In the past year alone, three of my friends have opened up to me about their struggle with depression and of those three, two have them admitted that at some point they’ve seriously considered committing suicide. This is a really jarring thing to hear, especially when you think you know someone too well for them to be able to hide something like this. I didn’t take the fact that they felt safe enough to confide in me for granted and wanted to continue the conversation. I’ve asked them a few questions about their struggle with depression in the hopes that it might help someone who reads this. This is what they’ve had to say about their experience with mental health issues and in what way the conversation surrounding mental illness needs to change.
When you get low and experience a depressive episode, what do you do to get better?
A: Typically, when I go through a rough patch I try to remind myself that I won’t be in the situation forever and try to show myself that by doing A, B and C or when A, B and C is done, the situation that’s making me feel bad will go away. Basically, I try to visualize the end of the depressive period. Sometimes this is really hard for me to do and I can’t really acknowledge it and process that it’ll end soon, so I usually try to take time for myself to be alone or go spend time with my mom depending on how bad of an episode it is.
B: When I feel depressed, I have friends who I can turn to and talk about it with. I talk with friends who have dealt with depression, understand what I’m going through and are there to listen and help me when they know I’m struggling. I will often exercise when I feel down or listen to music and go for a drive. I do things that help me calm down or release the feelings that are bottled up inside of me.
C: Talk to someone. Find that person you can confide in and let them know how you’re feeling. It’s not necessarily something I do to get better or feel better, but I know that it is better when I do talk to someone instead of keeping it in. There were so many times when I was on the verge of harming myself in the midst of anxiety attacks, but I was like, “Let me just try one more thing to reach out for help, to see if anyone can pull me out of this.” Sometimes it takes a little help from others to pull you out of dark places and stop you from making rash decisions (like committing suicide).
Growing up, what is the one thing you wish you had been taught about mental health?
A: I wish that I had been taught that being depressed or having anxiety isn’t something to keep to yourself and suffer in silence with. I wish we got taught the opposite of the stigma of mental health. I know it would leave a lot of people in a healthier state of mind.
B: I wish people were open about depression and mental health so I didn’t feel so alone while I was going through it. Knowing there are other people dealing with it gives me hope and helped get rid of the shame I felt. Once my friends opened up about their anxiety and depression, it helped me feel more comfortable with what I was going through. I feel as though I was made pretty aware of mental health in high school and even through the news. It’s being talked about more and more these days.
C: That you shouldn’t be ashamed of dealing with mental health issues. I feel like in the immigrant community I was raised in, mental health is a really hush hush topic so I never grew up talking about my mental health struggles.
What do you think should be done to minimize teen suicide rates?
A: This kind of takes from my previous answer. I think schools should put mental health awareness in the curriculum. I feel like it needs to be something that they talk about freely, consistently and often. I think that legitimizing depression with teens instead of dismissing it would make teens feel more comfortable getting help and make them less likely to isolate themselves. I feel like by making mental health a topic of focus helps teens know that they have resources available and that they’ll be taken seriously. Also, if teens have a knowledge base on mental illness, they’ll know how to handle situations, for example, if they’re approached by a friend, they can help them and direct them to the appropriate people to get further help.
B: There are a lot of things being done for mental health these days. I honestly think that our world has a fast pace lifestyle and everyone is stressed, worried or overworked. People don’t live healthy lives and need to be taught how to do that. I was surprised how much my emotions effected my physical health and vice versa. Everyone is affecting the people around them and the healthier we are, the more positive influence we can have on other people.
C: I think there should be more support and education about mental health starting at a younger age. We should teach kids about mental illness and how to practice self-care. There should be a class that teaches you about suicide prevention. I think there are a lot of great resources already out there, but it’s reaching the students that need it that is the difficult part. So if more people were trained to learn how to deal with serious cases of suicide, like if their friend told them they were suicidal, then they’d be able to help them find the proper resources.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self concerning mental illness?
A: I wish I could tell myself that I don’t need to be ashamed with myself because I can’t always function as well as someone else because my depression stops me. That depression isn’t something I need to struggle with and dismiss for almost 8 years before seeking help and taking care of myself. Your mental health is more important than any grades you’ll ever get and if you aren’t ready for something, you don’t need to push yourself and make yourself worse to make someone else happy.
B: I would tell myself not to worry what anyone else thinks of me.
C: Masking the pain only makes things worse. Don’t keep the feelings in.
What do you wish people knew about mental illness?
A: I WISH PEOPLE KNEW IT’S NOT SOMETHING YOU COULD TURN ON AND OFF! You can be happy, laugh and have “an awesome life” and still be depressed. When I tell some people they’re always like, “But you’re so happy, I never would have guessed.” You also can’t just get over depression. It doesn’t go away after a year or a certain length of time. It’s a constant struggle. It might not be there 100% of the time, but I find for myself, personally, it looms a lot in my life and I can’t choose when it looms or not.
B: I wish people knew how common mental illness is and how many people are living everyday dealing with depression or anxiety, and that they are still doing lots.
C: That it’s a real thing and it’s not because we’re lazy, haven’t been to church, or whatever (specifically referring to depression) but that it’s a real mental health issue that needs compassion, time, medicine, and rest to deal with.
Do you think your family is supportive as you deal with your mental health issues?
A: They are supportive. When I took my time off, I think my immediate family understood why without me having to tell them. They have been extremely supportive because they understand it doesn’t just go away and it was something I was very visibly struggling with at home. Over the years, my mom has always been there whenever I was having a bad day to be the person I needed without me having to outright explain that I’m depressed.
B: My family doesn’t know the entirety of my mental health issues, but they know that I am dealing with some stuff. They help in some ways, but I don’t really talk about it with them.
C: They care and try to support me, but to be honest it’s not the support I need. Sometimes I wish I could just explain myself to them and what I need, but then I think I would just rather not bother them because they don’t understand it…they just think I need to go to church.
(Good2Talk is a new, toll-free post-secondary student mental health helpline created as part of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ (MTCU) Mental Health Innovation Fund. Free, bilingual and confidential, Good2Talk offers professional counselling and information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being to post-secondary students in Ontario 24/7/365. Students can reach Good2Talk by calling 1-866-925-5454, or by dialing 2-1-1, from anywhere in Ontario.)