In 2014, former Olympian Clara Hughes cycled 7000 km across Canada to raise awareness about mental health. Today, two-thirds of Canadians suffering from anxiety and/or depression, suffer in silence. As Bell’s Let’s Talk Day approached, I realized it was important for me to participate in the discussion.

When I was 21 years old, my mother took her own life. She was 45 years old and suffering from clinical depression. My sister was only 16 at the time and to this day, that saddens me deeply. Now both my sister and I have lived longer than our mom and I think how young she was and how much life she had ahead of her.

By the time my mom passed, I had struggled with anxiety and depression myself. In my early 20s, some mornings I would leave for work, only to rush back to the perceived security of my home in response to panic attacks. My world became smaller; I could not ride the LRT, drive comfortably on the highway for any distance, or ride elevators without breaking into a cold sweat. The panic attacks continued through my 30s. Fortunately, I had tremendous support from my husband and the few friends that I had confided in. I also spoke with some great counsellors along the way.

Today I am grateful that those challenges of the past no longer haunt me. Last year I was trapped in an elevator for about twenty minutes and was relaxed and joked with security when they were able to release me. What a relief. Mental health is physiological. My grandmother was threatened with shock treatments while other family members wrestle with depression and anxiety today.

Mental health is a serious issue in our schools. Unfortunately, the proliferation of technology, a fantastic enabler of so many things, has contributed to isolation and exacerbated stress among young people.

A couple of years ago, in a moment of vulnerability, I shared some of my past with a group of clients. I then thought, “What the he— did you just do?” They were incredibly supportive and there was no judgment. As Bell’s Let’s Talk Day approaches, I realized my silence does not serve others.

Watch for signs of emotional distress in others. Encourage them to seek help. Engage young people in conversations about themselves and their friends. If you are struggling, please know that it is not a permanent state. You can get help. You are not alone. You are not unusual. The world needs your special gifts so seek help and get better.

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© 2018 Lorraine A. Moore. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.