October 10th is World Mental Health Day— an international day devoted to raising awareness and promoting education around mental illness.
In solidarity with this very important day, we want to make our own contribution by launching an initiative–one that we hope will make a dent in the pervasive stigma that surrounds mental illness.
For a while, our Facebook news feeds were abound with statuses asking people to “copy and paste” to show their awareness and support for loved ones struggling with mental illness. Support is huge. Being able to reach out and talk to someone about how you’re feeling is the first step in getting better. But there’s still so much discomfort talking about mental illness that far too many people suffer silently.
It’s one thing to share a Facebook status that declares you’re aware and supportive. It’s another to actively engage in the discussion. To really understand and empathize.
So how do we get to that place? Where talking about mental illness is comfortable; where we can take the conversation off of our Facebook walls and into the real world?
It’s 2016. We all know about mental illness. We’ve been devastated by the tragic stories of depression, eating disorders and addiction among celebrities like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Robin Williams. It’s regularly in the news and spread across our social media channels. But in order to get comfortable with the discussion, we believe that those of us who struggle need to talk about it. We need to normalize mental illness by owning it, just as we would if we suffered from diabetes or thyroid disease. And it’s not just regulated to fallen celebrities, singers and artists–mental illness affects all of us across the human spectrum. It does not discriminate and does not cower to a great upbringing, marriage or healthy bank account. From doctors to athletes to very young children, mental illness is not a flaw in character but rather a flaw in chemistry. It’s important to note that not all stories are tragic tales either. The majority of those who suffer with mental health issues live highly productive, healthy and inspiring lives, despite relapses and fluctuating states of their mental health issue(s).
So here’s our plea;
The more we raise our voices and tell the world we’re here, the more likely we are to break the stigma, to end the silence and start the real conversation.
It’s not enough to just stand at the outer limits of the circle and nod your head. Here at Wise Women Canada, we are actively encouraging you to raise your hand and acknowledge that you or someone in your life lives with a mental illness. You can be as brief or as detailed as you’d like—everyone goes at their own pace.
As for me, (Liz) admitting that I suffer from depression and anxiety was daunting at first, but it has ultimately empowered every facet of my life. Every time I am candid about my mental health story, I feel as though I am helping others – and it’s become easier to open the channels of conversation. All of my fears, that will I lose my job or the respect from my coworkers or community, have proven unfounded. In fact the exact opposite has happened. I get letters and people stopping me on the street, thanking me for my honesty!
So in solidarity with World Mental Health Day, we’re asking you to help shine some light on the darkness. If you, or someone you love, suffers from mental illness, we want you to #RaiseYourWiseHand and tell the world. Leave a comment down below, or on your own Facebook page. Post a picture on Instagram. Start the discussion on Twitter. Wherever you decide to take a stance, make sure you hashtag #RaiseYourWiseHand so we can give you (((a virtual hug ))) for your strength and courage.
We value your willingness to walk this road with us, so we’d like to reward you for it!
Watch this space for some great prize giveaways and we’ll be actively tracking your #RaiseYourWiseHand posts.
And now to start off this chain we’ll go first…
“My name is Liz and I have suffered from depression and anxiety my whole life. But I’m proud to say that my illness hasn’t stopped me from leading a fulfilling and productive life.”
“My name is Lisa, and I love someone who suffers from mental illness. I am proud to be an advocate of mental health awareness and beleive strongly that we need to break the stigma!”