Chances are that you would text your best friend to complain that you twisted your ankle when you were running on the treadmill. Or that you called your mom that one time you were lying in bed, curled up in the fetal position after catching a really bad stomach flu. You probably even posted a picture on Instagram of your chubby cheeks after you got your wisdom teeth removed.
Of course you would. Because shitty things happening with our bodies is normal. It’s expected.
Talking about our mental health is a different story.
Suddenly, we get anxious about how our new significant other will react when we tell them that we’re struggling with an eating disorder. Being referred to an expensive therapist for weekly appointments will make us feel like a financial burden. While we document just about everything else, chances are we won’t be posting a selfie on Facebook to let everyone know that we’ve been diagnosed with major depression.
Mental health needs to be discussed with the same compassion, empathy and openness as any other sickness or disease. But it’s not. And this shouldn’t be the case.
According to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, one in five people will personally experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime. That’s 20 per cent of the population, which roughly adds up to almost seven million people in Canada.
By applying that to the student and staff population at Ryerson University, that means approximately 8,100 people in our community are facing issues with mental heath.
Here at The Ryersonian we’ve decided it is time to break the silence when it comes to the issues of counselling wait times on campus. It’s only by shedding light on the cracks of our foundation that we are able to build a stronger, healthier future.
We’re taking a step forward by writing about suicide, something the media is often hesitant to cover. A few years ago, in the winter 2011 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, editor Liam Casey wrote a feature story about the importance of reporting on people who die by taking their own life. “The industry can no longer justify failing to cover a tragedy that will affect so many people, in one way or another, at some time in their lives,” he wrote.
In a reporting guide book for journalists, André Picard, a health reporter at The Globe and Mail, addressed the importance of discussing mental health openly and honestly. “Writing about mental illness in all its richness, and with all its challenges, needs not cause stigma. Rather, it provides us with a rare chance to bring about meaningful social change alongside a golden opportunity to better journalism.”
A recent study conducted by Bell Let’s Talk found that 81 per cent of Canadians believe they are more aware of mental issues than they were in 2010. The same report states 70 per cent believe that attitudes have since improved when it comes to mental health. While this improvement must be acknowledged and celebrated, we’ve still got a long way to go.
Suicide remains the second biggest killer of Canadians between the ages 15 and 24. Take a minute to let that sink in. Young adults are the highest risk in the population for taking their own lives. For this reason, we need to do everything possible to stop the deeply unbearable suffering that so many of us are experiencing.
We fear shark attacks when we swim in the ocean, we check to see if our doors are locked before going to sleep at night and we learn from a very young age to “stop, drop and roll” if we’re ever caught in flames.
But nobody ever taught us how to extinguish the loud voices in our minds that attempt to convince us that our situation is hopeless. Adults never told us that while monsters don’t exist under the bed, there can be a whole different beast we need to battle in our heads.
When it comes to mental health, we’re often our own worst enemy.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Dec. 2, 2015.