It's a fact that we live in a world that is constantly seeking answers, even for the smallest of challenges. Therefore, we tend to wonder what causes illnesses; researchers and scientists are spending billions of dollars worldwide to figure out what causes the most debilitating and terminal illnesses to help us find a cure.
Mental illness is no different; coming to the forefront with staggering statistics such as 500,000 Canadians missing work every week and mental illness costing our economy billions of dollars -- it's no wonder scientists are desperate to help us find answers.
In my previous blog, "Inside My Depression", I talked about what depression feels like for me. Nobody knows what causes depression, but according to the National Institute of Mental Health it is "most likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors." Hopefully research will lead us to a more definitive answer in the future.
Despite this, I've encountered countless people who think they know what causes my depression. When I was 13 I came out of the closet as being gay, and over 10 years later I couldn't be happier. Several months after coming out I was diagnosed with depression. Coincidence? I think so, but many people I meet to this day feel like these two things are connected.
Don't get me wrong -- coming out of the closet isn't always easy, and sadly many people are bullied and that can sometimes lead to tragedy. While coming out was difficult for me, I highly doubt this event in my life would lead to a lifelong mental illness.
While Canada is facing a crisis when it comes to patients being able to access timely care, patients also face an extra layer of difficulty when it comes to finding a mental health professional that works for them. As a youth in care I didn't have much say in what mental health professional I met; and if I didn't go to treatment, I'd be disciplined.
More than once as a young person (and even in adulthood) I've encountered professionals who believe my sexual orientation is the cause of my depression. I've also encountered professionals old enough to be my grandparents who suggest my sexual orientation is a mental illness in itself. It is why I remain skeptical to this day of seeking treatment; especially with a professional I've never met before.
What is just as troubling is ordinary people I've encountered who somehow believe my sexual orientation and mental illness are connected or that one causes the other. Everybody is unique but in terms of my experience I want to set the record straight.
I live a very happy and fulfilling life despite sometimes having darker moments, and those moments never have to do with my sexual orientation. Being gay and having mental illness are both part of my identity. Take one of those things away and I wouldn't be the true Arthur Gallant you all have come to know.
What does being gay have to do with me being depressed, and what does being depressed have to do with being gay? Maybe someday scientists will find the answer -- and if they do you can all take this blog and slap me in the face with it.
Even if we did find out what causes depression (and if there's some connection to me being gay), it doesn't change that both things have been a part of me for the past decade and will be a part of me for the rest of my life; I couldn't be happier.