Self Compassion...

Self Compassion...

Monday, 6 October 2014

We can move forward with mental illness....

Today is the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I'm sitting here wondering what I am going to say for this. There are many campaigns going on, and that's great to see, but it still has not hit the main stream, and many people don't know about it, but many people are spreading the word, and that brings me, and others hope.

I also think of the frustration of having a mental illness. The frustration that if one has a physical illness, people understand when you are not feeling well and need rest and self-care, but when one has a mental illness they are often told, "You could do it if you really wanted it bad enough."

Well, you have no idea "How bad I really do not want to have this Illness!!!"

This is one of the many reasons why we need to start talking and have open and respectful dialogue around mental illness. To bring education and research front and center, to bring it all out of the shadows. To shine a light on it and get rid of the stigma and misunderstandings. This will allow all affected by mental illness to move forward.   

This time last week I was preparing to go away to the Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Congress in Kelowna. I was being sent by The F.O.R.C.E. society for kids mental health. I didn't know what to expect, but let me tell you, it was amazing. And here is a prime example of what moving forward looked like.

It was an amazing couple of days and I am still digesting that time. I met amazing people, heard phenomenal speakers, and met many courageous parents and youth. I could not get over the fact that I was in a room with 300 other people, who believed as I did, that we need to talk about this. By talking and being open, we can make change happen, In that room were Parents, Youth, Doctors, People with lived experience, policy makers and many other service providers. Here we were exchanging ideas, asking questions, and all with the same goal. To do the best that we can for our Children and Youth with mental health and substance use issues. We also know that it’s not just the person who has the illness that is affected. It affects the whole family.

At the end of the congress, we were asked to do a survey, via smartphone/computer and one of the questions was “What are you going to do by next Tuesday to make a change happen." As people answered this, they answers were showing up on the 2 screens at the front of the room. I had never seen anything like this before- being the techno dinosaur that I am- but it was pretty amazing. Things like, talking to my M.L.A., talking to teachers, caregivers, school counselors, tell their stories and a ton of other things. It was amazing to see what the 300 people in that room said they were going to do, and it was pretty powerful. I thought, if this group was going to do that, imagine what would happen if we could get a fraction of the population making a commitment to make a change.

Needless to say, it gave me fuel to keep doing what I am doing, and if it works out, to do even more. I no longer felt like I was the only one trying to make a change. I knew I wasn't alone, but it sure felt good to see, meet and hear others who also wanted change to happen, and to all be in the same room. 

We will all most likely be touched by mental illness at some time in our life. Be it lived experience, family or friend, co-worker, children and parents we work with etc. The list goes on. The theory of the six degrees of separation states that “everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps"

This also applies to mental illness. With the correct information, and by taking it out of the shadows and leaving the stigma behind, we can support those with a mental illness and their families, just like we support those with cancer, and their families. 

So, as Mental Illness Awareness Week begins, think of what you can do to make a change happen. It can be something as simple as talking to a co-worker or friend you know who may be struggling and saying “I care” It may be education yourself on how to support and help a friend. It may be going to the links below and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. It may be letting others know, they are not alone, they are valued and there is hope and help out there.

Each and every one of us can make a difference. I have seen what moving forward can look like, let’s do what we can to get mental illness out of the shadows and into the light. To get rid of the stigma, to get the public and policy makers talking about mental illness, and realize, it is an illness, not a character flaw. And, as an illness, it deserves research and educational funding, just as any other illness receives.  

Those are my thoughts today, I wish you all well in your journey and may you never give up hope.

Cheers and be well



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