Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Let's not pretend that this initiative and campaign only affects the people appearing in mental health videos and the people expressing suicidal thoughts. Let's not pretend that when we post pictures and tweets today on social media that we are fully sympathizing rather than self-healing. Though I value and believe in the #BellLetsTalk initiative's power to talk people off the ledge, I want to bring attention to everyone else.

We must not dismiss the impact of real conversation on those who feel slightly better after sharing a thought with others - those who do not yet identify with mental illness because of the unfortunate stigma still festering in our society. We can all benefit from a community more open to listening. Though I appreciate that mental illness is inherent to an individual more than it is circumstantial, I recognize that circumstance can be the culprit behind many (though, again, not all) mental difficulties, and nobody is immune. In my message, I do not try to rob the attention away from those who are severely suffering, but I want to bring light to the fluid, often ignored mental challenges most of us experience every day.

I lost my grandmother yesterday. My legs went a bit wonky as I heard a choked up message from my dad on my voicemail asking me to call him back. Immediately, you expect the worst. I knew there was a death - my dad doesn't cry for nothing. She was relatively healthy; it was a moderate shock. Though she was 82, we had gotten her technologically savvy, so that she could communicate with us through FaceTime, since we lived far away. She was also on Facebook, and commented "Bravo, Alex" on any picture I posted, no matter what I was doing. I liked teasing her about it. Losing her, obviously, is tough.

In these times, I call upon my support system. First and foremost, there is my family at home, going through the same struggle. Then, there are my friends and teammates in Windsor, from St. FX, from PEI, Bern's Boys and Gilly's Girls, my 18 Greening group chat, the Floaters, the Flying Frenchmen, my friends from the running community, my coaches, my classmates, and my professors. They are there to talk, to listen, and to get my mind off the bad stuff. They encourage me to run, to write, and to think positively. Awareness from others goes a long way, and to make others aware, one must talk. For one to talk, one must feel comfortable - no matter the severity or nature of the problem.

The #BellLetsTalk hashtag can be bastardized for self-validation in terms of likes and retweets. As well, it can be wrongly publicized when the user dissociates him or herself from their own mental health, and solely project the issue on others. I think we all fight our own version of a mental battle, and whether it originates from inheritance, circumstance, or both, the healing methods are similar. Fundamentally, we are the same - we want to be heard. Therefore, it might simply be the magnitude - and not the presence - of struggle that separates individuals. So, instead of labeling our peers as mental illness haves or have nots, I think it is important to recognize that everyone can use a support system; everyone can use an available ear. People lent me ears today, and for that, I am grateful.

Rest in Peace, Anna Cyr - 1935-2018