Thursday 28 November 2013

"All Around the World"

a little step...

A friend shared with me recently that she has just been diagnosed with anxiety. So, let's see - carry the three, multiply by...Oh, forget it. I give up.

At this point I have stopped counting the number of close friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family members, etc. who have had or currently have a mental illness of some sort. This club just keeps growing. Mental illness is, without doubt, the disease of our time.

The statistic in Canada is one in five - 25% of Canadians have had or will have a mental illness sometime in their life. But I wonder about that number. What does it really mean? What about the ones who don't believe that mental illness is real? What about the ones who will never seek treatment let alone admit that anything is wrong? And what about the ones who don't have access to health care? A number without context never tells the real story.

I was questioning the accuracy of these numbers when I came across the recently published Washington Post article about the rates of mental illness around the world. The journal PLOS Medicine published a study that used data on the "prevalence, incidence and duration of depression to determine the social and public health burden of the disorder around the world." Their findings? Depression is the "second-leading cause of disability, with slightly more than 4 percent of the world's population diagnosed with it." That's right, second-leading cause of disability in the WORLD.

How do they know this? As the Washington Post article states, they couldn't exactly knock on every person's door and test them for clinical depression. Santa may be able to make it around the world in a night but it's not that easy for the rest of us. The researchers relied upon pre-existing data.

I won't go into the factors that influence rates of depression around the world - the Washington Post article does a great job of that. But what the author, Caitlin Dewey, concludes in her article is that with ageing and population growth not likely to slow down, neither will the problem - we need to address this issue. Dewey and I agree on that.

We also agree that without eliminating taboo & stigma and creating conversation, we'll never move forward to sufficiently turn this around. So I am going to challenge you, dear reader, to be a little bit brave. When you hear someone make a joke about mental illness, maybe don't laugh just because you think you should. If you think that someone near you may be suffering, let them know that you care - be available if they need to talk (without judgement). Ask questions, challenge the status quo. And if you are fighting mental illness, please seek medical help. You do not need to fight this alone.

We are all on a journey in this life. Maybe let's help each other along the way. Together, I know that we can create change.

KB xo


  1. As per usual, so well said. Talking about it is hard, but I think the more we do, the better it is. I realized yesterday in fact how much braver I have gotten. I was talking to someone at work who is not very comfortable with tough conversations. Usually I steer away from them with her, but taking anti-depressants just came out yesterday. I didn't even think about it, or worry about it. I just said it. No idea if it had an impact on her, but it sure had one on me. I am getting over the stigma in my own head and for this I am grateful. Keep talking. You never know when or where it will make a difference.

    I've been thinking a lot of you lately and wondering how you are doing? I don't have any way to contact you other than this blog though, so all I can do is send good thoughts.

  2. Yahoo! Cheers for you and being brave! It all starts with one conversation. I am doing really well - thanks for asking. You can email me at

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I am a peer.

    I think the statistics also beg another question. For sure, in my case the burden has been the loss of my career and the sad realization as to the devastation suffered by myself and all around me as I struggled through life. The question is:

    “If that high a proportion of the world’s population carry this burden is it really a disability or is it a necessary part of being human?”

    Through CMHA and my work in the mental health community I have extensive association with other people with lived experience. There is an odd thread that runs through us. I have not met anyone who truly bemoans having a mental illness.

    For sure, none of us is happy about the turns our lives have taken. However, few regret having the burden of mental illness. It gives us strength to truly empathize with others and often is referred to as stepping stones in life. I would say that in my case it finally ended up being the breakdown that caused the breakthrough that was needed for me to change course and start doing what I actually want to do and for which I am needed.

    Life is a paradox is it not?

    (I see my id is not clear. I am

    Geoff Alcock

    Peer Support Specialist,
    Certified Patients Rights Advisor
    Nova Scotia )

    1. Hi Geoff. Thank you for your comments - certainly lots to think about and discuss! I agree that my own breakdowns have also been breakthroughs. I have chosen to take difficult times and use them to become a stronger, more resilient person. A paradox? Yes!

  5. Does anyone else struggle a bit more than usual at Christmas time.

  6. In a word, Dave: YES! Many people, maybe even most people, struggle at Christmas time. It's a time of year with high expectations, lots of stress, and shorter, darker days and that can be hard on people. We see people on TV and movies living Hollywood's picture of happy perfection and we see our friends post only the best on facebook and Twitter. I saw this quote recebtly and I like it: "Never compare your everyday with another person's highlight reel." Thanks for inpsiring my next post - stay tuned!


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