Monday 1 July 2013

"Accept Nothing Less"

We wish nothing more, but we will accept nothing less. Masters in our own house we must be, but our house is the whole of Canada.
Pierre Trudeau

Today is Canada Day and I am a staunchly proud Canadian. As I watch the reports on television of the uprisings and political unrest in Egypt, Syria, and Turkey or the stories about the abuse of women in India or even the fight (again!) for women's reproductive rights in the United States, I am so grateful. I am grateful that I had the sheer good fortune of being born in a democratic, somewhat socialist leaning nation, such as Canada.

I can go through a long list of things that I love about my country (butter tarts, the Canadian Rockies, Mr. Dressup) or why I am proud of it (Rick Hansen, women's rights, multi-culturalism) but I will narrow it down to two things that I read about this past week that pertain to mental health issues in Canada and the elimination of stigma.

First of all, there was the tragedy & devastation of the recent flooding in Alberta. I, like all Canadians, was fascinated by the sheer force of nature and the impact that it was capable off. The town of High River is still mostly under water and it will take years for the province to recover from this natural disaster.

But as the days wore on we were able to see past the physical impact on homes and communities to the emotional impact. Lives will never be the same. So how does that affect a person's mental health? Well, it cannot be underestimated. People need help and support for the emotional part as much as they do to repair their homes. News reports stated that use of help lines was up considerably in the days following the flooding. I am so happy to know that people were/are reaching out for help.

And I guess that Alberta Premier, Alison Redford, knew that looking after her people's mental health was just as important an element in rebuilding communities as the 'boots on the ground' are because on June 28th she announced the appointment of a new provincial Chief Mental Health Officer, Dr. Michael Trew. Redford's statement said that it was "to help victims of the recent flooding cope with the emotional and psychological consequences of this disaster." Good for you, Redford, and good for Albertans.

The second thing that happened was the announcement that work is under way on a Canadian guide to mental health reporting. Hooray! Is this really very important, you may ask. Quite simply, it's hugely important. The media often will unintentionally reinforce misconceptions associated with mental health issues. Instead of informing, they sometimes perpetuate stigma and myth. In their press release, the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma explain it like this:

"There's been some excellent, groundbreaking work on this in the media across the country in the last few years. But there are also cases where coverage, in the context of breaking news, reinforces damaging myths. Often this happens when general news reporters have to cover dramatic incidents involving mental health issues without warning. We want to help them - and others just entering the business - avoid pitfalls, add vital perspective and reduce collateral damage."

Why is this? Because they don't understand. Which is exactly why we need discussion and education about mental health issues, and certainly amongst those we trust in presenting facts and news. Yay, Canada!

As I write this I am feeling pretty good about Canada, this country that I love and am so very happy to claim as my own. We Canadians aren't perfect but we keep quietly working, striving towards something better, together, and that is something to be very proud of. Healthy people build healthy communities.

KB xo

P.S. this is dedicated to my Partners for Mental Health family spread all across this awesome country!


  1. Lovely post. I learned first-hand the emotional effects of the flooding. I was not flooded, but I spent a lot of time helping those who were. At some point I had to stop. I was not taking care of myself at all, and could tell I was getting to the brink of something bad. In the coming days and weeks, the emotional fallout will be huge. I am proud of my employer for trying to help - by once again communicating our EAP service, by my boss organizing a coffee this morning for our team (it is our first day back to work), by our office being closed last week, by my amazing co-workers who were out in force cleaning and helping.

    My mission going forward it to take care of my own mental health, and help those I can. I have experience with mental health challenges, I hope this experience will enable me to recognize and help others.

  2. Oops, meant to say something else also. I too am so glad to call Canada home. There are some many things about living here that we tend to take for granted. But then something, like the uprisings, remind us of how good we really have it. This country for the most part is safe, accepting, tolerent and lovely. You are right, we are not perfect, but it's pretty good nonetheless. I too am a patriotic Canadian.

  3. Thanks for that update, Danielle. I always love hearing from you!


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