As those of you who have followed me on social media know, I strongly believe in “walking the talk”. I have tried to practice the art of inclusion in everything I do, and am deeply committed to being there for others in any and every way I can. It is because of these strong convictions, that the start of 2013 has been especially difficult for me from a personal standpoint. Much to my deep sorrow, my mother passed on January 1st. I had a special bond with her and we were each other’s companion, confidant and best friend. And I was extremely blessed to have her until the age of 88. But as much as I will miss her, it was her time, and I take comfort in the memory of a woman who lived a complete and joyous life, full with those who loved her.
However, it is the news that I received the week after the passing of my mother that truly rocked me to my core. A very dear friend of mine had taken his own life and I couldn’t have been more surprised. I had known my friend for almost twenty years, and never once had I ever seen a sign of despair from him. We weren’t just casual acquaintances, we had a strong connection and so with this news came a wide range of emotions; emotions that have been associated with those who are left behind after a person commits suicide.
Initially I was in denial; how could this have happened without my knowing that he was in need? Then my feelings progressed to intense grief, mixed with an element of anger that he hadn’t reached out to me for help. And then finally I was left with true emptiness mixed with some component of guilt for not recognizing that I had a special friend who I might have been able to help if only I had known or looked hard enough to see the signs. All genuine emotions when we lose someone we love under such circumstances.
One never truly knows what anyone else is feeling, thinking or going through. Our mental health is personal, and as such, difficult to share with others. It takes deep confidence and trust to let someone in, to allow them to see us at our rawest. And for some reason, unknown to so many of his friends and loved ones, my friend was unable to do that.
Outwardly, he appeared genuinely happy, living the “Canadian Dream” as he liked to say. But inwardly he must have been suffering in silence, attempting to chase away his fears and doubts all by himself. If only he had decided to “talk about it”. Perhaps things would have been different.
It is for this very reason that I ask all of you who can, to support Bell’s Let’s Talk today, February 12th. For every text message sent*, long distance call made*, (*by a Bell or Bell Aliant customer) tweet using #BellLetsTalk, or Facebook share of Bell’s Talk image, Bell will donate 5 cents to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada. “Often invisible, mental illness is one of the most pervasive health issues in the country with far-reaching consequences for every Canadian. One in five people will experience a form of mental illness at some point and most will be reluctant to talk to a co-worker, friend, or family member about their struggle, let alone seek treatment. While you may never experience mental illness first-hand, it is likely that you know someone who will.” I commend Bell and others like them, for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.
Personally, I do know a number of people who experience mental health issues. They have trusted me enough to confide in me and I hope, in some small way, that I have been of help and comfort to them. For those who have suffered in silence, I ask them to trust and “talk about it”. It could make all the difference.
“To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” – George MacDonald