There are brief, public, encounters that ‘ordinary people’ have with those who suffer from mental illness. For a small period of time it makes headlines when yet another star ‘looses it’ in public (Brittany Spears and Amanada Bynes come to mind). Even more devastating is when someone as brilliant as Robin Williams takes his own life. It’s shocking. Maddening even. We suddenly have questions and want answers. Until the hype settles down, the experts slowly stop making appearances on CNN and Entertainment Tonight, days turn into weeks and most people go back to regular life.
I say MOST people because there are many of us who continue to suffer after the very public interest wanes. Sadly, many of us choosing to suffer in silence. But who are we kidding? Aren’t we ALL touched by mental illness? The statistics say that 1 in 5 people (20% of our population in Canada) will PERSONALLY suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. If you think about it – that means that in homes where there are 5 people (any combination of Adults, Children, Seniors etc.) one of them will struggle or suffer through a bought of mental illness which inevitably will affect the whole household. Some of those families will support a loved one who will suffer for their lifetime.
So why are we hiding in the shadows, behind closed doors, under warm, cozy blankets of shame? Why are we not talking about how our mothers, our daughters, our fathers, our children, are struggling? Are we quietly judging? Are we afraid? WHAT IS IT?!
Did you know, that in spite of the fact that mental illness can be treated effectively, almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem? An even MORE shocking statistic: the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH (not including accidental deaths) for people between the ages of 10-40 years old is SUICIDE! “Deaths by suicide, it should be noted, reflect only a small percentage of suicide attempts. It is estimated that for every completed suicide there are as many as 20 attempts.”9 And higher than 90% of those who commit suicide struggle with a diagnosable and TREATABLE mental illness!
So what are we doing about the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH in Canada? There are many groups that are daily working to make us aware of mental illness, it’s effects, and the dangers of suffering in silence. However, their most difficult battle isn’t necessarily against the illnesses themselves, but the STIGMA attached to those who struggle. The Canadian Mental Health Commission reports that: People living with mental health disorders often say the stigma they encounter is worse than the illness itself. (Mental Health Commission of Canada, Opening Minds Initiative, February 6, 2013, http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/initiatives-and-projects/opening-minds).
That is why I am open about my own struggles. I want people to know that though things can look good on the outside, there can be a war raging on the inside…and we NEED to talk about it! It is literally a matter of life and death.
Becoming Ordinary: Year 1 Day: 209
“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”