head with it, too
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I felt like I was daring myself to cross some arbitrary line in the sand, and once I did, there would be no turning back. Canadians' perceptions of who I was, and certainly their knowledge of my life story, would be forever altered. Even if only a few dozen people heard my story, it felt big to share personally and publicly.
Mental health needs more than just a day. It's not something that we should think about for a day January and forget for the rest of the year. Bell Let's Talk does an unprecedented job of getting the conversation started, but it's up to all of us to keep it going.
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Anxiety disorders show themselves differently in everyone who have them. My fear of public transit is almost totally irrational, I know -- that's actually the most frustrating thing about it. I know it's irrational, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with the anxiety.
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"Just because it can't be seen, it doesn't mean damage can't be done."
In mental illness, we are constantly mixing apples and oranges. The causes are not the same and neither are the treatments. When we lump them together we create more confusion. And when there is lack of clarity, we tend to fill the gaps in knowledge with myths, superstitions, and mistaken attributions. That's when the quacks come out.
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This is a time when sharing that you haven't been able to get out of bed for the past three days because of crippling depression is not only acceptable, it's appreciated by all who know the same searing pain of the illness. These days leading up to Bell Let's Talk day on January 27th comprise a massive support system unlike any other seen throughout the year.
It takes a lot of courage to own up to your difficulties, to open up to a complete stranger, and most importantly, to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the inner work needed to heal. It's not a walk in the park, by any stretch of the imagination.