By Pam Dillon
Just days ago, in a crowd of Ottawa families, I was chatting with some people when the volume of the conversation dropped to whisper-level. I found out later that a fellow parent – friend, neighbor, beloved individual – had committed suicide.
There was distress in those hushed voices. Shock. Sorrow. Confusion.
“Why?” was one of the questions uttered. How could this happen?
Mental illness is a reality for thousands of people in our community. It can be scary. Devastating. It’s also treatable. The soccer mom and the hockey dad you see regularly? They may be coping with mental health challenges or caring for loved ones who are struggling with them. The guy who always has a smile on his face when he drops his kids off at school? The chic, successful businesswoman? Them too.
Care and treatment are critical for mental health, but the biggest deterrent to intervention is shame. Silent struggles, unvoiced concerns and mute fears of judgment continue to afflict our families and our community.
That’s why we need to stop whispering. In the last few days I’ve read blog posts by two women, both mothers, who are speaking up about their mental health. At www.phdinparenting.com, a guest post by Kristin Craig Lai describes the challenges of parenting while depressed.
And this recent post by Claudia Petrilli, [NOT FROM] The Other Side, tells of being suicidal and talking to a friend on Facebook. “She noticed something was not quite right and asked me about it. I lost it, told her I was suicidal and that I thought I ought to go to the hospital.”
That same Facebook friend drove her there. Fortunately, beautiful, full-of-life Claudia is still with us, still openly sharing her true stories about mental illness.
Immense power and hope are evident in such revelations, in robbing shame of its pull.
The more we speak up, reach out, share our stories and normalize mental health as a health issue, the healthier our community will be.
As World Mental Health Day, today (October 10) is dedicated to education, awareness and mental health advocacy.
Let’s raise our voices, together, and give shame the boot.