When Clara Hughes vows to stand up to depression, the results can be amazing. This Canadian gal is well-known in Canada for her achievements as an Olympic cyclist and speed skater. Now she is championing for a cause that has affected her personally – and that cause is called depression.
The Sports Career of Clara Hughes
At age 41, Clara Hughes has been through quite a bit. The Canadian athlete is an Olympic medalist and not just once but six times! She not only thrived in more than one Winter Olympics at speed skating but also tackled the Summer Games in cycling. So, she’s a gal with many talents!
Hughes also has a big heart. When she won gold in 2006, she donated $10,000 to Right to Play, an organization devoted to using sports and games to help children learn necessary life skills to overcome challenges such as poverty and illness. Her most recent cause is in aid of depression.
Clara Hughes Raises Awareness of Depression
This Canadian athlete has publicly explained many times about her personal battles with depression. She is now the National Spokesperson for Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day, which is an annual event. It began in 2010; it is a national way to raise awareness for depression, an illness that is not one you can see, but certainly affects the sufferer and those people who care about him or her.
While many people still sadly shy away from openly explaining how mental illness has affected them, I admire how this woman has chosen to do exactly the opposite. While she inspires female athletes by all the medals she has earned and her strong work ethic that she applies to her athletic career, she continues to try to achieve more outside of sports.
Her efforts to try to break depression free of the public stigma attached to it is truly a notable, inspiring achievement of Hughes. She gives public talks about how she entered a period of depression after winning her second Olympic medal. She didn’t realize she was suffering from the condition until she went for therapy and received the needed education.
Unfortunately, many people feel ashamed of having depression, as a product of Western society’s thinking that what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ is not having a mental illness. Many people hide it from their family and friends, which keeps them from seeking help for the condition or feeling accepted in society.
Personal Reflections on Depression
I read on the Bell Let’s Talk website today that one in five people will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives. That is all too frequent, particularly since many people hide that they have it for fear of being judged by other people. I find that when I talk about having depression that some people understand while others don’t see it as a ‘valid’ illness because it is not something that you can see or touch. But, it touches the heart in an emotional sense as it brings down the spirit and, for me, it left me feeling hollow.
I hope that more women will follow Clara Hughes’ example and take a stand for depression. With more and more women taking on roles in which they openly discuss mental illness, we can hope to inspire even more people to do the same so that any stereotypes about depression will finally be put to rest.
Have you ever felt the stigma associated with mental illness or known someone who has? What are some other ways to raise awareness about depression or other types of mental illness?
©2014 Christy Birmingham