A few weeks ago, the Victoria Branch of Canadian Mental Health Association invited me to speak about Out of the Box. This was the first time I’d ever stood in front of a group of strangers to talk about my childhood and the book.
When I was growing up, both of my parents struggled with undiagnosed depression. I didn’t know that at the time, though. I accepted my parents’ mood swings as a normal part of family life, and I assumed all kids propped their parents up emotionally. In writing Out of the Box, I wanted to write the kind of book I needed when I was growing up – a story that declared, once and for all, that children are not responsible for their parents’ mental health. But as I stood talking about the book and my childhood, I realised it still gives me the jitters to admit that I couldn‘t help my parents. A tiny part of me still feels like I’m admitting failure.
Mental illnesses of all kinds carry a huge stigma. Depression in particular is something we don’t talk about. Many people see it as some kind of personal failing, instead of a mental illness, and very few people are willing to step in when they see another person struggling with depression.
For all these reasons, I look forward to an upcoming event sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association. In June 2013, I want to be part of Ride Don’t Hide, a bike ride to raise awareness about the stigma against mental illness. The idea began with Michael Schratter’s ride around the world for the same purpose. I’m excited about the possibilities.