For the last several years, I have not hidden that I deal with depression. Initially, only my family knew. Then I shared with close friends. It took some years before I was comfortable enough sharing it outside my circle. I’ve now mentioned it many times here on my blog (just search for depression).
Recently, I was interviewed for a personality profile in a local newspaper. The interviewer and I ended up discussing mental health quite a bit. I did ask her not to make it the focus of the article when she asked if I was comfortable with her mentioning it in the piece. While I am more comfortable talking about it, I wasn’t quite ready to have it as a headline, lol.
As I mentioned, she seemed a little disappointed that I didn’t do any volunteer work. This is something I have thought about for years but I hadn’t found the cause that felt right to me. In talking with her about some of the things I think need to change around mental health, I came back to a conclusion I’ve reached before — that mental health is a cause I care enough about to want to act on.
A conversation I had last year came back to me around causes and contribution to country. People often feel overwhelmed because there are so many things that need fixing. There is also a feeling that government is not doing enough of anything to fix everything that’s wrong. My view is that government cannot possibly do everything, and not everything can be fixed all at once.
What I said to my fellow conversers at the time was that each person should identify the one thing that they care deeply about and start doing what they can to change it. If every single person in Jamaica did that, we would start to see dramatic changes coming about in all aspects of society.
My favourite example of this is Deika Morrison and her efforts to fix early childhood education in Jamaica. While she is passionate about many things, she felt so strongly about the state of early childhood care that she jumped in to do something about it. She started with just one aspect — learning kits for children (crayons, blocks etc.). She raised funding and started speaking out about it. Here we are some years later and her Crayons Count movement now has national corporate support and is making a difference in children’s lives.
So back to me… a couple years ago I wanted to start a campaign to address the stigma around mental illness. I shared on Twitter and Facebook, inviting people to participate, either through their own stories or to help with the project. I got a grand total of 3 people saying they were interested and it got no further. I let it drop because I didn’t think I had enough support at the time.
Fast forward to present day. I’ve seen the work of the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network floating across my timeline. Headed by a psychiatrist and gathering those in mental health field and other interested persons, JAMHAN describes themselves as seeking to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Sounds like where my interests lie.
I reached out to a Twitter friend who is involved and she directed me to the right people. My brain has started buzzing with ideas to help, so I am looking forward to contributing in whatever way I can. I’ll share more as my involvement gets underway.