According to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with someone who has a serious mental illness, and yet 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives. It's as though people think mental illness is contagious like chicken pox.
For the past several weeks Bell Canada, along with the utterly amazing Clara Hughes (my love for her knows no bounds) have been helping to raise awareness for mental health, and today, being the official Bell Let's Talk Day, I wanted to do some of my own talking.
It's probably not a huge secret that I've struggled with depression and anxiety for the greater part of my life. I've tried a plethora of different medications and bared my soul to people with fancy degrees hanging on their walls (by the way, those comfy couches are a complete myth). Some days are more difficult than others, some are great, and on occasion, there are the days that are just downright awful. They're few and far between now, but when they do surface, the despair completely takes over.
There's no rhyme or reason why really, it just is. Unless you wake up in the morning, trying desperately to find a reason why today is going to be a good day, it's next to impossible to understand or explain.
But I can tell you that it's more than just a bad hair day.
Maintaining relationships can be difficult and it's very easy to push people away who don't understand -- unfortunately it's even easier for them to walk away if you haven't even given them the chance to understand. Luckily -- and I don't know how or why -- I've been blessed with some pretty special people who just know when I'm having one of those days.
Equally as important, though, are my dogs.
Wookie and Halladay give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning - literally. They need their morning walks. If they don't get them, they turn into little monsters who act as though they drank one of those 12 hour energy drinks for breakfast. So, they get me out of the house on days when I would like nothing more than to crawl under the covers and hide from the world. They make me responsible, accountable, and give me a routine.
They force me out of my comfort zone. Usually when I go out, I have a pair of sunglasses and my iPod - universal code for don't disturb. But Halladay? That dog is a social butterfly and turns into schnoodle confetti when he sees someone he wants to say hi to, which in turn makes me have to talk to people I would normally ignore if I was on my own. They help me to confront my anxiety head on.
They love me unconditionally though if I stumble. They don't hold grudges, judge or reject me if I haven't been at my best. They're always doling out kisses, whether I'm deserving of them or not. If I need a hug, they're there in an instant. I don't have to explain myself or my tears - I can just feel without pretending I'm someone or something I'm not.
They accept me.
I could go on and on about why pets are so instrumental in mental health well being, but if you're reading this blog, chances are that you already have a pet so you know exactly what I'm rambling about.
Many people struggle to find that key to happiness, but I think it's more like a puzzle and you just have to find the right pieces to make things work, or at least make it better. My dogs? They're a huge piece of my puzzle -- probably the centre piece.
So today (and every day after), let's talk about mental health.
Every time you share the Bell Let's Talk Image on Facebook or Tweet using #BellLetsTalk today, Bell Canada will donate 5¢ more to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada. But it's more than just that. You're opening up a dialogue for people to share without feeling ashamed, because sometimes, that stigma can be worse than the illness.