Only Zombies Don’t Have to Support Mental Health

Today marks the end of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s Mental Health week. I am beyond grateful for the hard work of all the CMHA branches and the dedication of mental health advocates nationwide who worked tirelessly through social media to bring attention to this vastly important issue.

From the bottom of my feminist heart, thank you! All of your works, this week and every other week throughout the year, means the world to me.

Yet amazingly, not everyone sees mental health advocacy in the same light as we do. Even after all of this work. Some, incredibly enough, just don’t seem to see the point. At all.

Throughout this past week I have, like many of you, focused my twitter posts on mental health and, in particular, on the importance of mental health awareness.

Not all my posts, however, have received positive feedback. As a rather out-spoken feminist, I’m used to the occasional ‘falling out’; the anti-choice trolls live for a good twitter battle. But a ranting about the limited importance of mental health advocacy? That’s a new one to me.

The private message that I received went something like this:

“Only people with mental health problems should care about mental health. There’s no point going on about it”

Upon reading this response, I initially got angry. Well, if I’m being truthful, I became blood boiling, fits of rage, ‘imaginary fire coming out of my ears’ kind of angry.

And how could I not? 1 in 5 Canadians struggle with some form mental health concern. That’s 20%  of the population. Statistically speaking, we are all affected my mental illness, whether directly or indirectly. And for those of us who don’t have a mental health concern, we may not even be aware those around us are struggling. So yes, it is a big problem, And yes, advocacy is important.

It’s insensitive and misinformed remarks such as this that deepen the very stigmatization that plagues mental health. It is this lack of mental health literacy that causes far too many to remain concealed about their mental health concerns, choosing instead to forgo health seeking.

Put simply, misunderstandings = stigma = harm. Enough said. This is what advocacy attempts to change.

But perhaps there are those among us, regardless of the copious mental health awareness campaigns and the countless efforts of brave mental health advocates, that still don’t understand why we should care about mental health. How is absolutely beyond me. But, the good feminist in me says, “Kathleen, don’t judge and don’t respond with anger. Educate!” So that’s what I’ll do (I’ll go back to punching pillows later).

After much consideration, I decided to create a rubric, of sorts, to help those who are unsure whether they should care about mental health make an informed decision. Here it goes:

How do you know you should care about mental health

1) Do you have a brain?

  • If you answered yes:  HOORAY! You aren’t a zombie. That’s fantastic, because if you’re like me and are readily addicted to ‘The Walking Dead’ you know how miserable the life of a zombie truly is. You can continue to question 2.
  • If you answered no: Since you have no cognitive abilities (from, you know, the zombie brain) don’t move on to question 2. You do not possess a brain, have no mental health, and therefore do not have to care about it. I have heard, however, that ‘The Walking Dead’ is always looking for extras. This might be a perfect role for you!

2) You have a brain. With this brain, have you ever felt a thought, feeling, or emotion at any point within the entirety of your life? 

  • If you answered no: You are either lying or are a zombie and, because you lack any a brain, do not realize you should not have moved on past question 1. Go back to question 1 and really consider the new career venture I suggested. If you lied, that shows thought and therefore your answer should have been yes.

There you have it. It’s really as simple as that. If you think, feel, ponder, question, day dream, or anything else that is at all cognitively related: YOU HAVE MENTAL HEALTH. Because you have it, you are obligated to care about it. And because you live in Canada, and 20% of the population struggles with a mental health concern, that means that likely you or someone you know is struggling as you read this. As a result, your obligation to care is heightened and you must support the advocacy work of others.

So, to all the non-zombies out there: PLEASE start taking mental health seriously. As we have physical health, we too have health of the mental variety. Would you ignore a zombie bite? No – you would attempt to treat it (if treatment is possible). And so you should for mental health – you must (and deserve to) take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy mental self.

And by being attentive to your own mental health that means you also must ensure not to perpetuate the stigma that mental health isn’t important or not worthy of public attention.

Because one day, if you struggle with a mental health concern, you are going to hope all the non-zombies out there are supporting you through your process.

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7 thoughts on “Only Zombies Don’t Have to Support Mental Health

  1. Katie says:

    Love this article… There’s so many zombies out there…

  2. suzy venuta says:

    Great blog….I love your sense of humor. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and along with that have had to deal with depression, complex PTSD, depression. I meet with my Dr’s med students, and give presentations to high school and college classes about this and why we need to create dialogue about mental health issues. I am going to share your blog on my page and my Building awareness page…good work and keep it up…

    • kathleenpye says:

      Hi Suzy, thanks so much for sharing your story and your kind comments. It sounds like you’re doing incredible awareness work – thank you so much for taking the time to speak out. We need all the support we can get!

      • suzy venuta says:

        Thanks Kathleen..I am giving a presentation to some high school students tomorrow afternoon..can I borrow your zombie analogy?

      • kathleenpye says:

        Absolutely! Please do 🙂 Let me know how it goes!

      • suzy venuta says:

        Thanks so much, that will be great. These are grade 11/12 students taking a psychology class…I will definitely let you know how it goes..cheers and thanks…Suzy

      • suzy venuta says:

        HI Katie- the presentation went really well. The teacher asked the kids to put their thoughts down on separate pieces of paper and then she sent them to me…here they are…it does show- we can make a difference…

        ” Suzy thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. You are very brave and very hilarious 🙂 You metaphors were beautiful and really helped me gain a full understanding. Thank you for the amazing enlightenment on mental illness, those statics were shocking. Wow!”

        “Thank you very much Suzy, I really enjoyed your presentation the other day and words cant describe how much I learned and the awe for the courage you have. I was probably most surprised by how even before you were diagnoses with D.I.D. you led what would appear to be a normal life; a son and married. And although we have been learning about stigma and mental illness you have really put it to rest for me showing just how much you can do dispite your D.I.d. Thanks”

        “Thank you very much for taking your time and coming here to teach us about D.I.D. Ive learned a lot about D.I.D. and how it can ruin your life and your relationships. Ive also learned that if you know you have D.I.D. and you see a situation coming on, you are able to suppress the change in personality but it exhausts you completely”

        “Hi Suzy, thank you very much for coming. I liked your speech for two reasons. First, of course, its a super interesting life story and Ive never met such a person like you before. But I also liked it because your voice and acting made it fun to listen. I could feel in the situation, and it was so much more interesting then a teacher talking about something. Thank you!”

        Dear Suzy, Thank you so much for coming in to talk to us and answering our questions on D.I.D. The way you presented was phenomenal- you made it feel like its coming from a real person-rather then a presenter. Its great to see you show the world that D.I.D. is not just a mood swing, a faked illness and show what it really is. Thank you!”

        “Suzy, thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story with us. Your story is incredible and it was great that you were able to share it with us. It is great that you have come so far and that you are able to be such a big part of your community, we all appreciated you coming in. Thank You!”

        Wow Suzy! You were great! I really enjoyed all of your speech, and the cussing was quite entertaining. I wasnt aware that dissociative identity disorder it could look more like a mood swing, and that everyone dissociates without it being an issue. Thanks for coming to class and talking about D.I.D.”

        “Thank you so much for coming and sharing your story. I really did have a connection with your story and it opened up my mind and heart to other people. You are amazing!”

        “Suzy thank you for sharing your story with us and helping us learn about D.I.D. I admire your courage to fight through your illness and help raise awareness for others who are suffering”

        “Suzy- thank you so much for getting the courage up to tell us your story. I learned a lot about D.I.D. and it really is interesting. I wish you could have stayed longer. Again thank you so much.”

        “Suzy, I really enjoyed getting to talk to you and hear your story. It made me want to cry at some points. I really appreciate you having the courage to talk about such a personal thing like that. I can relate to your memory issue, though I don’t have D.I.D., I did dissociate as a child and for that I cant normally remember any of it. I do have body and seasonal memory. I hope someday I have the courage you do to get help and try and work through my issues. You are an inspiration! Thank

        This is from the German exchange student- “Dear Suzy- I thank you for coming in with us. You unshaded areas of D.I.D. that changed my way of thinking. It was shocking to hear the fact about how much of the population. ”

        “WOW! Your story is very powerful! Thank you so much for honoring us with your presentation- you made it very clear that you have D.I.D.- but you are not D.I.D. You are very courageous and it was a pleasure to hear your journey. You are a role model to anyone journeying through a mental illness and you are proof that you can conquer any monster. You are kind, smart and important- thank you again”

        “Suzy, I really enjoyed your presentation! I had no idea what D.I.D. is, until you showed me. I think I may have encountered some people with D.I.D. but I wasn’t sure. Thanks again! PS- I love golf!

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