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Talking. I believe it is one of the most powerful forms of medicine available. Of course, talking won’t cure a disease or heal a scrape. It will heal wounds of a different nature though.

People often discuss the social stigma associated with mental illness. Rightfully so, as mental illness directly affects 20% of Canadians at some point in their life. But what isn’t considered as often, is the social stigma surrounding merely talking to a counsellor or therapist. If someone talks to a counsellor, it does not mean that they have a mental illness or problem. It simply means that they need someone to talk to.

Nobody has a perfect life. We live in a high stress world, and some of us work in an even higher stress environment. No matter how well someone might thrive under pressure, everyone has  a limit to how much stress they can handle. Add the pressures from work or school to the pressures of personal life, and you might just reach that limit. If you reach that point, you really should talk to someone.

When I was in first year undergrad, I approached that point. Things with my girlfriend of nearly three years were not well, and the academic and financial stress of first year university were building. I was dealing with a lot of factors in my life, and I noticed my focus in class faltering. I found myself becoming less and less cheery, and more and more depressed. I slept in later, and went to bed earlier. I started hanging out with my friends less, and spent more time in my room. Even my eating habits were changing.

One night, after a particularly heated argument with my girlfriend over the phone, I decided enough was enough. The thoughts going through my head were not my usual thoughts. I was changing, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. The next morning, I booked an appointment with a counsellor.

Over just a few sessions with that counsellor, I was able to sort things out again. My stress levels were down, I was eating normally again, I was hanging out with friends more often, and my thoughts were mine again. As cliché as it sounds, in those sessions I laughed and I cried. I spoke about things I hadn’t even consciously acknowledged as problems before. I worked through many problems in my life, and I am 100% better because of it.

Why am I writing about this? I am sharing my story because I want people to know that it’s OK to talk to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. It takes courage to talk to someone about your problems. Counselling is not always an easy thing; it can be difficult to open up to someone. But the results are so worth it.

Some people might avoid counselling because they fear that it will cost a lot of money. Don’t. If you’re in elementary or high school, talk to your guidance counsellor. If they can’t help you, they will find someone who can. You don’t have to pay anything and your parents don’t have to know. If you’re in college or university, most schools have counsellors and therapists on staff, and they offer their services to students, free of charge. Talk to student services, student development, or health services on campus and they will direct you. If you’re out of school and in the workplace, consult your benefits package. Many companies offer counselling or wellness services with their health insurance plan. If you use this service, your counsellor nor your insurance company will inform your employer. It’s completely confidential.

If none of the above apply to you, or you do not wish to use those services, call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600. Calling this number does not mean that you have a mental illness, and they will be able to assist you in finding a suitable counsellor in your area. This service is provided by the Government of Ontario for free, and most of the services they direct you to are funded by the Government of Ontario.

Other people might avoid counselling because they fear a social stigma. Don’t. It is worth it, and the people who truly care about you will be proud of you for seeking help.

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One Comment

  1. JPS JPS

    Thank you for posting this, Cole. By sharing your story, you’re helping chip away at the stigma that mental-health issues have in society. A lot of people think, “yeah, it’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t happen to anybody that I know.” That’s simply not true, and these (and all other) people need to know that it’s OK to seek help. Your post addresses these, and so many other, points beautifully.

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