Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. It’s the thing I like best about the company I work for. Yes, it potentially makes them more money when you make a call or send a text today, but they’ll share that income with mental health facilities and programs. They don’t have to do it at all, but they do, and that’s worth something.
A colleague at my radio station, with whom I don’t work closely thank goodness, thinks you handle someone who’s depressed by telling them to “get over it” and “suck it up”. The level of ignorance that surrounds mental health issues is still a big problem. Too many people are unwilling to learn about mental health. Your brain can develop an illness. It just makes sense. But calling someone “crazy” is such an acceptable way of putting them down. Another young woman I worked with years ago delighted in telling me that one of our colleagues must be “off her meds” because she was upset about something. I asked her not to speak about the woman that way any more. She was shocked.
Previously, I’ve mentioned only in whispered tones to my very closest friends that I’ve been treated for depression on and off for much of my adult life. I was even hospitalized for it, long ago. What people who have never been clinically depressed don’t understand is that not seeing the sunny side of things isn’t a decision. It’s as if that entire part of the brain gets shut off and becomes unavailable to you. Depression is all that’s left. There is no “choosing” to feel better. It’s like telling someone to reset their own broken leg and then get up and walk on it. Pain? Think happy thoughts and it will go away! That’s how useful most people’s advice is to someone who is depressed, even if they mean well.
What can you do for someone who’s depressed? Listen. Don’t try to wish it away. Ask them questions about how they feel. Or, you could even do what my friends Don and Lissa did for me years ago when they realized how sick I was and I did not. They badgered me until I came over, blocked my car in their driveway, fed me, listened to me babble, drew me a warm bath, plopped me in their guest bedroom for the night and drove me to the ER the next day. That was an extreme reaction but it was an extreme situation. And it changed everything for me. It put me on the road to getting well, for good. There were setbacks along the way, and there might be more to come, but long ago I accepted that this is how I am. And thanks to celebrities like Clara Hughes, Howie Mandel and Michael Landsberg who are paving the with an openness about their struggles, I’m willing to risk being typecast by admitting that I, too, have experienced the battle and won.