It is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It’s an opportunity to consider what the world might be like for someone living with mental illness. Awareness is an effort. We can put posters up or paint a bus but if it is viewed from our usual perspective it is paper and paint. We need to recognize that mental illness is illness. Some people believe they are far from mental illness but there are recognizable aspects in many mental illnesses. If you are unfamiliar with depression consider your own moments of sadness and apply that understanding to the situation of those who are familiar with depression. Empathy is not knowing the struggle necessarily, it is simply the recognition of it.
I often find myself pointing out the negative in an attempt to alleviate it. I was at a dinner the other evening. It was in part a fundraiser for mental health care. I was a little out of my element. An hour into this knowledge I found myself in front of enough silverware to confuse an octopus. I prayed not to drop a fork as it would have a specific name unfamiliar to my tongue and mind. I think I made one of those faux pas when I poured my salad dressing from a bowl with two pouring things and a nice spoon. I’m a tradesman at heart and went with efficiency over elegance.
As I said, we were looking for money to make change. I was looking for a couple of friends who were volunteering at the event. The only person in the room I recognized was the retired chief of police. I was hoping he came close enough that I could confide that I believed myself to be the only one among a thousand who had been behind bars. I thought it likely that he was the beacon of this knowledge and could confirm my suspicion.
It was a successful evening and I felt honoured to be included in a room with so many generous people. As I was finishing my meal with my remaining fork I caught a glimpse of one of my friends as she scurried about selling tickets. I saw a sermon. My two friends spend their days applying their knowledge and abilities to further the cause of mental health. Their compassion and fine qualities are revealed by their volunteerism but easily seen in its absence as well. I saw in the glimpse of my friend the many people who do so much for mental health. It would be a lost cause if not for the personal contributions of so many.
I would like to welcome Mental Illness Awareness Week with thanks and gratitude to the many who contribute.