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There is a cry and a fight to see those who suffer from mental illness find acceptance, help and relief from the stigma attached to it. Depression, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, those are but a few of the illnesses that plague people and cause them to isolate and hide from those who love them.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_reporters/Pages/addictionmentalhealthstatistics.aspx) 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from some sort of mental health or addiction. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada and approximately 4000 Canadians commit suicide a year.
Graeme Millington, a registered social worker and owner of Millington Psychotherapy and Counselling in Chatham Kent addresses the need to strip away the stigma in our society and make getting help more acceptable and to understand the shared human experience. https://soundcloud.com/barbara-burrell-hutchins/mental-health-radio-clip/s-EOnCk
Mental health professionals and even businesses are beginning to step out and to challenge society to end the stigma and encourage discussion within the community. On January 25 Bell encouraged their customers to join in their #BellLetsTalk campaign and in February the Canadian Mental Health Association of Windsor Essex will join in the fight against silence and stigma with their Sole Focus Project.
Even within families, friendships and employment situations there can be seen a need to address the stigma and the crisis of mental health. A stark reminder of this occurred in a waiting room as two women talked. The one woman spoke of the hardships that having a family member diagnosed with mental illness causes. A strain on finances, a strain on her own mental health and quality of life. The other woman listened but there was a struggle that was obvious, and finally she wept and said “Do you think I do not understand the burden families feel?” It was a poignant moment, a moment when a family member of a mental health patient and a mental health patient collided in their personal and profoundly emotional perspectives.
The more our society talks and shares their experiences with mental health the more we will understand that we have a shared experience and this will help break the cycle of isolation and help create a more authentic and open discussion.