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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Schaper

Beyond Awareness

I am so impressed by the number of people I witness and hear speaking out about mental health more now than ever before. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but it seems there is a positive change from the silence and assumed stigma of even the recent past. People are now having open and candid conversations about their own experiences. I feel this dialogue gives the sufferers and depression caregivers a safe place in which to be both supportive and vulnerable as they share deeply emotional stories. And from the listeners, I sense more compassion for those who are suffering, whether in silence or publicly. The discussions are open — the problem or issue is not the unacknowledged elephant in the room anymore. More and more well-known people in the public eye are publicly discussing suicide, depression and other addictions. People such as Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, Mariette Hartley and J. K. Rowling are helping to propel the public conversation and encourage acceptance of mental health conditions and their consequences.

Also, I want to acknowledge the caregivers and advocates who take care of our loved ones, family members, and friends. Your love and compassion need to be recognized. Your unrelenting, generous, unconditional support is not an easy task and can be extremely overwhelming for you at times. Your passion for your work and the value of your contribution often go unnoticed or underestimated. My hope is that caregivers surround themselves with people who support them. From my own experience, I understand the ups and downs. I was very blessed to have had two extraordinary social workers who worked with me during my brother Call's journey. For example, Cathy monitored his diet and his smoking, understanding that he wouldn’t — couldn’t— be perfect all the time. And she was diligent about checking in with him weekly, sometimes even daily, to follow up. She didn’t just give advice and walk away. My advice to you who are the caretakers is, "Take care of yourself," as well and not to feel shame or guilt as you nurture yourself while helping others. It may simply be a matter of taking the wise advice you give your clients — watch your diet, get some rest, spending time in nature and be sure to take some personal time, at least once a week, if not an hour every day.

So, during this Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m pleased that people — including sufferers, depression caregivers, and the public at large — are talking more freely about their needs, concerns and emotions. And I’m also thankful that this discussion not only gives sufferers support and freedom but also encourages and recognizes caregivers in their crucial roles.

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