In the nine years I’ve had this blog I’ve started and deleted variations of a post on mental health many times. I’ve written about self-care, historical trauma, or emotional labour in heritage fields. These topics all relate to mental health but they also dance around some of the harder hitting closer to home issues associated with mental health.
Wednesday January 25, 2017 was #BellLetsTalk day which encourages Canadians to discuss mental health. I have some problems with the commercialization of mental health though this initiative and the overwhelmingly middle-class white cis representation in the associated media campaign. However, this is a huge awareness campaign that reaches many Canadians and the merits (or downsides) of this type of ‘end the stigma’ based campaign are worth of a separate discussion.
In addition to #BellLetsTalk, LIS Mental Health Week is January 30 – February 3, 2017. This week aims raise awareness of mental health among library and archives workers. On February 2, 2017 there will be a #lismentalhealth twitter chat at 5pm EST to talk about mental health in the LIS field. This advocacy week also encourages library and archive professionals to use the week as a time to facilitate discussions about mental health, share skills, reflect, and advocate for support.
I do think that sharing mental health experiences can be helpful in raising awareness, advocating for improved services, and supporting each other. I think initiatives such as LIS Mental Health Week are particularly potent because of their sense of community and the resulting discussion of the intersection of the workplace and mental health. I also really like that LIS Mental Health week emphasizes the fact that you don’t need to disclose your personal mental health status to participate in a conversation about mental health. For many people some talking about their personal mental health experience can be victimizing and stressful. I’ve suffered from depression on and off since I was a teenager and in the past year I’ve also been struggling with anxiety, however I don’t feel the need or desire to expand on that experience in this context. We need to respect that fact that you can be an advocate and supportive without sharing all (or any) details of your mental health status.
For many people, myself included, mental health is a deeply personal topic that can be difficult to talk about. For me, many of my interactions relating to mental health have often been directly connected to my gender and sexual identity. Gender based social stereotypes about mental health and gender bias in diagnosis/treatment can greatly impact a person’s experience when seeking support for a mental health concern. I know many female presenting folks that are genuinely afraid to talk about mental health in their place of work because they are already battling equality issues related to their gender. This concern is amplified for WOC, queer women, and trans-women who often face discrimination on all sides. Conversations about mental health can be difficult and emotionally draining but they are important and it’s worth considering how we frame our workplace dialogues about mental health.
How do you help support conversations about mental health in your workplace or professional circles?