Breaking the taboo…

quote-on-mental-health-08Two people recently reached out to me on the topic of mental illness. One just published a memoir with her son on bipolar illness. The other is promoting an infographic (researched and created by Best Masters in Psychology) that discusses mental illness in a visual way.

Having both in my inbox and knowing the importance of this topic, I decided to meld them together in this week’s post.

Why is it so important?

Because despite its prevalence and the way it touches almost all of our lives (in one way or another) mental health issues are still talked about tentatively, self-consciously, judgementally, inaccurately…or not at all.

When I reflect on my own experience, I have two perspectives. As an MSW counsellor, I worked with people struggling in the grips of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I was good at my work and I know my clients felt respected and not judged.

But when I went through a hormonal hell last summer something shifted. When it was myself in the dark hole of depression, I struggled so hard not to judge myself. It was only through journaling emails to a friend who shared this struggle, that I was able to release myself from the judgment. I had no idea the sheer power it held over me — and how it made getting out of that deep dark hole so much harder – until it was lifted.

Yet even now that I am on solid ground again, I still struggle to talk about it. I catch myself wondering what others will think. Will they judge? Will they understand? Will they look at me differently?

The stereotypes, misinformation, and one-dimensional messages about mental health struggles can be crippling; both in our ability to reach out to others and to our own selves.

So, this week’s post will have four voices. The first was mine. The second is the profound and personal voices of mother and son (whose book I have just ordered from Amazon). The third is the voice of science. The fourth is a compilation of voices. I hope you find what speaks to you.

WalksMarginsfinalcover_177x261, by  and Max Maddox

Here is the brief description Kathy sent to me: A mother salvages her son’s poetry from a mental hospital garbage can. For her, Max’s verse is a reminder of her son’s promise and a souvenir along the footpath of bipolar disorder. It’s the whiz kid and his vexed mother.  His emotional unrest and her gentle compassion.  In Walks on the Margins, mother and son weave two narratives into a single compelling story of what it means to suffer from mental illness.

Max takes us under the seas of psychosis as Kathy narrates her struggle to decode her son’s disease in a world beset by institutional failure. She strives to piece together a semblance of her son as Max takes another walk through strange lands and then falls into the melancholic abyss. Each day they confront the unknowns of their lives as they maneuver a twisted trail to recovery.

A finalist for the Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction, Walks on the Margins is a fiercely candid story about the emotional turmoil and confusion of  those who struggle with bipolar disorder.

For those of you who connect to the more cerebral:


And for those who connect to snippets of wise words, (and their ) has a number of , including:

“Shame causes worse mental health than anything else. If we get rid of the shame of having a mental illness, we get rid of more than half of what ails.” — Jodi Aman

“Mental Illness is the only disease that can make you deny its own existence. Certainly the idea that the brain can deny its own illness is a frightening thought.” — Natasha Tracy

“Maybe she laughs and maybe she cries, and maybe you would be surprised at everything she keeps inside.” — Unknown

“Mental Illness can be an “invisible disability” but I’m not sure it should be” — Natalie Jeanne Champagne

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside YOU.” — Maya Angelou

“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” — Adam Ant

Let us all do our part in breaking the taboo.

5 Responses to “Breaking the taboo…”

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  1. Quinn says:

    Depression is much more than what people think about. It truly sucks the life out a person and having experienced it in my life and occasionally struggle with it, hard to combat but the more people speak out about it the better off we will be. perhaps more people will come forth to get help without any stigma attached to it..

  2. says:

    My ex-boyfriend had bipolar disorder. About a year ago he started taking Lithium medication. Before he was diagnosed, he even attempted to commit suicide on multiple occasions…it was really difficult for everyone close to him.
    I’m so glad that you’ve highlighted the importance of talking about mental health problems…So many clinically depressed sufferers are undiagnosed, and they’re a danger to themselves and those around them. I wish people would be more understanding about mental health disorders…In India especially, where I live, there’s a prevailing taboo against mental health disorders and psychiatrists in general.

  3. Kim says:

    Thank you for bringing more light and attention to the subject of mental illness. There is much research to be found on the subject and I feel like I’d like to share some of what I’ve read but the topic is just so extensive and complex. As someone currently experiencing a close friend’s struggle with severe depression, I do feel a sense of helplessness.

    • Kim: I agree that this is a very extensive and complex topic, one that I hope we all continue to explore with openness, compassion and sense of connectedness. Namaste.

  4. says:

    Thanks for an informative and sensitive look at this topic, Diane. I especially appreciated your “Science of Mental Health” section.