Looking around, it’s hard to believe that at any given time 10.4% of Canadians are struggling with a mental illness (MDSC) such as depression. People often seem like they’ve got it all together. They are raising families, becoming educated or busy in their careers. How could it be that such a high number of mental illness can even exist?
The truth of the matter is that those who are suffering have become pros at hiding their pain. They wear a mask that conceals their struggles from the world. From the outside they may look happy and well adjusted but behind that mask there could be a lonely, exhausted and pained individual.
Why do people feel it necessary to hide their depression from the world? Often, people feel a lot of shame and embarrassment with the fact that they are struggling with any form of mental illness. They don’t want to be a burden to their family, employers or friends.
Because of the lack of knowledge or resistance to change, society still does not put mental illness at the same cause for concern as other physical illness. We should be able to take a couple of days off, pull ourselves together and get right back to the grind of everyday life. But that’s not how depression or mental health works. Unfortunately, because of these unrealistic expectations, people feel like they have no choice but to hide behind their masks.
If you are finding that you live each day hiding your feelings from the rest of the world know that you're not alone. Ask yourself, are there people in my life that I can trust to confide in about my pain and hurt? Even one person in your life who you can be open and honest with about how you are truly feeling can help lift that feeling of isolation and loneliness. Staying silent with your secret can only perpetuate or worsen your symptoms.
Find a professional (social worker, psychologist, psychotherapist) who can help you navigate through your thoughts and feelings to help free you from your sadness. It’s not until you start peeling away your mask and letting help in that you can begin to feel better.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.