Statistics indicate that one in five people will experience a mental health issue at some time in their lives. Two-thirds of those people, however, will be hesitant to talk to another person about it, let alone seek treatment, opting instead to try to navigate the rough waters on their own.
The reason is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. It’s one of the major obstacles keeping people from seeking help when they are struggling.
But there’s a better way.
Problems are usually better handled with assistance. Helen Keller, who was well acquainted with difficulties in her life, once noted, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
That’s the idea behind Bell Let’s Talk Day, which is being recognized today. The day was introduced nine years ago to help erase the stigma that prevents people from reaching out for help when they’re struggling. Since then, 87 per cent of Canadians surveyed say they have become more aware of mental health issues.
Bell Let’s Talk Day works to encourage Canadians to talk openly about mental health in their communities — at home, at school, at their workplaces and elsewhere.
By doing so, the stigma can be lifted and people can feel open to sharing with others when they’re dealing with difficulties. Feeling listened to and supported can go a long way toward helping people overcome their struggles, or to help them seek professional help if needed.
The last thing someone going through personal troubles needs is for people to blame them, put them down or gossip about them. Those are the actions that create the barrier of stigma in the first place.
There’s an anonymous quote that says, “Never look down on someone … unless you are helping them get up.”
The Bell Let’s Talk Day campaign works to remind people that “talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness.”
It’s just a simple matter of taking an interest in people and connecting with them — really connecting. We don’t always take the time to do that in our fast-paced, technology-focused world. It requires listening to people without judgment and often means refraining from offering solutions. Sometimes people just need to feel heard and understood.
It also involves maintaining confidences about personal matters people share with us. People are not going to feel safe sharing their struggles if they fear their openness will only serve to feed the gossip mill.
Life is much easier to handle if we help each other along the way. When mental health issues befall us or someone we know, the challenge is best overcome by reaching out for help, or reaching out to help the person who is struggling.
There’s a bit of wisdom that says, “Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It only means you’re wise.”
As Ringo Starr sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Imagine what can be accomplished if we help one another along the way. As the folks at Bell suggest, let’s talk.