September 1, 2021

Dustin H.

The stigma that surrounds mental health is so often the one thing keeping people from getting the help they so desperately need!

I feared what people might think of me if I let it be known that I was struggling and would then be viewed as less than. This fear was totally

self-imposed and self- fuelled, but it was very real to me! The fear led to isolation and in isolation, it and depression were all I could focus on. I was surrounded by people in my job, but never felt more alone. I had to ask for help, stigma be damned!

I must have typed and deleted a dozen different messages. I felt empty and at the end of my rope. I knew I just had to stop feeling this way. I was so tired of being exhausted from over-thinking and beating myself up for not being able to “suck it up”. It’s a helpless feeling and I just knew that I couldn’t figure things out on my own.

My options were either to ask for help or to just accept being miserable and settle into the massive rut I was in. It seems such an obvious and easy choice looking back now, but at the time I felt so embarrassed about how I treated and viewed myself. The stigma loomed heavy. I typed my message, pushed send, threw my phone across the floor and just sobbed. I wish I could explain the sense of relief I felt in that moment. I had let someone in on what was going on with me and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I certainly felt lighter. That helpless feeling turned into a hopeful one. Hope had been missing for such a long time in my life.

My friend wasn’t an expert. He didn’t have to be. I just needed to know I wasn’t carrying this feeling alone anymore. He pointed me in the direction of the experts and most importantly didn’t judge me. He listened. He cared.

My fear of being judged almost kept me from pushing send that day, but I am so grateful that I found the courage to do it. That friend checked in on me from time to time and I knew I could talk to him. I’m so thankful that he had made himself available on a personal level. We don’t do this enough.

We need to talk more about mental health. We need to check in on each other more often. We need to let people know they can come forward when they are struggling without fear or shame. We need to have each other’s backs. The more we do these things the weaker the stigma surrounding mental health becomes and the more lives can be changed for the better, even saved! It’s really as simple as that.

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Stigma 86 is an initiative that brings attention to mental health and wellness in the hospitality and craft producers industry.
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