Bell Let’s Talk

Riley K. Sharp, Business & Finance Editor

Instead of writing a column on American businesses and the country’s current financial state, I have decided to discuss the country’s current mental state.

Each year we are reminded that people struggle, that quite literally: the struggle is real. It’s apparent that many industries have become much more knowledgable and understanding of mental health issues. The national day of mental health is such a beacon of hope for those who are being weighed down by their mental states.

The “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign started in 2011 when the company Bell Let’s Talk launched it’s first event raising awareness for mental health in Canada. Over the past five years the corporation has raised over $50 million through programs to help create a stigma-free society. This movement has spread to the United States recently by popular National Hockey League athletes and their followers. This movement is wildly popular and has become a global phenomena.

As someone who has been living, as I like to think, successfully, I find it deeply comforting that this is becoming a global movement of recognition as society tears down the walls of stigma around mental health.

It lives under many names: anxiety/panic disorder depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mania, bipolar disorder, mood swings, attention deficit hyper disorder are just a handful of the conditions many Americans are facing on the daily. It’s exhausting to talk about sometimes – some of us feel this overwhelming sense of guilt of oversharing or burdening other people with our issues. That is where the stigma starts to show. People suffering with issues they can not help but fall victim to are feeling penalized and outcasted by the society we live in.

I did not want to make this piece specifically about myself, but rather share my story so others could relate and recognize that it does not ever have to be solved. Mental health is a journey, it is present. There is no end goal we are working toward, no tangible end of the road where someone is there holding our gold medal of victory. Your victory comes each morning that you wake up and take the first breath of your new day. Your victory is not earned by pushing your feelings of doubt, anxiety and depression aside but rather by facing them, pulling them out form the shadows and seeking help and guidance with managing them.

I have been managing my Attention-Deficit Hyper Disorder for years now. There are good days and there are bad days. And just like many others, I tried to hide it for quite some time. A few family members and myself also fell victim to a pretty upsetting set of events that were unfortunately hidden from the rest of our family until recent years. That resulted in the development of my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I recognized I had these disorders early in the middle school years. I was never tested, I never followed through with the diagnosis because I had convinced myself that I was not allowed to fail. I was not going to be hindered by anything. That is my personality in a nutshell. I grew up around cousins with Cerebral Palsy, cousins who could physically not help themselves. I compared myself to them and felt guilty if I ever felt sorry for myself.

Mental health was something I could control, I  could suppress it and move forward.  I was so, so very wrong. Now, as a senior in college I am struggling with the consequence of suppressing those issues. But that is normal. It is. If this is something that resonates with you, get rid of that guilt. Get rid of it, throw it out the door. There is absolutely no scenario in the history of the universe that would put you at fault for situations beyond your control.

The common stigma of mental health shows its face again when we see people blaming others for victimizing themselves or feeling sorry for themselves. It disgusts me. No one should ever, ever feel like they do not have a valid reason to feel lonely, down, anxious, toxic or unstable. God created each and every one of us in His image yet remarkably different from one another.

This brings me to my next point. Mental health disorders don’t discriminate. They affect individuals of any race, in any region, from any background. The way to fight stigma around mental health is to quit building up walls and start constructing beneficial and supportive communities. If you know someone struggling, maybe if you don’t even know what they are struggling with – reach out. Make an effort. There are too many people these days posting on social media and thinking they are living. Truly living is loving those around you.

2018 was what I like to call my “year of bittersweet arrival.” It took me deeper into depression, deeper into loneliness and all the same, the deepest I have ever gone with my faith. amidst all the confusion with doctors, medications, questions, concerns, overwhelming work and fear of failure – God was moving grand and marvelous mountains within me. We are all born with different qualities, traits and set-backs. I view those as exactly that: set-backs. Whether it be physical or mental.

Similar to the state of mental health, your faith journey and walk with Christ is ever present, always moving forward with you. It is not some light at the end of the tunnel we are running toward and working toward. It is not a tangible goal we reach. Our Father is not standing at the end of the road with a gold medal for us. That’s just not how it works. Rather, it’s a constant present state of being. Some days are worse than others. Some days we are managing and others we are scrambling in chaos. If there is one thing I can teach you, and by you I mean anyone struggling with any sort of mental health disorder or condition, it is this: keep going and keep loving.

We are called to love one another, not because of anything but despite of anything. Love can cure much more than you might think. Just as Christ spoke of unconditional love, agape, we must lead our lives the same way, loving each and every person around us despite their condition, their attributes, their demeanor or their sin. This is how we fight mental health stigma. Through love. Less walls, more love.

I am very excited to see what else Bell Let’s Talk corporation can conquer and where else they will spread this movement. It is so settling and comforting knowing that big business has now taken a lead role in creating a stigma-free society.