Today is BellLets talk day; “an awareness campaign created by the Canadian telecommunications company, Bell Canada, in an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness in Canada. It is notably the single largest corporate commitment to mental health in Canada.”

It came to my attention when the first spokesperson for the campaign, Clara Hughes, Olympic medallist in cycling and speed skating talked about her mental health, the depression she was dealing with over 10 years ago. Clara’s Big Ride crossed the country and brought awareness to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Since that ground was broken, there have been others in the cycling and sport world who have been able to tell their stories and bring the realization to the population that mental health affects us all.

Sport, physical activity is on the list as one of the things to do to treat depression – so how is it that athletes can still suffer from anxiety and depression? Athletes are people; their circumstances, their expectations, the pressure to perform from themselves as well as others around them, an incident that causes anxiety that triggers and upsets the complex balance of the body and mind. The sadness that is the main symptom of depression can be ignored in an athlete who expects to be able to ‘get over it’ or is unable to talk about it.

The depression that I have was triggered by a couple of things and I wasn’t shy about asking for an experts help – it’s ironic that the institution that created it also offered help and support from a medical professional. What I was reticent about and still am, is talking about what it feels like, what happened and what I’m doing about it. Although it’s not something I’m ashamed about, there’s still part of me that thinks that I’ll be judged or looked at differently if I talk about it. I think about it as something I have, not something I am, like having a scar on my leg or wearing contacts. I don’t talk to people about that so why would I bring up depression?

It has given me insight into others that may be affected and don’t realize it and I have learned that there are some ways that are better than others to bring the topic up. Knowing some of the questions that lead to the possibility of depression being the cause can help the conversation and help the process of suggesting professional help; sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, lack of interest or enjoyment of activities, emotional swings and for some, suicidal thoughts. I think it’s important to understand that those feelings aren’t normal, they don’t need to feel that way and shouldn’t. It’s not healthy and it can be a nasty rabbit hole that is hard to get out of once you’re in there.

Me? Yes I’m on medication that keeps me on balance; it’s not something that I really want to have as a staple in my life, heck I don’t even like taking ibuprofen, but at this point I think of it as a supplement that maintains my mental health and balance.

Keep the conversation going, because no one should suffer in silence.

That’s what’s strong with me, day 26

Coach Be