At a book launch for my 2018 memoir, Mad Like Me.
Every year in Canada, in January, the Bell telecommunications corporation sponsors “Bell Let’s Talk Day.” It’s an occasion for many who would otherwise remain ignorant or unconcerned about mental health and illness to have a quick wake-up call.
I couldn’t agree more that we all need to support the “Let’s Talk” goal, but I’d go a step further: “Let’s Talk – and keep talking!” This is way too important, too urgent, to leave to just one day a year.
According to the Prairie Mountain Health website, the motto of Bell Let’s Talk Day in 2023 is “Let’s Change This.” They continue: “Let’s take action for mental health. Let’s change the statistic that 1 in 2 people struggling with mental health concerns are not getting the help they need. Let’s change the statistic that every day 200 people across Canada attempt suicide and every day, 12 will die by suicide. Let’s Change This…. Let’s take action for positive change today and every day and Let’s Change This.”
Back in 2018 when I published my memoir, Mad Like Me: Travels in Bipolar Country, I was committed to speaking out about my mental illness hoping to help destigmatize it and to humanize people like me who had to live with a devastating diagnosis.
Many, many public events followed, speaking to nursing students, university students and faculty, high school students and their parents, community members at public gatherings, Elders in a local seniors’ residence, people with family members diagnosed with a mental illness, whatever. I was happy to be featured on radio, on podcasts, and we even posted some videos on YouTube. Then, during the pandemic, there were online book clubs and virtual presentations to college students. I was always pleased to share my experiences, and to use any credibility my training as a nurse and my doctorate in public health might afford.
A wide shot of the same event as above. About 50 people attended the book launch, and both the Mayor and librarian spoke in support of Mad Like Me.
In many ways, writing that memoir was the biggest “speaking out” I personally could do. I laid it all out, believing that others could benefit from understanding this disorder a bit better. When the book kept selling more and more, eventually becoming an Amazon bestseller about six months after publication, I was understandably delighted.
But I knew from many messages and emails I received from fellow sufferers and their carers that there were countless other stories and perspectives to share. Gradually, I realized that I could facilitate the sharing of these stories: I knew that not every person would have the energy, resources, or ability to write a full-length memoir (although I always encouraged this), but I thought perhaps they could manage a short story or essay about their personal “travels in bipolar country.”
About nine months after Mad Like Me was published, while still actively promoting the memoir and accepting speaking gigs, I started reaching out to others to collaborate with me on producing a bipolar anthology. After over two years of work, Navigating Bipolar Country: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Bipolar Disorder was published in February 2022. It features 42 amazing contributors from three groups: people living with a bipolar diagnosis; our family members; and the professionals who work with us.
I feel immensely privileged to have been able to help these contributors share their powerful stories. That was yet another way I have been able to "talk and keep talking” about bipolar.
Kudos to the Bell company for sponsoring Bell Let’s Talk Day each year. Yes, let’s talk, and keep talking, always!
How are you helping to break the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder? What will you do to “keep talking” this year? I’d love to hear from you; please comment below if you’d like to.