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Last week was Bell Let’s Talk Day, and an awesome 4.8 million was raised for mental health initiatives across Canada! Congrats to any of you who participated. This is a great initiative and I love how people in the spotlight come out and discuss their personal mental health history. I think it’s great celebrities and stars talk about mental health issues they struggle with, but I don’t think it’s great how much attention is given to just the celebrity and not the mental illness itself.

It’s always BREAKING news if a celebrity comes out and talks about depression, or how they are bipolar. But zero attention is given to regular people such as coworkers or neighbors who deal with anxiety or postpartum depression. Society can somehow justify that when a celebrity is open about mental health, they are heroes. Yet when they find out Mr/Mrs.Clark is bipolar, they may sometimes view them as weak, strange, sick, & frightening. On many occasions people will avoid them because they don’t know how to react, or know what to say! Mental illness? OMG stay away from me. I feel bad, but I don’t want to get involved. That person always seemed off. Society doesn’t know how to behave around someone with a mental illness. Many people don’t understand, or care to learn about mental illness’, because it doesn’t affect them right? WRONG, 1 in 5 Canadians will have a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Everybody knows somebody who has a mental illness, or they themselves have one. So why do we not treat these people/ourselves like heroes? They are the ones who have to deal with the mental health system, the waiting time, the unknowns, the ups and downs. Celebrities who talk about mental health are great, but they don’t have the same treatment as you or I. They don’t have to be put on a waiting list of 8 months to see a psychiatrist that is underpaid and overworked. They can afford to take the time off and actually get proper care.

I believe if you have deal with a mental illness during your life, you have gained something I like to call MENTAL WEALTH. You know what it’s like to feel good when you’re doing well, you know how bad bad is when you are low. You have experienced things many people will NEVER understand unless they’ve been through them personally. You are the real hero. You are the hero of your own life for waking up every morning even though you may not want to. You are your own hero for taking that medication to keep your mood stable. You are a hero for going to all the appointments. You are a survivor of the system, and you are a hero for still being here. Mental wealth is understanding how fragile the mind is, and being able to relate to others who have been in similar positions.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is a really great start, but we need to talk about mental health issues EVERY DAY. We need to own them and educate others, because they won’t learn unless we teach. Just because people can’t physically see a mental illness, does not make it any less important.

Hats off to all the heroes who get through each day with their personal battles of mental health. Hats off to all the families who support and love someone with a mental illness. And hats off to the people who are taking the time to learn about mental illness.

Sarah Robertson