Open letter to someone struggling with mental health

Dear Friend:

I know you don’t know me.  That doesn’t really matter right now.  What matters is that I know that you are out there.  You think that you are alone, that no one can see your suffering.  Maybe that is because you hide it.  Maybe you were taught to be brave and suck it up.  Or maybe you wear your emotions on your sleeve and people have become tired of listening.  Maybe no one knows that this time you are in big trouble and it feels like no one cares.   It is often hard to make people understand.   Sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth the effort.

Perhaps you can’t even trust yourself to know what is real and what is some misfiring of the neurons in your brain.  Maybe you are paralyzed by anxiety and fear.   Perhaps you feel like you are drowning in a pit of darkness and can’t find the way out.    I don’t know your circumstances.   I don’t where you are or where you came from.  I don’t know what is happening for you.   You may be down on your luck, maybe you lost something or someone close to you, or maybe there is no logical reason at all.  

What I do know is that you are not alone.  Canadian Mental Health estimates that 20% of people will struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives.  That means that although your situation is unique, there are others suffering too.  That also means that there are others out there that have found their way through the other side of their illness, others that can inspire you if you give them the chance.      

For some it has gotten so bad that they wish to end their own life.  I hope that is not what is happening for you.  If you have thought of suicide then that is a warning sign that you need help.  You can’t do this on your own.  I hope that you tell someone.  It may be hard to find the right person or find the courage to start talking.  But I hope that you try.  And I hope that you keep trying until you find someone willing and able to help.

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for what you are going through.  I am sorry that our society doesn’t understand and that makes it harder on you.  People like to pretend that they are strong and that somehow protects them from what you are going through.  What they don’t understand is that mental health has nothing to do with strength.  It has to do with life and living.

We all get wrapped up in our own lives and forget to check in with those we love or make space for people, like you, that are hurting.   Everyone struggles at times.  Sometimes our society forgets that one day it could be them.  It can and will happen to some of them too.  I hope that once your journey takes you to a better place that it will help you be compassionate about other’s hurts.  Change can only begin when we all have the courage to do things differently.    

What you are going through does not make you weak or pathetic.  It does not make you less than anyone else.  It makes you human.  We often assume that others have their act together and that their lives are better than ours.  We often assume that they have it all figured out.  As a therapist, I can tell you that people are really good at pretending.  They have problems too.  You just can’t see them.    

In the course of my career I have seen many people struggle with mental illness.  I have seen people come back from some devastating places in their mind.  It has filled me with hope.  I have hope for you.  
I hope that one small step at a time you too will find your way to a better place.   It won’t get better quickly.  It will take time and determination.  You will need to be patient and understanding with yourself and others.  Some days will suck and others will be tolerable but slowly I hope that you will find peace and eventually joy.  This will come in time, for now I hope that you will continue to have the courage to breathe because that is the first step.

I know that you are out there.  I hope that for now that is enough.    


Krista Osborne MSW,RSW
Individual and Family Therapist

If you need someone to talk to, the Support Network's Distress Line is available 24/7.

To learn more about mental health, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.