Speaking up and speaking out.  

On the eve of September’s Suicide Prevention Month, I’m reminded of how important it is to discuss the challenges that so many of us face in our mental health. If for no other reason than to attempt to normalize the loneliness that comes along with the acute discomfort of depression.

Very rarely do I post anything this private, but I think it’s important that I say out loud that I struggle with social phobia and anxiety …and have done for years.

This has been incredibly difficult, not only for me, but for my closest friends and family. It is something I have been really ashamed of and as a father of two beautiful children it is a constant reminder of no matter how adult we might look, how truly fragile we might actually feel.

In order to try to keep this panic at bay I’ve explored just about everything: avoidance, therapy, medication, drinking, denial. It has not gone away overnight, but with a lot of difficult work I can sense the fog lifting as I build better habits.

That said, as I get older I feel like I have seen too many young people too embarrassed and scared to speak up and seek help. I have seen too many adults paint a picture of mental health as some dirty secret or glimpse of weakness.

This is especially the case in the arts, where we have a delicate relationship with our emotions. The sensitivity of youth amplifies and perverts the stigma, so that very real issues get misconstrued in media and we come out thinking, “all great artists are crazy” or that, “depression is part of your gift.”

I want to say very loudly that the romance and glamour of emotional pain is total bullshit. You can strive to live a balanced life, you can find support, you should seek treatment and most importantly you must speak up and take care of yourself.

I’ve worked very hard on forgiving myself and believing that I am not perfect nor alone. Perhaps in saying something the pressure can lift, in reaching out and admitting something so deeply personal, that other people might be compelled to do the same. Then as we all ebb and flow, in-and-out of our darker days, that these confessions can stand to be a beacon of light for others that are struggling.

If you feel so inclined please share and speak up, but if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (TTY 800-799-4TTY). This number can be dialed from anywhere in the United States 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

David Lewis is the Director of Career and Alumni Services at McNally Smith College of Music and the founder of Riot Act Media. He lives in Roseville, MN with his wife and two awesome boys.


Now read this

A Fond Farewell

I lost my father and I miss him dearly. Clearly this happens to everyone in some stage, at some point in their life. In some cases it is all too early. Sometimes it comes after much suffering. In his case neither was true. My dad died... Continue →