Earlier this week, I once again had the honour and privilege of representing Partners for Mental Health at a Not Myself Today campaign workplace mental health event held at the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
For someone with General Anxiety Disorder, public speaking is a great form of “exposure therapy”… despite the initial butterflies, I quickly settled into my talk. Sharing my story of surviving Double Depression gets easier with each retelling, and was made even easier by the warm reception I received from CFHI staff. From up front, the audience certainly seemed attentive and open to hearing my message on how the stigma of mental illness unnecessarily delays treatment, prolonging the suffering for not only the person affected, but also their loved ones.
I was also deeply touched by the stories shared with me during one-on-one conversations that took place following the presentation. And that’s the main driver that keeps me going on the mental health advocacy front: knowing that by sharing my lived experience, I am encouraging others to do the same, to reach out, and hopefully, move beyond the stigma to get the help they need.
It’s all about having the courage and conviction to get the conversation around mental health started… because starting the conversation inevitably leads to a better understanding of mental illness, an appreciation for the struggles 1 in 5 Canadians face, and eventually the reduction if not outright elimination of stigma.
But don’t take my word for it… rather, I leave you with what the CFHI event organizer had to say following my speaking engagement:
“Your presentation was a huge hit! People were talking about it long after you’d gone. In the lunchroom at noon, the hot topic was mental health and how your presentation was fantastic and helped others to understand what those suffering with mental illness are dealing with. In terms of your actual presentation, you are a great public speaker. You were really engaging, personable, and added just the right touch of humour to an otherwise serious issue. […] It was very refreshing to have someone speak who was so open and honest about his personal experience. The selected videos were also relevant and effective. Well done! Thanks again for coming in and sharing your story. You are a huge asset to the Not Myself Today campaign!”
– Josie M., Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement