Ending my silence on mental health

Mental Health, Ryerson, Campus, Depression

Lillian Greenblatt (Ryersonian Archive)

Depression is hard to talk about, especially if you have it. Just thinking about the possibility of other people knowing about your weaknesses and your fears induces anxiety.

I grew up in India where the education system is fast-paced and competitive. Before I immigrated to Canada in 2004, I was enrolled in the school my mother taught at, so she expected me to act my best.

When I came here, a crucial piece of family’s togetherness was left behind. My parents started working two jobs each to support us and my sister was going to university and working part-time.

Everything had changed. As I entered my late teens, I became aloof and lacked motivation. It felt like I had lost my identity.

In a strict Indian family, there’s no such thing as “anxiety” or “depression.” My parents didn’t understand the person I had become. They thought I was just a moody, rebellious teenager.

This lack of communication created a cycle of emotional and sometimes physical abuse that took me many years to overcome.

I feared the idea of talking about any of my negative feelings because, until recent years, I never got the impression that my parents cared about my mental health. It’s hard to find people to trust, especially when you’re going through a rough time. I wanted to pretend that I was tough, when inside I was crying for help. Mostly, I thought my problems weren’t important enough to be deemed depression. I refused to put myself in a vulnerable position and seek any type of “mental health” help. What would my friends say if they had found out?

I shut these thoughts out of my head for a while, until they resurfaced in my first year of university. I was taking a psychology course for which we had to participate in some studies. We also needed to fill out some forms  to first assess if we were qualified to participate in the studies. A lot of the questions were about my mental health history, and I answered them honestly.

A few hours later they told me I couldn’t participate in the study because I was assessed as “clinically depressed.” I was given forms to seek mental health care and some money for my time. It felt like a slap in the face.

The researchers probably meant well when they provided me with the resources to get help, but it felt like an obligatory gesture rather than a personal one. I didn’t want questionnaires to determine my mental stability.

The “Are You Depressed?” brochures made me feel insecure, even though one in five Canadians suffer from an addiction or mental health problem during any given year. Reading mental health brochures isn’t the solution for everyone.

I found that stories of real people and their experiences could also be an inspiration to anyone dealing with mental health issues. Talking about your problems and making yourself vulnerable not only helps you face your fears directly, but also provides courage to those who feel alone and unable to relate to anyone else.

It doesn’t matter how much you decide to divulge, about a mental health problem –  it matters whether or not you speak up.

Not only will you be helping yourself, but you’ll also be helping others who might have it worse.

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