May 6 kicks off the start of National Mental Health Week in Canada – following up on February’s Let’s Talk campaign, we’re dragging that issue right out of its dark corner where we can all deal with it. Good thing and about time.
Statistics show that a sizable percentage of us will experience some form of mental illness and, as with any other ailment, we’re going to need both treatment and compassion. For starters, we have to get comfortable with talking about the issues.
I’ll go first. From time to time during my childhood, my mother suffered bouts of depression that caused her to be hospitalized. Because my father was a doctor, we dealt with it as we would have if she’d had diabetes. My mother’s depression had its roots in a chemical imbalance. She suffered from high blood pressure and took medication to control it. As is often the case, a particular prescription would work well for a time but would ultimately cause side-effects that triggered too much of this and not enough of that in her system and led to a bout of depression. A hospital stay was usually required to take her off one medication and get her stabilized on another.
When she was ill, we talked about it, called a spade a spade and never felt ashamed. You can’t pick your diseases, after all. You just cope with the cards nature deals you and get on with it. We visited Mum in the hospital, cheered when the new meds kicked in and she started to recover, and celebrated when she came home, feeling like herself again.
Though I never thought about it at the time, I was very lucky to be raised in a family that didn’t lock mental illness in the closet, but accepted it like any other ailment and dealt with it openly.