Tuesday 2 October 2012

"Which 50% Are You?"

"Only 50% of Canadians would tell friends they have a family member with a mental illness. 72% would discuss cancer."
source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
The other 50% are probably just being private, right? Um, maybe. More likely is the fact that society still views mental illness as something shameful. Any illness that is so debilitating that those who suffer are unable to function with daily life or who choose death as an option to end the pain should be treated with a healthy dose of respect. We need to make it OK to talk about it. We have to make it more than OK, in fact.

Why is that so important? Well, many people who suffer mental illness are too ashamed to seek treatment - many won't even tell those closest to them because they are too embarrassed. And because we don't talk about it enough as a society, many of us don't even recognize the first signs of mental illness or that many physical symptoms that we experience are actually signs of depression. Yes, the mental often manifests itself physically.

I have heard more than once from people who say that I am brave to be so open with my own story and struggles. I am not quite sure how I feel about this. I understand that when some people say this they mean that they admire my strength. Some people probably think it's a bit unwise to be so open, to lay my heart bare like I often do in this venue. And that's a bit of a judgement right there. So maybe it is brave to open yourself up to criticism. But I refuse to let others who suffer from mental illness feel all alone in this world. Because they aren't.

One in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. Now think about that for a moment. Consider where you work or go to church or your gym - look around you and think about who around you might be suffering silently. It might be you or it might be the person at the desk or treadmill next to you. That's actually a lot of us, isn't it?

Here is what the Mental Health Commission of Canada has to say on the topic of stigma:
Stigma is a major barrier preventing people from seeking help. Many people living with a mental illness say the stigma they face is often worse than the illness itself. Mental illness affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can take many forms including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
People living with a mental illness often experience stigma through:
- Inequality in housing, employment, educational and other opportunities which the rest of us take for granted.
- Loss of friends and family members (the social and support network)
- Self-stigma created when someone with a mental illness believes the negative message
This can all change, however, and it will. It's just a matter of when. Being brave isn't really all that scary. Maybe you'll join me? With your help, maybe the "when" could be soon!
KB xo

P.S. For more information about the Mental Health Commission please visit their website: www.mentalhealthcommission.ca

P.P.S. It's been awhile since I included music and I think that any good fight needs an anthem. Courtesy of Ms. Gloria Gaynor, please enjoy this classic "I Will Survive!":




  1. Great post. All the same reasons I also started writing a blog to share my journey with depression. I felt so alone, but amazingly as soon as I shared what I was dealing with, people with similar stories started coming out of the woodwork. I think we all want to be heard, but we are all so afraid. It takes guts to get over the fear, but the rewards are so worth it.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Danielle. I couldn't agree more - I have had the same experience. If we could all just come out of the "mental illness closest" imagine the support, comfort, and potential for recovery.

  2. Thanks for the posts. I am reading them. I don't think I am ready to talk yet though. Not sure when I will. Dave

    1. Hi Dave,
      I think that by commenting on my blog you are talking, in a way. Please consider Danielle's comments above - by sharing your story I bet you will find support and comfort.

      Also, I connected with my friends at Partners For Mental Health and they confirmed that the link to take the Pledge is still active. The campaign that it was associated with, Not Myself Today, has ended and a new one is starting in just a few days. But, you can still take the Pledge!

      Hang in there, Dave!


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