#BellLetsTalk day has rolled around once again.


I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my struggles with mental illness, as I know how important open conversations are to ending the stigma. I used to write about my experiences regularly, but have found myself doing so less and less over the last couple of years. At first I simply wasn’t finding the exercise of writing as helpful as I had in the past. But last spring it became much more than that.
Late one night in June, after 10 years of inner turmoil, I became so overwhelmed with my anxiety and depression that I attempted to take my own life.
I then spent the next seven days as an inpatient in the Mental Health unit of the new St. Catharines Hospital and can truly say that that was the worst week of my life. But probably not for the reasons you’re thinking…
Each day I was in there I would meet with my assigned psychiatrist, and each day he would make the same comment: “You’re a highly educated and well-travelled young woman. You’re not the type of person I should be seeing in here.”
I never knew how to respond to this. He used words like “typical” and “should” and I just didn’t understand. Educated people can and do have depressive disorders, and well-travlled people can and do have anxiety disorders. Who was he to tell me I shouldn’t be there, when the fact was, I WAS there. I was there, and in pain, and instead of being helped, I was made to feel like my thoughts and emotions were invalid. I was made to feel like I should have somehow been above mental illness.
In the end, I didn’t receive anything in the way of “treatment”. My medication was switched to something I’d been on previously, and I slept a lot, played cards with my dad, and then after a week was discharged.
I left the hospital feeling completely discouraged. Following my discharge I dropped out of the outpatient anxiety treatment program that I’d been taking part in for a year previously, stopped going to counselling, and never spoke to anyone about how the experience effected me.
(Until now.)
I spent the summer wallowing in self-pity and feeling like a complete failure, followed by an autumn spent travelling and learning to trust my own abilities again. Thankfully the latter worked, and I returned home feeling like maybe, just maybe, I could be okay eventually. I built up the nerve to take some big chances, as well as rid myself of a few bad habits.
For a long time I didn’t think I’d live to see my 30th birthday.
But I did make it to 30. I made it, and now when I think of the future it’s not a blank question mark, but filled with possibilities. And for the first time I in as long as I can remember, I want to be alive to see what happens.

Canada: The Country That Doesn’t Care

The Toronto Star published an interesting article this morning highlighting the EXTREME shortfalls that our system has when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention. Some highlights:

  • Stigma is a big, big influencer here. You are not going to come under pressure to fund something if nobody’s talking about it.” -Former Ontario health minister George Smitherman.
  • The lack of awareness is likely linked to an “emotional disease index” that sways government decision-making and drives public funding. Childhood cancer would rank highly on the index; suicide would not.
  • Every year about 4,000 people on average commit suicide in Canada, making it the ninth-leading cause of death in the country, according to Statistics Canada. (As compared to 2011 deaths rates: 2,158 in car accidents, 527 by homicide, 303 by HIV, 482 from influenza and 253 from drowning.)
  • Canada is one of only a few countries in the western world that does not have a national suicide-prevention campaign.
  • The total cost of suicide and self harm in Canada is estimated to be $2.4 billion a year in lost economic productivity of the dead and mental health programs for the grieving families left behind, according to a report by SmartRisk, a national injury-prevention group.

4000 people kill themselves every year in Canada. That’s a life taken every 2 hours. Can we let that sink in for a moment?

Now can we talk about the fact that no one seems to give a damn that this is happening? No one is talking about it. And the government could not care less. Seriously, someone should be calling a human rights violation here.