I had a mental health crisis when I was a Grade 8 Teacher at Longfields Davidson Heights Secondary School (OCDSB) here in Ottawa.
As a result of what happened at school, I am no longer fit to teach in the classroom. But, my story doesn’t end here.
My mental health crisis doesn’t end in tragedy. You won’t read about me in the newspapers. (Wait… are there still newspapers? Scratch that. You won’t see me on your news feed…)
I am choosing to write my own narrative and choose my own path.
Part of that path means recognizing that I choose my mindset. I can have a fixed mindset and believe that I can’t change. Or, I can have a growth mindset and as hard as it seems, try to find a way to make the worst moment of my life into the greatest moment.
I’m sharing this story with you because sometimes, when it comes to mental health, we are surrounded by a single story of violence and tragedy.
We get a skewed view of reality because we are bombarded by sensational stories – in the media, on social media, and sometimes, even in school plays.
Novelist Chimamanda Adichie talks about the danger of a single story in her TED talk.
We create a single story when we “show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become… The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
It is often easier to talk about physical health than mental health. It’s easier to talk about our daughter breaking her leg while playing hockey rather than talking about our son who has depression and attempted suicide.
So, then, we don’t share our stories about mental health. Our stories of struggle, our stories of resilience, and our stories of accepting a new normal.
In the silence, then, the only stories we do hear about are about shootings, suicide, and tragedy.
The reality is, we need a balance of stories.
Adichie makes reference to what Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe calls “a balance of stories” in her TED talk. Achebe encourages writers from the Third World to write about their own countries, as a way to help achieve this balance.
Ultimately, we need to reject the single story that extreme bullying leads to extreme violence and that mental health crisis leads to tragedy.
I share my story of struggle in the hopes that it helps someone else get through theirs.
There’s never a good time to stand up and be count. But, it is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’d like to take this opportunity to #getloud and #getreal about #mentalhealth.