I’m back home in Toronto after a 3-week artist residency at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in southern California. It ...
Last weekend, I was teaching one of my piano students. At the end of their lesson, my student’s mom came in to ask me about my upcoming piano concert here in Toronto on October 10. She expressed their interest but wanted to ask me if the concert would be appropriate for my student to attend? That’s a fair question since my student is 11 years old and the theme of the concert is around mental health, specifically me talking about my own personal battle with depression and performing piano pieces based on that. I said that it would be okay for him to attend. Even though my presentation does cover serious themes, it wouldn’t contain explicit language or describe any “adult” situations.
The mother liked my assurance and stated that they would both attend, and were looking forward to it!
This student, quite precocious in nature, then blurted out that depression is an illness. I was quite surprised and moved by his supportive statement. We proceeded to have a short but nice conversation about depression and mental health. Honestly, I was shocked by his level of knowledge.
The nonchalant tone of my student reminded me that stigmas are usually created by adults. My student is still young enough not to have been indoctrinated by society to know that somehow he should perceive me “differently” since I battle depression.
This casual encounter is in a way a major turning point in my life since it was the first time I have ever admitted to a child that I battle depression. As a teacher, it’s easy to condition oneself to put aside any of your issues and completely focus on the student. That’s the job – it’s all about them. It’s not right to show your own personal vulnerability since they show you there’s. Over the years, I’ve become an expert in masking my issues and just focussing on the work, and that probably has not helped my road to recovery from depression.
While my prime focus in my teaching will always continue to be to help my students, this encounter has reminded me that it’s okay to talk about my depression if it comes up. If kids can understand what it’s like to get a cold or flu, or to break an arm and get a cast, then why wouldn’t they be able to understand any other sickness if discussed in an appropriate fashion?
As Michael Landsberg loves to say, depression is not a weakness, it’s a sickness.