Don’t go through it in silence

Amanda Jess
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NEW GLASGOW – I knew when I went to cover Clara Hughes’ speech in New Glasgow that I would get emotional and her words would likely hit home.

That’s exactly why I felt I had to be the one on the assignment.

Clara’s Big Ride is all about encouraging conversation about mental health, and connecting with other Canadians who have gone through similar experiences.

“What this campaign has taught me over the last four years is the absolute value, necessity and crucial nature of sharing the struggle. It was what connects us all. It connects us more than any joy because being human means having the balance of both, but for most people, the struggle outweighs the joy,” the six-time Olympian said during her keynote address at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

As I looked around and saw others dabbing their eyes during Hughes’ words, it felt like we were united.

The last time I felt that connected through struggle was on Jan. 28, Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell Let’s Talk Day is an initiative from Bell Canada where five cents is donated to mental health programs every time it’s mentioned on social media or a text message is sent.

The fundraising aspect is important, but the most value comes from the conversation.

Close to the end of the day this year, I tweeted “Bell Let’s Talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder. It sounds silly, but it’s real and it sucks.”

This winter was one of the worst for me. Not only was it the longest, snowiest and coldest winters that I can remember, I had recently moved to a new town where I knew almost no one.

Trying to adapt while battling a seasonal depression resulted in many nights where I couldn’t convince myself to do anything more than eat, sleep and binge on Netflix.

I love my job, but found myself absolutely dreading getting up in the morning.

I didn’t miss work, but I had many days when writing was impossible and my productivity suffered.

I don’t have a dramatic story, but it’s not easy to fall out of love with life every winter.

It’s a lot easier when you realize it’s not all in your head.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, I got a response from someone through Twitter who was going through the same thing.

In that moment, I felt a sense of relief and closeness to someone whom I had never even met in person.

That’s the power of that day and events like Clara’s Big Ride.

Tim Daley, a local Pictou County lawyer and past president of the Barrister’s Society, followed Hughes’ speech on Wednesday.

His words were just as poignant, coming from a face that many in the area know.

Daley’s spoke about losing his first wife and the depression that followed.

“I was 32 years old, not exactly something I was ready for in that part of my life, but I was also a single parent. I was also a man raised in Newfoundland where men are tough and we do what has to be done,” he said, recalling that he felt he couldn’t express his emotions.

He told a crowd of 400 familiar faces about carrying on and meeting his second wife, Elizabeth, and having children together before finally dealing with Wanda’s death as the grief piled up.

He considered suicide before getting the help he needed through the support of family and friends as well as the Nova Scotia Lawyers Assistance Program.

He now shares his story to encourage others to make sure they do something for mental health – not necessarily what Daley or Hughes do, just anything that shows those going through hard times that they’re not alone.

“Do something or say something at every opportunity. Never let it be lost,” Daley said, adding that the alternative can be to find out someone you love is in the emergency room or a funeral parlour.

The power of hearing from anyone who has suffered from mental illness, including someone in a position of power or great physical strength, is beyond measure.

A simple act of kindness is powerful too. The support of families and friends, just asking someone if they’re OK, can be exactly what they need.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda 

Organizations: Big Ride, Pictou County Wellness Centre, Bell Canada

Geographic location: Pictou County, Barrister, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • S.Holt
    April 20, 2014 - 20:32

    I lost the man in my life because he could not understand. Just confirms how difficult it is to speak up.