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You Are on the Front Lines of Mental Illness — Let’s Talk

You Are on the Front Lines of Mental Illness — Let’s Talk

Neil Pasricha is a Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world. He is devoted to helping individuals increase their performance and overall happiness by employing simple tactics and small, everyday changes. Neil suggests some simple ways to help others dealing with mental health issues, below:

Let’s talk.

Look around and you’ll see so many campaigns and courageous personalities bringing mental illness out of the closet. Bell Let’s Talk Day. Olympian Clara Hughes. Musician Steven Page. They share the desire for getting people discussing mental illness to remove the stigma and bring it into the public discourse.

And it feels like we’re making some progress.

Sure, we can evolve better systems, add more resources and advance treatment options. But let’s make no mistake: mental illness is big. It’s vast. It’s complex. It’s tough to get into the details because everyone’s case is different, research is constantly evolving, and treatments and support systems can be difficult to navigate.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness personally affects one in five Canadians and suicide accounts for a staggering 25 per cent of all deaths for Canadians aged 15-24.

I’m not a doctor, I’m not a mental health professional and I have no formal study in this area, but my life has been touched by mental illness like most of yours. I speak about it and am often asked what tactical resources I might recommend for sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers: What exercise do you suggest? What’s the best book to read? Is there an app that could help?

My answer is I think it can be a bit simpler than that, for many of us, for some of the time. Navigating health-care systems and finding great resources is a huge help. But even more basic is the ability to say three simple words whenever our loved ones begin to open up after hellos and how-are-yous are out of the way. Say you offer a sincere “How are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking about these days?” and see the first attempt to share some of those darker emotions or thoughts.

That’s when I say offer three words to help.

1. Tell

2. Me

3. More

It might sound simple but allowing the vulnerable soul in front of you to slowly and safely process their thoughts is no lightweight task. You need to have two major things ready in your Bat Belt before making the offer: time and energy. And how often do you have a surplus of both of those? Yeah, exactly. Not often.

Which is why these three simple words are such a rare and special gift.

Eyes focused, ears open, mouth shut. Let them process and navigate their thoughts in that inviting, honest open space between you both.

We know mental illness is vast, complex, and our understanding and treatments are evolving so quickly. But since the Canadian Mental Health Association says 49 per cent of people who suffer from depression or anxiety have never seen a doctor, guess who’s sitting on the front lines?


So being there is worth a lot.

When you have the time and energy, make an offer to help and see what comes back.

A final thought: Is this advice a cure all? Of course not! It’s a reminder of the power of time and energy but doesn’t replace broader professional care. If you or a loved one is in crisis, visit your local emergency department or call 9-1-1. Additional resources and referral services are available from the Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Neil Pasricha/Toronto Star/March, 2017