"A Different Perspective": A Project Pilgrim Blog Post written by someone who has never struggled with a mental illness.

A couple months ago, Connor asked me to write a guest post for Project Pilgrim. Since then, I have been racking my brain for something enlightening or personal or touching to write about… Just SOMETHING. During this time, I had also been following the other guest blog posts that Project Pilgrim was sharing. I noticed a trend of personal stories and struggles and over comings with mental health.

The thing is,

I don’t have a “story.”

I don’t have a moment or an event in my life when I’ve lost grip of my thoughts or noticed that I had slipped into a darker place. And because of that, I felt like I had nothing to write about that was worth anyone’s time to read. Consider me “lucky”. In the same way I never needed braces as a kid or never broke a bone going skiing or never contracted strep throat at summer camp… I have never been struck with a serious mental health issue… all perhaps by chance.

Mental health is so difficult to understand because if you’ve never experienced it, it is near impossible to relate to. And even if you have had your own personal experience with it, our inability to see it, hear it, and feel it in someone else makes it too easy to go unrecognized and so god damn difficult to acknowledge in the people who need support from their friends and family the most. If we are ever going to properly de-stigmatize mental health, ALL people need to engage in the conversation — the 1 in 5 people who do struggle, as well as the 4 of 5 people who don’t… or just haven’t yet. And so, “story” or no story, I will not shy away from speaking up.

So what is my contribution to the conversation?

I have two very close friends. Both who struggle with different variations of their mental health. The first friend was my first experience supporting someone with a mental illness. In a big way, they help me help them. They have a very genuine understanding of their feelings and thoughts and the way depression affects them. They tell me how they feel in simple language and I listen. But not everyone has reached that level of self understanding. My second friend struggles with anxiety and depression as well. Two illnesses that catch them off guard, are difficult for them to understand, and are constantly interfering with the person they want to see themself as. I am guilty of feeling extremely frustrated when I support my second friend. You speak to them with care and honesty and it feels like they don’t hear you, like they don’t believe you. They feel like a burden, like they’re not worth your time or thought, and are so fast to disregard anything you say or think that isn’t destructive towards them. And despite reminding them hundreds of times that there is nothing you want more than to be there for them, they still feel selfish and unwanted.

Maybe you are like me… wildly lucky that you have not or may never experience your own serious struggle with mental health. Like me, you don’t have a “story.” But also like me, at this very moment, someone you know or consider dear to you, is struggling. Don't let them struggle alone. No matter who you are or what mental state you are in, speak up. All you need is to have someone in your life who you care about.

No one likes looking back and regretting the things they never did or never said. Push past any fear of not relating to someone’s struggle on a personal level, or not knowing enough about mental health, or not having the perfect thing to say. Never give up on the people around you. Never stop caring. Never stop listening. Because you will never know when those simple acts of love will save someone.

If you are the support system of someone struggling with a mental health issue, remember...

It is never your fault or responsibility

There is only so much our friends can do. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help

If you want to be the best support system you can be, take care of yourself. It is vital that you feel mentally secure before you can effectively help someone else feel the same way.

If you are worried about someone’s safety, it is always better to ask them out loud, rather than wonder.

You are doing great.

About The Author:

Rachel Park is a second year University of Western Ontario student. She is known all over as someone with an incredibly positive outlook on life. This rare trait makes her a magnet for many. When she is not giving her all to others you can find her daydreaming about adventures around Vancouver.