Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. Every year at the end of January, a major cell company Bell encourages Canadians across the country to end the stigma around mental illness or what I call mental health and wellbeing.
Through hashtags like #BellLetsTalk, #EndtheStigma and #JointheConversation we are encouraged to talk with family and friends to start a dialogue that breaks the silence and normalizes the idea that if you struggle with or have struggled with your mental health you are not alone. For every text, mobile and long distance call, Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on social media, tweet using #BellLetsTalk, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter, Bell donates d 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives.
For the past few years I have found comfort in this day because I felt connected to a community. I could see brave friends share their struggles with a wide spectrum of mental health journeys and I could share my journey and feel supported and loved.
This year, however, has felt different. I found the ads leading up to the day and the slogan of “mental health affects us all” much harder to hear. I would turn off the tv, change the radio station or walk away because suddenly I felt deeply saddened and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I realized the source of my sadness.
Thinking of everyone the support networks, the families and the friends who show up everyday for those who are struggling hit me hard. Not only because it was my painful reality for a while, but because I think it’s not an aspect of mental health struggles that we discuss often.
So today I still showed my support, as I think it is a worthy and important cause. I made sure my workplace was showing support through encouraging social media posts and I wrote my own reflections and shared on my own social media too. All while reflecting on what it feels like to love and support someone struggling with a complex mental health journey.
Without much pause I can think of close friends and family members who have stood beside, lived with and loved someone going through a tough mental health journey and it is not easy. As much compassion as I have for someone who is struggling I realized this month that I need to open my heart and my mind more to the support networks of loved ones who wave the ups and downs and try to make sense of it all. Who offer advice, resources and support with the hope that it will help. Who try to help the person struggling see how valuable they are, how loved, how wonderful and how special their presence is in the world.
When you love someone who is struggling you typically prioritize the health and safety of that person, trying to support them over taking the time to support yourself. You forget to put importance on your own self-care and needs and your own mental health can lose its balance.
For triggering my reflection and getting me to think of ways we can support the supportive I thank Bell Lets Talk Day. The slogan at first made me uncomfortable but it also caused me to pause and reflect. And although I did not have a face-to-face conversation I sent messages out into the world that hopefully helped others who are or who have been in a supportive role. I hope you all know that it is okay to prioritize your mental wellbeing, self-care and needs, and that doing so does not make you selfish, unloving or cruel. As we move past this day and into the rest of the year I hope we all can continue to do our part to consciously make small choices that will help end the stigma.