Yesterday I struggled, trying to write a post about January 27th being “Bell Let’s Talk Day” in Canada. For every call, text or tweet supporting Mental Health Awareness, the Communications company donates 5¢ to research and awareness.
I decided to participate by focussing on the five spokespeople who speak out about their own problems in an effort to fight the stigma of mental health issues.
- Clara Hughes (Olympic medalist in speed skating and cycling)
- Howey Mandell (Comedian)
- Mary Walsh (Actress)
- Michael Landsberg (Sports Commentator)
- Serena Ryder (Singer/Songwriter)
I am not only familiar with all of these people, I have watched each one in their varied professions. At first, I had no idea that they were suffering similar things to me. However, as each one spoke about their illnesses publicly and joined the “Bell Let’s Talk team”, my respect for them grew immensely. And I gained the strength to speak freely about my own issues and experiences.
Clara Hughes was the first person to work on the “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign. She shared how depression affected both her regular life and her life as a National athlete. Her mother didn’t even know she had a problem until she appeared on a TV show about “Let’s Talk”. I understand that. I was diagnosed in the 80’s with clinical depression and bipolar (then called manic depression). It was not a time where people wanted to hear about your “mental problems” – they would just think you were a little weird or even crazy. My heart both broke and melted as Clara talked about what she was going through. It made me open up and let my world know what I was going through.
I have watched Howie Mandell in a lot of different shows over the years. Most recently it has been as a judge on “America’s Got Talent”. He makes it very clear that he is a germaphobe and doesn’t want people touching him. This past season a hypnotist gave him a suggestion that it was okay and shook Howie’s hand. I was angry about that because I can just imagine how Howie would feel later when he was out of the “trance” and found out. I know because we both suffer from OCD. Touching me is not a problem but I can understand the feelings. OCD controls you, not the other way around.
I watched Mary Walsh on a show called “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”. She was funny and fabulous with her Irish charm. I would never have guessed that she was going through esteem problems and other issues. To me, she was an example of a strong woman. Then I read about her problems and she became even stronger in my opinion.
I watched Michael Landsberg on a Hockey panel for several years with my Dad. He is knowledgeable and opinionated about sports in a good way. I like hearing his point of view because he owns it and doesn’t sugar coat anything – if he sees it as something good he sings praises. If he is unhappy with a call in a game or someone else’s opinion he speaks his mind. And he speaks his mind about the depression he suffers from.
Finally, Serena Ryder. She is not afraid to talk about her battles with depression both in interviews and in the songs she writes. I have taken great comfort in songs like “Stompa” and “What I wouldn’t Do”. Her feel good music helps her through the darker times…and it does me too.
So, why did I spend so much time writing about these five people and sharing their testimonial videos instead of texting, tweeting, FaceBooking or calling today as the campaign says? Because THIS is what it is about for me – people who are not afraid of talking about their situations and what they do about it. To me these people are not celebrities adding their names to a cause, they are people like you and me who happen to have jobs that put them in the spotlight but who also care enough to use their positions to further the cause.
My name is Lydia and I have mental health problems. If you want to know more about them, let’s talk….anytime!