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Let's Talk About Mental Illness Every Day, Not Only On January 27th

01/26/2016 01:52 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 05:12 EST
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I have been scouring Twitter every day for the past week, seeking the hashtag "Bell Let's Talk." I love this time of year when Bell gives five cents towards texts, tweets, calls, and Facebook shares of the "Bell Let's Talk" image in order to raise money for mental health initiatives. There seems to be camaraderie in the air among those of us not only battling our respective mental illnesses, but also desperately wanting our voices heard. 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.

Mental illness cannot be denied when so many voices have banned together to roar about the inequalities between the care of physical versus mental ailments.

This is a time when people who wouldn't otherwise connect with each other are contributing towards the fight against the stigma of mental illness. Nothing is too private. The more we say, the less shameful it is to admit that medication is a necessary part of our daily lives, and without it, and without the oft-reevaluated medication cocktail vital to our mental health, we might not be able to function normally. During this time of the year, people are open about this. There isn't a need to hide. Like a diabetic who has to inject insulin before a meal, for these few days, our medication is not something that we are afraid to speak about: its positive effects or its debilitating side effects. For a few brief moments this week, we can admit to using antipsychotics; a word which otherwise causes whispers and sidelong glances.

As the Internet chatter intensifies, people become more and more brave. The shame we may feel is something that we are admitting to each other. We tell each other which disorder plagues us, and how it is negatively affecting our lives. Frequent hospital stays. Health-care providers who downplay illnesses that have us begging for a reprieve from cyclical ailments that throw us through a ceiling into a vortex of voices and hallucinations, only to paralyze us as we crash into the cement of public scrutiny. We can discuss all of this because there are so many of us repeating the same refrain. Mental illness cannot be denied when so many voices have banned together to roar about the inequalities between the care of physical versus mental ailments. We are not ashamed right now because there are too many of us proving that mental health issues are very real, very serious, and very much in need of a transformative overhaul when it comes to their treatment.

We need to use our voices every day in order to eradicate a stigma firmly ensconced in our society.

I read a tweet on Twitter that stated that the "Bell Let's Talk" incentive was glorifying mental illness. Glorifying? Are you kidding me? It's unifying those of us, and hopefully those who are trying to understand the importance of promoting this cause, by putting into place a trending hashtag. We are trying to break down the barriers. In a world where illnesses involving aspects of the body which can't easily be diagnosed, ignoring them is far easier than accepting them. This isn't glorification. It's illumination. Learn the facts. Educate yourselves. We have one day a year when we will not be shushed, rather we will speak until our voices are raw; until the pads on our fingers are sore from retweeting and texting, and sharing.

However from this event; from these days leading up to the "Bell Let's Talk" experience, we are left afterwards with an anticlimactic conclusion. The aftermath will be one of quiet voices and awkward stances. Our loud and proud proclamations that mental illnesses must be viewed as seriously as physical illnesses will slowly dwindle back down to the occasional hero beating the drum, desperately trying to rally the troops. Some will join back in. Every year more do. But we need a steady hum to ensure that our momentum continues into a melody so loud, the choir of nay-sayers are unable to drown it out. We need to use our voices every day in order to eradicate a stigma firmly ensconced in our society. We are given one day to come together as a cohesive unit with the intent of breaking down the stereotype. Let's make it matter and let's make it permanent.

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