I recently visited Oolagen (now Skylark) a mental health non-profit focused on children, youth and families. I didn’t know what to expect. To be completely transparent, visiting its walk-in clinic in The Village this past Tuesday was part of a job. But after an hour-long conversation with a few of its organizers — a conversation I didn’t want to end — I had the urge to donate all the money I was making to promote the Scotiabank Charity Challenge to Team Oolagen.
Yet I realized I had something even more valuable to contribute: My voice. (Don’t worry, I still donated…did you?)
I learned so many things in my short meeting with Oolagen/Skylark but one fact that stood out the most is how underfunded the mental health industry is. Why is it so underfunded? Many reasons. A lot has to do with how complex mental health issues and diseases are to research as well as the lack of voices championing the need for more funding. Yet that is changing. The world is becoming more comfortable wearing its heart on its sleeve thanks to normalizing agents like Kid Cudi, Bell Let’s Talk and, of course, The Sad Collective.
There are champions of cancer, alzheimer’s and heart disease, but when it comes to mental health, the silence is deafening. Shame, fear and confusion often accompany any revelations of mental health issues. It’s this stigma that has stirred a few to action, including Scott Mescudi.
Its been difficult for me to find the words to what Im about to share with you because I feel ashamed.
Thank you, Scott, for your bravery. In the face of depression and suicidal urges, in the midst of emotional turmoil, sharing your struggle with the world instead of dealing with it privately — which would’ve been understandable, to say the least — is exactly what people going through similar situations need to see, hear and read.
One of the biggest struggles of depression and other manifestations of mental health issues is feeling alone. It might be an internal struggle but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. It’s easy to push away those who love you and want to help. It’s easy to blame yourself for not being okay. It’s easy to find respite in toxic ways.
It’s not easy to seek help. But it can be. It should be.
Oolagen/Skylark shared a crazy stat with me: 60% of youth only need one therapeutic conversation to be set back on a positive path. Only one. It was this study-proven stat that allowed it to open What’s Up, a walk-in clinic program that’s free to anyone who wants or needs to use it. For the other 40%, it serves as a gateway to more intensive mental health services. This is one of many amazing services the non-profit shared with me. I’ll be talking about more what they do in the weeks, months and maybe even years to come.