The Depression Mask.

The depression mask. What I would define as a defence mechanism because if you looked like you felt, no one would ever want to be around you.

Depression has levels that is hard for people who don’t have it to understand. It makes me angry when I come across comments calling people like Chester selfish. To me, it’s a suicide is a failure of society to protect individuals for for letting them down to feel like this was the only viable option. Depression IS a disease. Sometimes medication can help and sometimes they don’t similar to any other sickness. The difference with depression compared to other illnesses is people think it’s okay to say things like: ‘get over it’, ‘stop being stupid’, ‘this needs to stop’, or even ‘you’re just being lazy’.

Depression isn’t simply being “sad”. It’s more than that. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and that you’re a burden to everyone around you. The most toxic feeling with depression is the utter hopelessness that goes with it. Not only do you feel worthless, but you have no reason to believe that it will change. Everyone’s experience will also be different, some people can still be high functioning while others struggle to get about their daily tasks. I can say i’ve been in both situations. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hardwork I put in to be here but I’ve also had days where i’ve struggled to even get out of my bed and have the motivation to do anything because I feel empty, unmotivated, and worthless. Its a spectrum condition where the word does not define the symptoms, the individual does.

I think in my experience one of the worst things about having depression or going through a cycle is knowing you have so much to be thankful for and that there are so many people worse off. But that feeling of feeling nothing and just finding no joy in life is horrible and isolating. Instead you start to feel guilty for feeling pathetic and rather than burden people with your feelings, you lie and pretend you’re fine to get people to back off.

I think one of the most important things for people to remember is that suicide is a behaviour. Depression often drives a person to the point they want to die, but not all depressed people have self harming or suicidal tendencies. Some people who are not recognizably or clinically depressed will commit suicide or hurt themselves in a sudden moment of sadness. It’s a tragically complicated issue.

To the unknowing eye, he doesn’t look like someone suffering from depression and severe PTSD from the traumas he experiences growing up and navigating the industry. To the experienced eye though, his eyes say it all. Sometimes moments like these make it worse; you’ve had fun with the family, a few hours pass and you still feel it. Then guilt, shame, and hopelessness creep in. You think, “If I’m still depressed after having fun with the people I love, will I ever feel better?”. To be honest,  it’s not easy to seem “happy” around people. It actually hurts more when you’re lying to yourself trying not to seem upset. The human mind can only take so much torment, either from others, or itself. Those like Chester weren’t weak and should NEVER be labelled as such. It still makes me sick to think about how I let someone treat me as such in a moment of cowardice. If you’ve never been through depression you have NO idea how much mental strength it takes to hold on, especially after prolonged or traumatic events. 

It still makes me sad to realize he’s gone. There’s apart of me that still can’t believe it and I honestly can’t imagine what his family, friends, and bandmates must be going through. His legacy will not be forgotten, and while his loss is horribly tragic, I do believe it serves as a warning and example for all that mental health is not imagined. I think this video shared by his family serves to remind people that depression doesn’t look the same on every person or at every point in time. This was Chester’s depression.

At the end of the day we must support those who suffer, and awareness is the first step.

This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him. #fuckdepression

— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017

RIP Chester.


Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges.

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659 students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of mental health issues in academia. One key message for scientific trainees that are struggling with these types of challenges, write co-authors Katia Levecque and Frederik Anseel of Ghent University in an email to ScienceCareers, is that “you are not alone.” Beyond that, the authors encourage Ph.D. students to appreciate how important it is to take care of themselves. “Mental health problems can develop into serious threats to one’s wellbeing and career, and can have detrimental consequences in the long-term,” they write. So, if you’re struggling, it’s important to “[s]eek professional help or seek help in your personal environment, even if you think it’s probably a temporary thing.”

According to their survey, 51% of respondents had experienced at least two symptoms of poor mental health in recent weeks, indicating psychological distress. Moreover, 32% reported at least four symptoms, indicating a risk for common psychiatric disorders, which was more than twice the prevalence among highly educated comparison groups. The most commonly reported symptoms included feeling under constant strain, being unhappy and depressed, losing sleep because of worry, and not being able to overcome difficulties or enjoy day-to-day activities. The greatest predictor for experiencing mental health challenges was having difficulty taking care of family needs due to conflicting work commitments. High job demands and low job control were also associated with increased symptoms.

On the plus side, having an inspirational supervisor partially offset these risks. So did interest in an academic career, even among students who thought they had little chance of ultimately making it. Seeing a Ph.D. as good preparation for a nonacademic career and an added value for employers was also beneficial. “When people have a clear vision of the future and the path that they are taking, this provides a sense of meaningfulness, progress and control, which should be a protective factor against mental health problems,” the authors explain.

According to Nathan Vanderford, an assistant dean for academic development at the University of Kentucky in Lexington who also studies mental health in academic trainees, “[t]he study underscores what has long been presumed; that work conditions and career outlook plays a key role in the mental state of PhD trainees,” he writes in an email to ScienceCareers.

“[I]nstitutions, departments and PIs have long ignored the systemic mental health issues among PhD trainees,” Vanderford continues. “Data such as this should make the issues irrefutable and should, for ethical and moral reasons, force the hand of these entities to take on the responsibility of helping to provide PhD trainees with the support they need to navigate the very stressful journey of earning a PhD.” Levecque and Anseel point out that small steps such as facilitating work-life balance or “offering PhD students clear and full information on job expectations and career prospects, both in and outside academia,” could have a significant positive impact.

One message for PIs is that “investing in their own leadership competencies could really make a difference” for Ph.D. students, the authors add. They encourage PIs to take the issue seriously and learn how to spot signs of potential emotional distress. Gail Kinman, a professor at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom who acted as a reviewer for the paper, agrees. “PIs should look out for students who isolate themselves, who seem anxious and withdrawn, who are not meeting deadlines. Nobody would expect a PI to be able to diagnose mental health problems but they should be able to spot changes in their students and have the knowledge required to refer them for support,” she writes in an email to Science Careers.

Although the survey is specific to Flanders, many of the characteristics of working toward a Ph.D. are similar around the globe, making the findings generalizable, the authors argue. They hope the study, which has generated conversation on Twitter, will help break the silence around mental health issues in academia. “[I]t is a public secret that fear of stigma, retaliation or the expected negative impact on one’s future career often inhibits people suffering from mental health issues to make it public,” they write. This lack of visibility is problematic because feeling isolated can cause students’ mental health to deteriorate even further. It also means that there is less pressure on institutions and people in power to tackle the issue.

Rather than demonizing academia, action should be taken, the authors emphasize. As academics, “[w]e have had our share of struggles and challenges to overcome, but still think this is one of the most rewarding and meaningful careers one can have. So, if there’s a problem, let’s do something about it and make this a great place to work again. For everyone.”

9 Inspirational Quotes from Carrie Fisher Fighting Mental Health Stigma

Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s and was very open with her struggles throughout her life, including battles with addiction.

Since her death, fans have taken to social media to share stories of how Fisher’s honesty helped them come out about and cope with their own mental health struggles.Here are some of the most memorable and powerful of Fisher’s quotes on mental illness, delivered with the sharp wit and unflinching honesty that we will always love her for.


  1. “I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple – just someone who could not stop taking drugs wilfully. And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive.”
  2. “I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital… I outlasted my problems. I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.”
  3. “Because I grew up in a public family, I never really had a private life. And so if those issues are going to be public, I would rather them to be public the way I’ve experienced them rather than someone else assuming things about me. It’s freeing to do it. Shame is not something I aspire to.” 
  4. “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
  5. “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
  6. “The only lesson for me, or for anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”
  7. “We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.” 
  8. “People relate to aspects of my stories and that’s nice for me because then I’m not all alone with it. Also, I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.”
  9. “I don’t feel particularly messed up. I’ve always been quite sane about being insane.”

Original post:

The First Steps.

To be honest, it’s crazy to think about how far my mental health journey has taken me over the past 4 years that i’ve been able to share my experiences. It hasn’t been an easy 4 years and I realize this is going to be a life-long journey in how I learn to manage, adapt, and cope with my depression and anxiety.

It’s not easy being a student on top of everything. The amount of stress that is placed on me at times is incredible when it comes time to balance work, nursing school, finishing my master’s, community service, and raising my young dog.  Sometimes I feel inadequate with how much I have to do, how little energy I sometimes find myself having, and how unmotivated I can be during my lowest periods. Considering everything I went through at the end of last year, I am incredibly grateful for the supports I have received whether it be from my professors, academic advisors, my friends, and most of all my family. It hasn’t been easy and I realize at times it can be incredibly hard on me emotionally to open up, which is why I often turn to writing to express my thoughts and feelings. I choose to be open because I realize everything I go through is not necessarily unique to me, while my own perception of my experience is unique, there are likely hundreds of other people out there experiencing similar situations with different perceptions.

I had the ability to talk to a notable friend today about their own struggles with mental illness and body image issues and felt empathetic towards her struggles. While I have not had much experience with eating disorders, I have had experience with both depression and anxiety. There were a number of points last semester where I would find myself awake in the middle of the night crying hysterically, hyperventilating feeling like I couldn’t breathe, and having my chest hurt like my heart was about to explode. Those sessions would then lead me to missing important classes because I could not control my anxiety and would have little sleep or energy to be able to function at times. It was absolutely terrifying at times feeling like you were experiencing a heart attack like sensation.  While I have recently been prescribed anti-anxiety medication, I know medication is not the sole answer. For me I find having someone close to talk to eases my anxiety as well as recently learning to meditate. However, I have had a number of people share their own “treatments” and notably exercise has helped a large number of people reduce their anxious thoughts and feelings.

Despite whether people agree with what I do or not, I am honoured to be someone that a number of people have turned to over the years, whether it’s to have someone available to talk to or to ask for help in finding resources to support their own recovery and journey into seeking help. I do hope on some level that my own personal experiences can help other people either a) learn to cope or find resources b) raise awareness for people suffering with mental illness or even c) open the discussion toward removing the stigma surrounding these very much real conditions.

Taking the first step is a huge milestone for many people. I remember being terrified at the idea of having to open up to my parents about my struggles, the amount of shame I felt in feeling like a failure asking for help and being unable to cope. But opening up to my parents was probably the bravest thing i’ve had to do. In the end it paid off because I was fortunate to be able to get the help I needed from healthcare professionals but it also allowed me to be open about my own journey and help a few people start their own.  I am also incredibly proud of the amount of progress many of those have made and I hope on some level I was able to help them find the strength to reach their full potential. I think one of the many reasons I wanted to become a nurse strives from my want to see people be healthy and happy regardless of how well I know them. To some it could be incredibly weird for me to reach out the them but for me I actually want to make a difference and if I can help someone even in the tiniest way possible, then that’s what I want to do. No one should ever have to feel ashamed or alone dealing with whatever their going through and I vow to always lend out any support I can give to those that may need it despite how well I know them and I will continue to carry forth this mentality as I get further into my nursing career.

Lastly, I’ve  been quite fortunate to find my own niche in the mental health community in raising awareness and helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Through my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I have had the opportunity to reach thousands of people in sharing my own experiences. It’s incredible meeting and being connected to such resilient and humble people, many of who you would never have guessed on the outside have also struggled or are battling things such as depression, bi-polar, anxiety, or even schizophrenia.

I know I have many goals for myself going forward but one of my Twitter followers reminded me of a important initiative that I think many more people should consider taking apart of. As a nursing student I am required to update my CPR-C every year and First Aid every three years, however much of the training undertaken in the standard first aid doesn’t touch upon mental health. Approximately one in three Canadians will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime and research has shown the earlier the problem is acknowledged the better the outcome. Therefore, the mental health first aid course provides some of the necessary first tools to recognize, address, and support those who may be struggling. For those interested in taking the course in Canada here is the link for more info:

Definitely something to consider with the likelihood many of us will know someone struggling with mental illness or problems. I have had many people tell me great things about the course and I am incredibly excited to hopefully take part in the near future and be able to incorporate it into my nursing practice as time goes on.