Today is Bell’s (quite successful) mental health awareness day. #BellLet’sTalk has donated over $86 million to mental health initiatives and has had 7.3 million interactions since the campaign’s inception. Whether you’re cynical and feel this is just a great PR campaign for them or are a full-fledged participant tweeting and encouraging others to join in, doesn’t really matter; it’s all bringing awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health.
For my long-time subscribers and readers, this post may seem redundant and repetitive but it is, none-the-less, an important one. Fast facts (from Canadian Mental Health Association):
- 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental health issue – let that sink in and think of 4 friends/family members.
- Suicide is a leading cause of deaths in all people (men & women) from adolescence to middle age.
- Mental health does not discriminate: affects all ages, genders, incomes, and cultures.
Mental health is a complicated – and for far too long taboo – topic. Having struggled with depression in very recent memory, I have relevant experience for this particular mental health issue. In deed, I still struggle with it some days and it is something I’ve been informed I will likely have to monitor for the rest of my life. My ongoing treatment of lupus has left me feeling particularly drained and I was specifically informed by my social worker (yup, I have one of those specifically there to act as a counsellor while I navigate my “post-lupus life”) that I may not be able to handle emotional upsets the way I used to (I’ve fought back tears when the grocery store is out of what I needed).
I am healing and my emotional state is becoming significantly more stable but I vividly remember how difficult it was for me to do simple tasks, and not just physically incapable of doing something but trying to find the energy – and desire – to just get off the couch to shower or even go to bed. When my body was incapable of taking on the simplest of tasks – such as putting on socks – it was more than annoying or heartbreaking: it was absolutely devastating. With encouragement from my husband and friends, my body began to heal and I slowly started walking outside. Eventually, I built up the stamina to make it the nearby trail systems where I was able to walk in the forest (and off the city streets and sidewalks). Here is where my mental health healing process began.
My husband was a huge support and seemed to be able to identify when I was starting to spiral down. He would (gently, very gently) suggest I go for a 20-30 minute walk. Significantly more often than not, I would feel calmer after these walks in the woods. It was my version of meditation and it provided me glimmers of hope that I was improving. Generally, I would come home and be so exhausted I’d have to nap for 2 hours but for those 20 or so minutes, I was content.
I know this may sound that I’m promoting a 30 minute walk as a panacea but I am in no way implying that. A few times a week, in the midst of pain, despair, and fear, I had some moments of calm and I was able to build upon that momentum.
I am NOT implying that a walk outdoors should replace medication(s) you are on or replace conversations with mental health professionals. You very well may need medications and know that is ok.
What I want to encourage you is to try for a walk (remembering that I worked up to 30 minutes).
Hopefully it can provide you a momentary calm amongst everything you are experiencing.