Mental Health Week, in my community of Oxford County, is an important time to bring awareness to the need for crisis and long-term services for anyone suffering from any sort of mental health issue. Our system is far from ideal and people are suffering and growing more and more lost.
J.K. Rowling created fictional characters in her Harry Potter novels which she named The Dementors. In the novels they are tall, imposing spectres. They float or glide along rather than walking. They are black cloaked, hooded creatures with hidden faces, only grasping and grabbing claws, reaching from within their dark costumes. They are beings used by the Ministry of Magic to guard the prison and keep criminals in check. However, if put into the wrong hands, into evil’s uses, they swarm free and breed and are invisibly present when you least expect it, their specifically to rob people of their happy thoughts.
Rowling herself dealt with issues of depression and anxiety and she channeled those experiences and feelings into the evil and soulless creatures. She, in my opinion, came up with the best metaphors for the feelings one experiences during an episode of depression:
“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, a Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”
I have been lucky. anytime I was in need or my brother was in need of medical help, we both received it with positive results. When I hear about people, in desperate need of immediate mental health care unable to get it, I wonder at the system and ache for them.
I love how fiction can be used to bring these issues into focus for people. It is easy to see what Rowling is trying to showcase in the creatures she created. I’ve seen stress and anxiety, post-traumatic stress, when my sister experienced sudden grief and loss. Only months after she ended things with her first serious relationship, he unexpectedly passed away, one night in his sleep, and in the morning the people who loved him were left to pick up the pieces and deal with the aftermath. My sister was left with feelings of sadness, shock, and distress. She required immediate grief counselling from a qualified mental health expert.
Those of whom have experienced depression will know about darkness and feelings of despair. It isn’t impossible to imagine depression as an evil creature, unseen and horrible.
On another note:
This week, in the world of fiction, we lost legendary Canadian writer, author, and storyteller Farley Mowat. He wrote about the Canadian north and its indigenous people. He wrote mostly about animals because he felt a connection to nature and the creatures living in it. After fighting in World War II he had seen more than anyone should have to see in one lifetime about how man treats one another. He wrote about wolves, owls, and dogs. He was an avid environmentalist and was sometimes controversial. He died at age ninety-two and I had never heard of him.
I have been told I have taken this too seriously, but as a Canadian and a lover of literature I couldn’t help it. I felt ashamed. Okay, maybe that’s the wrong word, but I definitely felt disappointed in myself. I wracked my brain to see if we had studied any of his books in school or if I had even heard of any of them. As huge as it seemed he is to this country in the words that have been spoken since his death, I can’t believe I have no memory of the man or his work. From the sounds of it, he’s at least important enough to this country’s culture that he should be studied in our schools. I tried to justify this by telling myself I could have just been absent from school on the day my class spoke about him. After all, I was absent from school 134 days in my seventh grade year.
I have been reading all about the man since I learned of his passing. I intend to rectify the fact that I had no prior knowledge of him up until now. Recently I have felt a need to familiarize myself with the writers I have right here at home in Canada. Last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature being awarded to Alice Munro was the beginning for me. I will let this go now, but had to put my feelings on record here first. The world of literature has lost another brilliant mind, but he will go on in his writing and in his books. Hopefully future generations of Canadian youth will know and learn of him, way before I did.
Here are eleven things about Farley Mowat, eleven things more than I knew, up until this week at least.