What do Howie Mandel, Steve Young (former NFL QB), Donny Osmond, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lady Gaga all have in common? They have all come forward about their mental illness. Many people run from this subject like their hair is on fire! When they hear the term ‘mental illness’ they think of ‘crazy Bob’ who walks alone down the street giggling hysterically, yelling or talking to himself. The social stigma of mental illness is real but let me be blunt – it is wrong.
The world is experiencing some challenging times right now… Have you been sad and struggling to manage day-to-day? Have you ever felt anxious and unable to sleep because of racing thoughts? Well who hasn’t? Are YOU ‘crazy’? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Mental illness is common.”
It affects one in four Canadians. But where are all these people you ask? They live next door, they drive beside you, and they may even be a family member at some point. They look and act like anyone else. If you found yourself saying “I’m not going to any counsellor – I’m no nutcase!” First of all – you just admitted that you do talk to yourself and second if you feel you need help then why hesitate?
“But what will people think!? This is a small town and people talk you know!” I was living in a small town many years ago when the stigma was huge in my own head, leaving little room for clear thinking. I sweated for weeks about seeing the town counsellor. Visiting the dentist for a root canal without freezing sounded more appealing. But my depression stuck like gum on my shoe for months and I could not shake it. I had no energy, could not concentrate and felt like a wet sack of hammers buried in a ton of mud. My hope and joy for life had long evaporated. People quipped “get over it!” They were clueless. Guilt tormented me. It was decision time.
So, I mustered my muddied mind and I stealthily drove to the counsellor’s office. I parked down the street and prayed fervently that no one would recognize either me or my car. Walking as panicked as to a toilet paper sale during COVID, I arrived and darted inside the office doors breathing a sigh of relief. My chin dropped to the floor as I stood face to face with my pastor’s daughter – the counselor’s receptionist – Busted!
So I get it. What others think and say about us may affect our decision to get help. But if you are drowning emotionally wouldn’t a real friend throw you a life-line instead of a rock? Caring means compassion not criticism. Helping yourself means you can eventually throw a friend a line because you’ve been there.
Mental Illness is just as treatable as heart disease or diabetes. There is hope for you if you struggle with anxiety, depression, and trauma, PTSD, grief, addiction, abuse, anger or so many other issues. At Whitevalley Community Resource Centre where counselling is free (yes free!), you can speak to non- judgmental, qualified professionals who are bound ethically to confidentiality. Our doors and our hearts are open. We are here to help… You can contact us by calling 250 547-8866, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm.