World Mental Health Day
Today is World Mental Health Day. The day promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services. This year the theme for the day is “Depression: A Global Crisis”. To mark the day here is an edited version of a post I wrote earlier this year on the subject of depression after cancer.
We now know that the incidence of depression following a cancer diagnosis is high. While most people will understand that dealing with a chronic illness like cancer causes depression, not everyone understands that depression can go on for many months and even years after cancer treatment has ended (one of the most frequent searches that comes up on my blog analytics is “depression following cancer”). What is even less well understood is the depression that seemingly comes out of nowhere for no apparent reason and there is less support and understanding for this.
Depression is an isolating and lonely place and people are reluctant to talk about it for fear of being stigmatised or just plain misunderstood – which of course adds to the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Like Eleanor Rigby (with a face that we keep in a jar) we put on a mask to face the world, because it isn’t socially acceptable to wear any other face.
Ah yes. The mask. I have written about my mask here on several occasions, and I am admitting that I have felt forced to wear it again recently, when really I have wanted to howl at the despair I am feeling after my mother’s death and the loss of my baby. While it may seem like I am coping on the outside, I am struggling inside. What helps is knowing that I am not alone. Knowing that this is a universal struggle so many of us deal with everyday. I wish we didn’t have to hide it, but sometimes in order to appear like “normal” functioning adults we do.
The title of this challenge is blogging for mental health and it is very apt for me – because, as I have also written here many times, it is blogging that has saved my mental health. Knowing that there is a place where I can write from my heart, a place where I can take off my mask, and know that I am being heard, held and understood is so healing. I know how empowering it is when we can speak out about our struggles with depression, and help each other find ways to better mental health.
Yesterday in the Irish Times, Tony Bates taking his leave of his Mind Matters column wrote a beautiful line, which I think is very apt for today’s theme…
Keep talking. Don’t ever stop. These are the conversations that keep us alive