Yesterday (January 28th) was #bellletstalk day- an initiative started in 2010 to bring awareness to mental health challenges and end the stigma of people struggling with their mental health and well-being.
I know that yesterday on my own social media feed, there were many thoughts that were posed around sharing the #Bellletstalk video and the company’s campaign this year- with recent acknowledgment of the company’s practices around their employees and how they support (or don’t support) their mental health and well-being (and also around the financial enticements that they receive for continuing this initiative).
I want to be very clear that I agree with all these points. To any of my friends who shared this information- I support you and I agree that we need to do better as a whole. If you chose not to share #bellletstalk content on your page or your feed, that’s okay and I understand that. But I also recognize that in sharing this, Bell is supporting mental health initiatives across the country by donating money each time. I want to optimize this, and to “squeeze every dollar out of them that I can” (in the great words of one of my favourite Instagram accounts @northernstyle)
But I digress… mental health is something we ALL have and something that I have been pretty passionate about due to my own experiences. As a nurse, and also as a patient mental health is a part of our healthcare system that is so undervalued, represented, and something that we don’t recognize enough. And when we do recognize mental health challenges so often, in my experience, people don’t address these concerns of their patients because it is a lot easier to ignore the systemic problems that so often contribute to these.
In my practice, I have cared for children who have returned less than 24 hours after a suicidal ideation or attempt… often times having been almost successful or experiencing devastating lifechanging effects. It breaks my heart- this is something that we need to be better at addressing and we all have a role to advocate for better, more accessible supports to all.
My MScN thesis was focused on the use of social media and mental health of youth, and I continue to advocate for changes in our practices across the province to help support children & youth at the policy and health systems level. We have made some progress, but the past year has taught us so much that we need to address mental health supports so much better than we currently are (did you know that over 80% of MH disorders that continue into adulthood stem from child years?)
If I’m being perfectly honest, I have spent a lot of my adult life in denial that my mental health was a problem. I struggled with some aspects of my mental health in my younger teenage years, but had this perception that it was “just a phase” or it was something I would grow out of… fast forward about 10 years and I felt extremely lost when I felt some of those similar things I once had… how was it that I was still so “broken”? It took some pretty significant situations where I lost people I cared about and pushed people away to recognize that my anxiety was really consuming me and the “drive” I had gotten so used to was not just motivation, but truly did come from a place of anxiety.
Yes- I know better. Logical me knows that this is not the case… and I would never perceive or treat any of my patients this way. Yet I did not have the same grace for myself. I have seen some pretty disappointing and sad things in my practice honestly- some of the more “old school” nurses making judgmental comments about some of the teenagers that we have had in Critical Care- about how they look, or the situations they find themselves in even without the context or knowing anything about their circumstances.
I think this stigma has honestly made me very scared and nervous to share any of my own experiences up until now. Some people are just downright mean- they will exploit you and your weaknesses for their own gain, and critical care nurses in particular can be both the best and worst people on the planet. We work and work and work ourselves to the brink of insanity, expect a lot of ourselves and each other, and have little forgiveness and grace for the human parts of us. Do I know that these experiences are normal, and I am human? Of course. But sometimes when you are already at war with yourself, feeling any more ‘imperfect’ or ‘different’ is a scary concept or thought.
I shared a post yesterday on Instagram about my experiences with mental health and what #Bellletstalk means to me. In my adult life, I found myself consumed with anxiety that I was in denial about for many years, covering it up by keeping busy, and filling up my plate with other things because I don’t like to sit with my thoughts & feelings. Sharing this certainly wasn’t easy, but I hope that it will bring awareness to people that no matter how “good” things may seem or look, how confident someone is, there is more than what you see on the surface.
Feel free to have a read- I have been very touched by the number of people who have reached out to me to share they have similar experiences in their own journey and thanking me for posting this. I just want to say to any of you who have read this to me- thank you. I know how hard it is to be vulnerable, and not only do I feel honoured that you are comfortable enough to share your story with me, but this makes me feel less alone, when isolation is a common theme I have felt through much of my life. Know that I am always open and willing to support you, and my door is always open (no matter if we talked yesterday or haven’t talked in years). And finally, just a reminder to check in on the people around you, especially during these challenging times
And remember – don’t forget to check in on your strong friends too.
xo – C