This week Bell Canada is having its campaign to help end stigma around mental illness. With every phone call, text message sent, and tweet using on January 28th, Bell Canada will donate 5 cents to a mental health intuitive. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ . They have some great Canadians as spokespersons, Michael Landsburg, Howie Mandel, Mary Walsh and Clara Hughes.
Each and every one of these people are very successful in their chosen field, and it does my heart good to see they are standing up, sharing their own, very personal stories, and helping to end the stigma on mental illness.
Will I ever meet these people, probably not, but I do have something in common with them. I also speak about my experiences and advocate and educate about mental illness and mental health challenges. No, I will never be on national television, I do not have a media team putting together my campaign, but I, as one person, continue to do what I do, and like the Bell Canada spokespersons, I am making a difference.
This last December I had the opportunity to once again speak to some youth at one of the local high schools. I spoke to a grade 11/12 psychology class, and as always, was amazed at these youth. I loved speaking to them, opening some great dialogue, answering their amazing questions, and, as always, before we knew it time was up.
The teacher of this program is amazing, she is really interested and connected with her students, and it shows. During the next couple of classes, she asks the students to write a short note to me, about my presentation and what they thought of it. This, too me, is a gift.
No matter how many times I have talked to her students-(I have been doing it for 4 years now) - and the comments that are sent to me, they always surprise me, bring a smile to my face and at times a tear to my eye. These kids are smart, well-articulated, and get it.
This shows me, that one person can make a difference. Here are a few of those comments
“Thank you for speaking to my class. You really opened our eyes about Dissociative Identity Disorder and made us understand that it isn't what Hollywood makes it out to be.”
“The fact that you have been to the lowest of lows and come out such a happy person is very inspiring...”
“ You made me open my eyes more in life and realize that my life is crap right now but will get better one day…you showed people that there’s more out there in life and that they just have to wait for that day to come.”
“You have made me realize there is so much more to life”
“I think people have a lot a misconceptions about mental illness and you did a great job clearing those up”
“Your presentation was truly inspiring because despite what you have been through you know who you are. I think it’s hard to find yourself, regardless of the situation. You helped me understand that even if it is hard, I will find who I am, and who I want to become.”
“..I realized human beings are very tough and can persevere through almost anything…”
“… It helped me understand how to see and treat people with D.I.D. and also other mental health issues.”
“Your story was really meaningful and inspired me. Life can suck but it can be good and never give up, remember better times are coming.”
For some of these youth, this is the very 1st time they have learned, discussed and asked questions about mental illness. And I know, that for some my stories resonate with them because this is the first time in their life they learn that they are not alone.
I am not and never will be a celebrity. I am not and never will be a national spokesman, but I do know I make a difference. I will continue to do what I do, quietly, in my corner of the world. And when I hit times where I wonder if I am making a difference, I will pull out the student’s comments and read them once again.
I am not the only one making a difference. There are many, many individuals and organizations out there doing their part in helping end the stigma on mental illness. A few individuals I know about are
Kristen Bower http://adventuresofasurvivor.blogspot.ca/
Ashley Pfeifer http://onceuponawarrior.squarespace.com/
Siobhan Brannigan http://apositivefromanegative.tumblr.com/
The following organizations are doing a great job and have amazing resources on their sites, be it how to talk to or help someone with a mental illness.
Partners for mental Health http://www.partnersformh.ca/
The Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/
And here is an amazing resource for parents with children with mental health issues and challenges. This is a B.C. organization, but great resources.
The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Children and Mental Health, http://www.forcesociety.com/
It is amazing to see the energy, passion, and drive that these individuals and organizations have. We All believe that through better education and understanding, we CAN make a difference, and help END THE STIGMA and misunderstandings surrounding mental health issues.
Start talking and keep on talking, long after the campaigns are out done and out of the limelight. Just because the causes and campaigns are over, does not mean that stigma surrounding mental health stops.
I will never have the lime light shining on me, but I do know that by my talking, I shine a light that reaches and helps someone else.
Those are my thoughts for the day.
Cheers and be well