Not long ago I tweeted a link to an article by former Ontario premier and interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae calling for a national mental health strategy. It was good and heartfelt: Rae had recently attended a funeral for a young native man, the son of a friend, who died by suicide. It was also not long after three former members of the Canadian military had taken their lives. Chris Peloso, George Smitherman's husband had just died by his own hand.
I received a response from someone who has lived with depression, terming it melancholy, and seemed to be saying that acceptance is key to wellbeing, and that this may be more important that government strategies. I say "seemed" because it is a challenge to say much in 140 characters or less.
I do differentiate between depression and melancholy. I agree, as do all who are involved in today's excellent Let's Talk initiative by Bell, that conversation and de-stigmatization of mental illness is essential. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/It is terrible to suffer with mental illness but it is amplified when it is necessary to be in hiding because of the repercussions at work, or with friends, or even in a faith community. Sometimes Christians figure that prayer will be enough to heal those with mental health issues. I am a strong believer in the power of prayer, but it doesn't stop me from going to the doctor when I need to.
I am convinced that we do need a national strategy for mental health. I have presided at the funerals and memorials of several individuals who were loved and supported by family and friends in every way yet they chose to end their own lives. Yes, there was the stigma of mental illness around them in our culture, but honestly they were so deep into the effects of their illnesses I feel they simply weren't aware of much other than their pain, the pain they just wanted to end. Others have lived in psychotic states which make it next to impossible for them to function, yet there is just not enough support in the health care system. Often their families are desperate as they attempt to provide care, even when they are at personal risk.
We need to keep talking, keep praying as Christians, and keep advocating for a better system of support.