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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

So why did I post this picture on the last day of the week?

Because I want the conversation to keep going after the awareness campaign is over.

The CMHA relies on the generosity of donors, like yourself, to ensure the programs are easily accessible to everyone across Canada, and in my opinion if you have a brain, mental health is of concern to YOU… to all of us.conversation image

The smile that you see on the outside isn’t always what’s happening on the inside, and it’s sad to say that people will still be suffering in silence next week, next month, next year.

Please… start and let’s keep the conversation going.

We’re facing an epidemic crisis of social stress, anxiety, and depression. We cannot stop talking, caring, and helping because the week is over.

I guarantee you know someone who is struggling with their mental health at this very moment.

So when the friend who always says yes to lunch, stops… she needs you. When the pal who doesn’t come out to hockey anymore, well he needs you, too. Your Mom or Dad, when they just yell for no reason and say they “… just can’t”… they need you, and when your son or daughter just sleeps all day and doesn’t want to do “anything” with the family any more, they need you.

Whether it’s a hug, to hold their hand, to share a coffee or to sit on a bench outside and watch the world go by, do it. It doesn’t matter how they need you, but please, just be there for them in the way that they say they do. It may mean the difference between life and death.

Yeah, I just said that… LIFE… AND DEATH.

Finally I ask that you don’t stop talking because the C.M.H.A. needs you and people, like me, need you.

Click to Reach the C.M.H.A. website.

My Story – the short version.

I suffered the first debilitating period of depression in my life while in my early ’20s and then four more times since. It’s paralyzing, it’s lonely, and when your family and friends don’t support you or even try to understand what’s going on, it’s traumatizing on top of everything else you’re reeling from.  To be shunned and feeling so alone is devastating, to say the least.

I urge you to realize that mental illness is not to be talked about in hushed tones, mocked or shamed, and if you have family or friends that do that, please gently and caringly educate them that it’s okay to be public about it; that it indeed helps those suffering to feel accepted just as they are, in that moment… just as a person with Diabetes who needs medication at the dinner table would be.  We HAVE to end the stigma around mental health issues and it starts with you and me.

No one asks for it and it’s hard enough to fit in to this world when you do fit in, but add on social anxiety, chemical imbalance, arrested development or the myriad of other stressors to one’s mental illness and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for a tragic life story ending.

I have lost a two people in my life to suicide in the last 8 years and it’s heartbreaking to be sitting at the funeral hearing comments like, “I wish they new how much I loved them. I wish they knew I was here for them.” But here’s the thing… you THINK they know, but they didn’t feel it.

Don’t think, MAKE them know because here’s where the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” applies.  Show up for them. ALWAYS show up for them.

One the outside they thought I had it all, but here’s what happened.

One day when I was in my ’20s, I lined up a bottle of Tylenol and just wanted to take them all and go to sleep.  Life was hard as a new mom with 2 kids under 15 months.  I was struggling and everything seemed hopeless, despite the fact that wasn’t my true reality and people thought I was okay; that I had it lucky to be a full-time stay-at-home Mom at such a young age.  I found a moment of strength and called my husband to say come home and help me with the kids.

He did.  I think he broke all speed limits that day.

I’m not embarrassed to tell that story because my story matters.  It matters to me when I’m feeling fragile and it matters to my kids to show them I am real and flawed and still able to succeed in life and work, to be loved and to give love, be happy, and to thrive.

The unexpected Gift.

And it matters to a stranger I met one while speaking at an event.  He wrote to me saying that hearing my particular story gave him the strength to go home and talk to his wife about what he was going through because he, too, wanted to go to sleep to pills.  He was suprised at how she was so supportive. Even though he was terrified to tell her, he did it and they found an unexpected closeness in their marriage afterwards because of it.  I sure hope they’re still going strong!

Had I not made it through that terrible day, I would not have experienced the 20+ years of memories from adding more children to my family and everything else – the good and the bad – that’s happening since.  I’m grateful I had someone in my life who cared enough for me to drop everything and run home.

My husband saved me that day, and so that’s why I write about mental health issues and it’s why I care so deeply about the issue.

Be the someone who makes a difference in someone’s life who is suffering. Call them, text them, write them as soon as you finish reading this.

You won’t regret you did, and you may just save somebody you love.

Go… right now!

You’ll be so glad you did.

Some helpful links:

The Canadian Mental Health Association

Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone TEXTING – Text the word “CONNECT” to 686868

Barbara, xo

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