I’m sure you’ve seen the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on your Twitter timeline today. If you don’t know, it has to do with mental illness and bringing awareness to it.
Mental illness is extremely common and Bell Let’s Talk day allows the start of a conversation about it. People share their stories of dealing with anxiety and/or depression and make it known that it’s okay to reach out for help.
Many people offer help to those who may need it – even if it’s just a simple gesture of, “I’m here if anyone needs to talk about anything.” That’s the positive power of social media these days.
No one is immune to mental illness, no matter how tough, rich or how good your life is – it can impact anyone – and the athletes of the world are no different.
We read about it with former Bruins player Marc Savard – who opened up about his battle with anxiety and depression in the Player’s Tribune. We heard about it with Red Sox/Paw Sox pitcher Brian Johnson who suffered from such severe anxiety that he was unsure if he’d ever pitch again.
We listen to our friends and family if they are able to talk about it – if not, we watch them silently suffer because the sad fact is that sometimes we can’t do anything about it.
No matter how much someone offers to listen or do anything for the one who suffers from mental illness, sometimes it’s just not enough.
Mental illness can’t be seen and as I’ve said in previous blogs, athletes sometimes seem invincible to you and me. But the fact is they’re human and they suffer too.
Just like you and me.
A well-known NHL case is the story of Rick Rypien, a former Vancouver Canucks player. Rypien was known for being tough on the ice because he wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves with anyone – even 6-foot-7 Hal Gill when Rypien stood at just 5-foot-11 and didn’t even weigh 200 pounds.
He had a reputation as a fighter, an enforcer. Rypien was living out his childhood dream of playing in the NHL. We knew Rypien had left the Canucks twice in three years due to personal matters. We read about how he shoved a Minnesota Wild fan after a fight on the ice.
This was his reputation as Rick Rypien the enforcer.
But Rick Rypien the person suffered from depression and on Aug. 15, 2011, he committed suicide. Rypien was just 27-years-old and had signed a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets just a month prior.
Rypien was a tough player. He was playing at the NHL level and he was making headlines. But his mental toughness could not outlast his mental illness. Him being an NHL player couldn’t outlast his mental illness.
I personally do not suffer from anxiety or depression, but I have close friends and family who do. I’ve seen the toll it takes on them – both mentally and physically.
It’s hard to break the silence and open up to someone regarding your mental health. And that’s the power of social media and the #BellLetsTalk campaign. Maybe it’s easier for those who suffer to sit and type their story rather than express it face-to-face.
It also gives the ones who do suffer an opportunity to share their story – a story that could reach someone who is also suffering.
You never know who your story could reach or who your story could impact.
So let’s help end the stigma of mental illness. People who suffer from anxiety and/or depression are not alone – no matter how lonely they may feel- I promise there are people who want to listen and there are people who care about you and your well-being.
If someone on social media says their direct messages are open for anyone who wants to talk, even if you don’t know that person, it’s okay to reach out. Sometimes the ears of a stranger can help so much more than you think .
So for anyone on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram who follow me (even if you don’t follow me) and feel the need to talk to someone, vent to someone or even just to share your story or what you’re going through, my DM’s are open. I will listen.
Written by: Lauren Campbell (@lalalalaurrrren)