It's Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. Wait - didn't we just have this?! Well, sort of. We had Mental Health Awareness Week back in May. This one is a bit different - this one is about the stark reality of mental illness. The focus is on illness and all that that implies.
I am not going to dance around this so here goes. People die. People die every single day in this country from mental illness and that is just not OK. It's also not OK that we feel anger about it; rather, that we feel angry towards those who commit suicide. It's especially awful when we fail to take seriously a declaration of intent to end a life. None of this is OK.
You know what is really tragic? When we lose young people to suicide. Sadly, it's our youth whose pain we so often brush aside. When a person has the strength to ask for help or describe their pain, it's a powerful thing. We shouldn't place less value on that simply because the person is young. Maybe we should take a leap of faith and believe someone when they say that they feel like they can't go on. The alternative is not worth the gamble.
Here are some things that may surprise and shock you:
* We lose two young (ages 9-19) Canadians each day to suicide.
* As many as 173 000 young people will try to take their lives in Canada this year alone.
* 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood and tean years.
* Three out of four children and youth with a mental health illness will NOT receive treatment.
I don't know about you but none of that makes me feel very good. So enough with the doom and gloom. Yes, there is a lot about this fight that I am in, this fight to increase understanding and eliminate stigma, that can be super frustrating and discouraging. But there are also some really inspiring organizations and individuals out there who are creating positive impact and really making a difference. So let's shine a light on that now.
First of all, I need to give a huge shout out to Partners for For Mental Health . This is an organization that was started about two years ago with the mandate to create discussion and awareness on the topic of mental illness. They are also my volunteer organization of choice, so I may be slightly biased. The great thing about PFMH is how they have connected like minded people across the country and helped us to combine our voices on such an important health topic.
Here's what I have learned in the years that I have been writing this blog and working with PFMH: one person can create change. Don't ever fool yourself into believing that you can't make a difference. You can! OK, so how? Well, I am a believer that action toward change does not have to be big. It's the small things that we can each do in our every day. We can challenge our beliefs. We can challenge the beliefs of others. We can choose to listen rather than to judge or assume. And we can talk. Discussion about mental illness is the crucial piece of the puzzle. If someone opens up to you, treat that as a gift and hold it in high regard. Don't be dismissive. It takes a lot to be honest.
Are you looking for something more? A bigger way to influence change? Please check out Partners for Mental Health's Right By You campaign. My colleagues at PFMH will help you make a difference on this topic. Tell our fellow Canadians that death from mental illness is not right by you. It sure as hell isn't right by me.
And finally, before I go, I would like to share this PSA from the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health which features my friend and PFMH colleague Aidan. Aidan is an outspoken advocate for youth mental health issues and has lived experience. I am incredibly thankful that he was able to weather the darkest of times to make it to adulthood. He is an inspiration to me and to many others. He is also living proof of why we need to support our youth.
P.S. This post is dedicated to Casey who just keeps going, one foot in front of the other. I am so proud of you, my young friend. xo