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Globe and Mail Update

"One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in his or her lifetime. It is a pervasive presence in almost all of our lives. And yet we rarely speak of it," writes Globe and Mail editor-in-chief Edward Greenspon.

"The mentally ill are not different; they are us. As a society, we have thrown off many of our social stigmas, but not yet those surrounding mental illness."

People with mental illnesses face a stigma that can prevent them from getting care. It also stops the public from seeing the problem. Has mental illness affected your life or that of a loved one?

Share your experiences with globeandmail.com readers and let us know what single change in society or policy would help the most.

As Globe readers submit their ideas and stories, check back here to read what they have to say. We'll post the latest offerings at the top.


Posted Dec. 15, 2008

Susanne Donovan from Canada:I don't like suffering in my self or in others.

I have some art relating to bi- polar disorder. (and that would include depression ;) You may enjoy the Underground Swing Set. I also like to do portraits or mandalas for individuals who have had a hard time mentally. Mentality A new, province wide magazine featuring the creative works of individuals living with mental illness. (Nova Scotia)

Mentality Magazine:

The Missing Lint Cooperative Ltd.

648 George Street

PO Box 925

Sydney, Nova Scotia<, B1P 6J1

Phone: (902) 539-6480, Fax: (902) 539-7062, e-mail: jmmissinglint@hotmail.com


KANALA from canada: After being involved with the system for about 18 months, I'm finding that there are many silos around me. There are many avenues one can take to find help, but unless you know who to ask, or where to go, you don't find out about them until later on.

Why isn't there, in our communities, a list of any and all organizations and such for us to seek? Items such as government programs, not-for-profit agencies, options available for those diagnosed (such as housing, retreats, long-term programs, etc.) would be easier to find if we knew they were out there! Finding out about some of the choices we COULD have taken after the fact isn't fair.

There's got to be some sort of resource given to a person as soon as they step into the system - and that would be at the hospital in the mental health ward.

It shouldn't be so political and fractured as it is now.


Patricia Teskey from Kawartha Lakes: To reduce stereotyping and stigma, we should all stop using the phrase 'the mentally ill', which hides the human being and the fact that every mental illness and every person with a mental illness is not the same. Instead, the schools and the media could play an important role in educating us all to recognize a wide range of illnesses of the brain and neurological system that affect an individual's thinking and emotions. We should all be educated to recognize that individuals with different illnesses have different symptoms, medical treatments and psychosocial needs. Think, for example, of the difference between a twenty-three year old woman suffering from a psychotic break and a seven-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder, or a sixty-five year old man with a heart attack and co-occurring depression and a new mother with post-partum depression. In fact, it's time we looked at the absurdity, in the twenty-first century, of dividing illnesses into 'physical' and 'mental'. This concept is left-over from pre-scientific thinking that divided body and mind, and attached moral failure and stigma to conditions affecting the mind and emotions.

We now have ample scientific evidence that so-called 'mental' illnesses such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and depression are actually biologically and neurologically based. Yes, there are social causes as well, but there are social causes for 'physical' illnesses as well, and 'physical' illnesses can have psychological symptoms. Who would think of suggesting that a person with diabetes is morally inferior, or a person with cancer should just pull up their socks! It's time we brought diseases of the brain and the nervous system into the twenty-first century, funding and treating them on a par with diseases that affect other organs and systems in the body. That would go a long way to eradicating stigma.


Pauline Fogarty from Thunder Bay: I am growing in my ways to treat myself. In gaining an understanding of my needs and how to create a better life for myself, my mental health issues are less of a problem. I am sure that my accomplishments far outweigh the negative stereotypes that I deal with, being schizoaffective. In my heart, I know that in some ways I have not changed as a result of what my mental health issues have instilled in me. There are still things that I love to do, like working towards my Social Service Worker Diploma at College and being with my family and friends. In a sense, I'm happier than before I was diagnosed because I feel like a part of something: a support network of people who know that extra community is necessary. My support network helps me take care of myself. In people's eyes, I am different. I have been through a lot at my age, including hospitalizations and past suicide attempts. In my heart, I always knew I was stronger than my mental illness and to this day I regret some of the things I have thought about myself that led me to think about ending my life.

The truth is, it is good to challenge myself to reach a new level, whatever that may be. Today, I work at the College Fitness Centre and volunteer at the Multicultural Youth Centre. I contribute to improving the life I am living and hope to work towards communicating my story to others. I know that if I am honest and true to myself, I can achieve anything!


Patricia Teskey from Kawartha Lakes: Jesse (The Son Who Vanished) shows that psychosis CAN turn around to recovery. He rightly 'encourages people to seek treatment early, a key factor in better outcomes.' However, we must look honestly at what happens to most people who DO seek help early. They can't access a First Episode (Early Psychosis) clinic. Toronto, pop. 4 billion, has only 2 or 3 such clinics. Most people have no choice except the hospital emergency dept. - they are sent home if not in crisis enough to get through triage. If admitted, they are NOT treated with Best Practices of Early Intervention because the Ministry evaluates hospitals on how fast they move patients out of beds, not on patient outcomes. So compared to Jesse's 4-month stay, the average hospital stay for a person with schizophrenia is about 12 days. They are discharged before reaching a stable state or regaining the insight to know they are sick and need help. Community services can't help a person who refuses, so they go off medication and back into full-blown psychosis. Then they return to hospital in crisis again. This pattern repeats itself for years.

My own son was a 'revolving door' patient for 4 years before a doctor detained him in hospital long enough for the medication to stabilize him. It took 9 weeks. The miracle came 2 weeks after discharge (11 weeks after starting medications) when the delusions and paranoia disappeared. His turnaround came 8 years ago and, like Jesse, he has not been back to a hospital since. (Talk about saving money on hospital beds!) With an ACT team's support, my son has stayed on his meds, worked, and graduated from university. Therefore, I ask for a goal of a national mental health strategy to be: the Best Practices of Early Intervention become the standard in every hospital - not just in First Episode clinics. This would save money on hospital beds and community supports as people with psychosis could stabilize, finish their education and become employed. As human beings, they deserve this.


Ceraphina F. from Calgary: I have BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder; it comes with a great volume of 'mental illness's' all into one. Some people are functioning, some are not. This is one of the MI's that have the biggest stigma's to it, because it is very difficult to treat. That in some of my readings, Physicians will not diagnose it properly from all the problems someone with this illness gives. The name in itself has a great stigma which complicates the matter, when anyone hears the name they think, 'ah..dual or more personalities, Or Bi Polar'. Some people with BPD are known to have traits of Bipolar. I have a Nervous Disorder, have Dysthemia (type of Depression), Eating Disorder, ADHD (Attention Defecit Hyper Disorder), Psychotic Episodes, Obssesive Compulsive Disorder, I have tried to kill myself, Think about Suicide often. I am 24. I have been a cutter.

I know myself to be very Intellectually smart, but not academically smart, I would say that it most likely boils down to always being nervous. It is hard to explain a nervous disorder to most, because their first reaction/conclusion is 'well you don't have anything to be nervous of'. Yes, I do. The same is said when I tell someone that I am sick. Their immediate reaction is, 'I hope you get better by this weekend' or 'oh? you have the flu?' I want people to be educated that being 'SICK' or 'ILL' does not mean stomach flu. I want people to realize that what is happening with mental health, happened with Cancer too. There was such a stigma with Cancer 40-50 years ago as well, but people became more educated on the fact that Yes, Cancer kills, but when sitting next to someone with Cancer, it is NOT contagious.

I was on a few types of medication, I am glad to say that for the past 4 1/2 months I am off all meds. I am in DBT: Dialetical Behavioral Therapy. It is ANTI-MEDS! They teach clients how to understand their emotions and deal with them. You cannot deal with them on a numbed out mind on meds. No quick FIX


Posted Dec. 8, 2008

cindy parsons from Canada: I am a family member of mental illness and have been actively involved with our local BCSS for many years and help my community by supporting, teaching and advocating about mental illness.

I am excited about the new mental health commission and want to know when the government will be making the necessary changes to housing, education, and support systems for the mentally ill. As of right now, I know my family member and others in our small community are in need of housing. No one wants to take the first step to help...systems and programs still seem geared towards the staff and what is best for them.

I learned in University that we must take the initiative as community mental health teams, to do whatever it takes to make changes for the benefit of people who are vulnerable. I do not see a lot of that happening. When is government going to get out of the sandbox which unions and organizations attitudes have created......and really step up to help the mentally ill.....when I see sacrifice and true generosity and commitment and advocacy I will believe that we are a compassionate society who cares about our members.

Only when we can go to sleep at night knowing we have truly made a difference and done everything in our power to make changes for those that need us, then we can feel good about who we are.

I will continue my work and continue to disrupt the norm in my community and continue to feel good about that as I know that the most vulnerable need us to do that. What have you done today to make a difference, without expecting anything in return? What charity work have you done? What have you done for your community members who are so vulnerable? I hope to see positive changes in my community and that means we will have no homelessness and no one hungry when they go to sleep at night.


Plain Jane from Toronto: I'm currently attending university, and I've discovered that many of my classmates are suffering from depression or anxiety. Some are on medication, many are on waiting lists for treatment or therapy. The waiting list for therapy at the school clinic is at least half a year long, and some students give up or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in order to function.

A government action plan to deal with mental illness, and enough funding to back it up, would be a dream come true. I can't imagine why any government would refuse to help transform mentally-ill people into functioning taxpayers.


Kathryn Barratt from Kitchener: I grew up in a household that was severely affected by mental illness and social ignorance that permeated every aspect of our lives. Forty years later, I'm afraid not much has changed.

I work for a charitable non-profit organization that responds daily to requests for help to get a loved one into treatment for an eating disorder. If social norms, stigma and a lack of understanding did not exist in this field, we would not have to work so hard to help people get the specialized treatment that can lead to recovery. Eating disorders are an illness and need prompt medical attention. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness. 27 per cent of girls 12 - 18 years old are engaged in severely problematic food and weight behaviour.

So, why do we have to rely on an annual golf tournament to fund prevention, education and support work for eating disorders?

And, yes, our resource centre is in a basement.


Viola Wiley from Canada: 3 years ago I collapsed at work, suffering from extremely erratic high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, severe chest pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea & problems swallowing.

For 3 months, I was in & out of the hospital with these symptoms. Suffering from chronic fatigue, I returned to work on a part-time basis but found that after about two hours of work, all the above medical symptoms would return in full force making me just miserable. A psychologist advised me that I was suffering from 'burnout' and that my body was telling me it needed a break.

I continued working part-time & I was seen by an insurance company psychiatrist who diagnosed me as bipolar suffering from severe depression & anxiety & prescribed medication for me. I did not believe her & was convinced that there was something else that was physically wrong with me that was causing all my problems. I underwent quite a number of medical tests but no other physical condition seemed to be responsible for my problems.

I did go on anti-depressants & anxiety medication that helped but the drugs created other problems. I was absolutely miserable. My cardiologist finally convinced me that I had to quit working ( my health was declining). I got a new psychiatrist (8 month wait) who diagnosed me as bipolar, suffering from severe anxiety & depression, & a 'work addict' to boot.

I am on a new drug regime combined with counselling and support group therapy. Recently, I have read a number of articles on bipolar, depression & anxiety & now realize that I was bipolar back in my teens.

I believe it is imperative that society be made more aware of mood disorders & the government provide more funds for research in this area. Experienced doctors are difficult to access. Education & earlier discovery & treatment of these mood disorders could lessen overall medical costs & improve overall health & productivity of the individuals that are lost to these disorders.


Reader from Canada: After being involved with the system for about 18 months, I'm finding that there are many silos around me. There are many avenues one can take to find help, but unless you know who to ask, or where to go, you don't find out about them until later on.

Why isn't there, in our communities, a list of any and all organizations and such for us to seek? Items such as government programs, not-for-profit agencies, options available for those diagnosed (such as housing, retreats, long-term programs, etc.) would be easier to find if we knew they were out there! Finding out about some of the choices we COULD have taken after the fact isn't fair.

There's got to be some sort of resource given to a person as soon as they step into the system - and that would be at the hospital in the mental health ward.

It shouldn't be so political and fractured as it is now.


Geralda Boulden from kitchener: Our family is concerned that the school systems are unprepared to teach the children with bipolar and other neurological disorders.

Our grandson, age 7, has a high I.Q. and is highly functional but cannot read or write. He needs his own T.A. who can recognize his mood swings and help him deal with them. The school system will not spend the money for this. I am asking 'How many people are in jail now because they did not have T.A.s and trained staff to look after them?' ' How many schools can provide the care they need?' Many of these people have great potential. GSB Kitchener


Reader from Canada: I would ask you not publish my name if you should decide to use my comments to protect my family.

As a parent of a child diagnosed with bipolar disorder/Tourettes syndrome I read with interest your focus article Saturday Nov 22. We lived that life of horror described by Heather Bishop and Sean Quigley. After terrible struggles with the system we found an excellent psychiatrist who prescribed medications which made an crisis situation tolerable.

I was exhausted managing him and was still not satisfied so began trying some other approaches. Our home life was hell so I had nothing to lose. Since then we have worked with food sensitivities, fish oils, vitamin/mineral supplementation and probiotics. All of these work together, there is no one magic bullet.

Four years later our son is significantly better and we have been reducing his medications for the past 2 years. This during the time that he has been going through puberty when you would expect the medication to increase. Our son is now sixteen, doing well at school and socially involved. He no longer has tics unless he cheats on his diet.

Although his improvement has been impressive I feel it would have been greater if we had taken this approach earlier. Managing our diet and mixing with others is our big challenge now but I would prefer it over the rages.

The underlying problem has not gone away but is managed more effectively. I have found the medical community not open to this approach. When I have told other parents they ask their doctors who shake their heads dismissing this approach even though it's effectiveness is all scientifically documented. This approach requires personal discipline but pays off with big rewards.

I would encourage other parents struggling with mental health problems to give this a try.


Sue Lieggi from Toronto: This is not only a comment, this is a fact 1 in 5 children suffer with a mental illness.

I work in the children's mental health field. Funding is grossly insufficient, we are doing more and more with less and less. Front line workers have rapidly increasing caseloads and are not compensated commensurate with education and experience.

We need more funding put in to mental health dollars. These children are the future and need help now.


Lisa Poultney from London: I am currently in a group program teaching about clinical depression. At least three of us have been let go from professional jobs because of our depression: one given excuses (we are restructuring); one told outright why they were being fired and one told that an employer can fire anyone without reason as long as the employer is willing to pay (true in Ontario).

The stigma is career ending for middle aged people. It also robs employers of loyal, skilled employees. Employers act one way toward someone whose illness is visible or body based (heart attack, cancer) and, still, discriminate against those diagnosed with a mental illness or those dealing with a family member's illness.

Let's get our fairness act together in Canada!


Gordon Hunter from calgary: The Globe and Mail is performing an invaluable role in highlighting mental illness. As a principal in a high needs elementary school (I retired) I guesstimated that 20 per cent of our population were mentally ill.

There are reasons why one area has a high concentration: Those with mental illness move to lower rent areas because they can't find or keep jobs (some children are needy because of the parent's struggles); there was alcohol and drug, emotional and physical abuse; some parents couldn't commit to parenting, and the degree of mobility was staggering. About half of the children moved each year. One grade 2 child had moved 20 times.

The school system, stretched for resources, did not want to acknowledge the problems we faced. The pressure for them was to increase standardized test scores. Politicians did not have face to face daily contact. There were barriers to finding resources. Many parents would not or could not acknowledge that difficulties existed; so many hours were spent in arranging meetings and seeking resources. Often a parent, not willing to face the stigma of mental illness or have someone look into their private lives would move after meetings had been arranged.

The number of resources for the mentally ill was infinitesimal compared to the needs, so even when everyone faced in the same direction waits were horrendously long. Frequently, there were no answers. For instance, there were only a few spaces for violent children. Few provided recognition to loving and dedicated staff members. They were the buffers against a tough world for children. Even with high ideals and great souls some teachers cracked under the strain of having more than one mentally ill child challenging them throughout the day, every day.

By bringing childhood mental illness into the light and enabling parents, teachers, mental health specialists and politicians to talk about it the likelihood of treatment is more likely to be attained. Gordon Hunter


Katherine Adlam from Aulac Canada: People might be more apt to discuss and be treated with mental illness if doing so wouldn't deny a person being able to purchase life and disability insurance. Being labelled uninsurable is a major stumbling block for many people.


robert smith from north and over mass United States: As a former Toronto born and raised Canadian I enjoy reading your paper online. I am living in the USA now but one common theme is without borders that being the stigma of mental illness.

I enjoyed reading your columns on the subject and as a hockey fan I was very impressed with the fact that Daniel Alfredson of the Senators was so honest about his sharing the story of his sister. He will be a great help in letting people realize that having mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about as it is everywhere just like cancer or heart disease.

For some reason we flock to support people who have diseases like cancer and of course we should as they are terrible afflictions. However in our society mental illness is translated into a weakness that people do not understand and many times the victims are even mocked or avoided because we do not comprehend the issues.

I myself have battled depression since I was in my twenties and it is a long hard battle that has been aided through therapy and medication. My own daughter now in her twenties has fought OCD and the hardest part of that disease is figuring out what the heck we were dealing with. Friends and family just do not understand how much they are suffering. You cannot just pretend that some day it will be better or go away on its own. Like any other disease it takes courage to face and must be battled on all fronts with therapy and medication.

There is no magic bullet but when one in five Canadians suffer with mental illness it shows how common this disease is. Hiding it or suffering in silence does not help and it takes real courage to admit that you need help. Since just about everyone either has mental illness somewhere in their immediate or extended family or at least knows someone who is afflicted I think its about time we all admitted it.

Thank you for helping to bring this problem out into the open for discussion and understanding.


Simon Sunatori from Gatineau, QC: I have lost a happy family to mental illness (paranoid delusions). My ex-wife unilaterally left the house 2005-06-03. After she left, I was crying every day. I sought help myself because I became severely depressed due to the unexpected separation.

My parents are still concerned about my ex-wife's mental health with paranoid delusions, while her own parents are still hiding the truth at any cost, and are happy to see their daughter projecting an appearance of normalcy to the neighbours and to the colleagues at her office. To them, giving her medical treatment for paranoid delusions is not a priority at all as long as she makes a good salary. I am absolutely disgusted by their behaviour, but such is the enormous power of stigma towards mental illness.

I did my best to save the happy family, but it turned out to be impossible. My 12-year old daughter (Evelyne) described my circumstance as 'worse than dead'. I was keeping notes about my crisis during the tragedy in 2005-2006 as 'Surveillance and Spying', which I hope would be published someday in order to help other people in combating mental illness and especially stigma towards mental illness.

http://www.hyperinfo.ca/Auction/SurveillanceAndSpying_2005.html

I met a German widow in Skype early last year. After a few chat sessions, the German widow told me that she was grieving because her late husband committed suicide. She disclosed to me that her husband was under suspicion that Stasi (the ex-East German secret police) was after him. I explained to her that such paranoid delusions are due to mental illness. In fact, she had no idea at all that there was biochemical imbalance in his brain. We have been supporting each other, but the odds of encountering a total stranger with identical mental health issue is astronomical. Or paranoid delusions may not be so rare after all...

marg aldridge from Toronto: I have just watched a good friend cope with her schizophrenic brother over the past month. Usually he reluctantly takes his medication and life goes on, but this time he was out of control. Bizarre behaviour throughout the day and night, disrupting everyone around him. They tried to check him in and have him admitted at hospitals in Collingwood, Penetang and Toronto, but when he is manic he can be very persuasive and managed to have himself released. He was becoming dangerous to himself, loved ones, his cherished dog and society at large, but nothing they did seemed to attract anyone's attention, certainly not in the medical field.

Last week, after vomiting and a rush to the local hospital, he was sent to London, Ont. and had emergency surgery to remove a tumour on his spine. He now remains paralyzed in a hospital bed while the next steps are determined.

My friend only wonders why no one bothered to access his real medical needs at the numerous hospitals he has been in and out of over the past several weeks. All they could see was his mental illness and it may cost him his life.


Michelle Hetzler from Canada: My mother was diagnosed as a Schizophrenic 25 yrs ago. My father is her sole caregiver. Anyone who has endured the pain my mother and my family has endured due to this crippling disease does not need me to list the endless number of emotionally exhausting events that have shaped our lives, because you too have lived it.

To the Canadian law makers…. It is time to re-evaluate the guidelines that surround our Canadian Mental Health Act.

We need to focus on providing families with the tools and services they need to force long term solutions on those who suffer from mental illness. The mental health laws of today actually prevent us from providing help to our loved ones because the choice to seek help or not to seek help is solely up to the mentally ill individual. The law forces us to wait until it's too late and harm has already been done. We are not asking to lock them up and throw away the key. We are looking for answers, direction, help and support. We are asking that this help is forced, by law, combined with a physicians request and consent. We don't need to read any more news headlines of those who have lost loved ones at the hands of a mentally ill person. My heart goes out to those who have.

Like other families, we have investigated every avenue for a long-term solution, both through the law and through the health care system. All avenues have resulted in dead ends. My mother used to be a vibrant active member of our family and for the past 25 yrs we have watched her decline to the point of serious delusions, seclusion and uncontrollable anger and violence. The time is now. Let's put forth a motion to change the mental health laws allowing families and physicians to force long term medical solutions on mentally ill individuals.

I am 35 yrs old and I look in the face of someone I used to know as my mom, but now I don't recognize her any more. Help us bring them back.


anne so sad smith from ontario: My life since feb 2004 has been turned upside down, I now suffer from anxiety since then, and of course people will try to make me look bad in that they do not understand the problem. It was got so bad that the muscles in my legs ache and my chest area as well.

I have a 24 year old daughter, who suffered sexual abuse by a close family member, and of course the courts in civil cases do not for the majority understand what she goes through on a daily basis.

It is basically a suck it up attitude, too bad it happened. This only compounds my anxiety, along with dealing with my own problems of anxiety, insurance company and employer. I have had to sacrifice good food to live on in order to pay rent etc, and right now my top teeth need pulling due to bone deterioration and gum loss, but finding a dentist who will do this for me under sedation is hard to find. If I don't find a good dentist to pull my teeth then the health affects could affect my heart and therefore my child will not have a mother to help her through her trauma of being a victim of sexual abuse.

Her and I deserve so much better but our courts, insurance companies and employers have to get in tune with the mental disabilities. Thanks.


Doris Low-Renwick from Victoria: Your recent article on L.M. Montgomery brought me to tears about the effect on family and mental health issues. The family secrets/the shame.

I wrote a piece for Lives Lived when my sister died and it was published February 2007. I was proud that it was published and made sure friends and family were aware and encouraged them all to buy copies.

I would like to share in this forum the responses I received from the publication. The most common was; 'I knew there were problems, but had no idea.' Interestingly this was from extended family (cousins, in-laws and uncles) that I considered quite close and was surprised they did not know about my sister's problems.

An insightful friend of mine said: 'that must have been hard growing up in that environment.' That was the first time I can remember anyone acknowledging how difficult it can be for the rest of the family.

Kathy Bauder from Bath, Ont. I have a 32 year old daughter who suffers from bi-polar and drug addiction. Her drugs of choice are crystal meth and crack cocaine. She has been very sick for the past 4 years, of which I have been trying to get her into treatment on a daily basis.

Over the years i have contacted so many treatment centres only to be told that it is her who needs to make the call, and her who needs to request the help.

Easier said then done. When one is so sick, they are not even able to think clear enough to remember to make call backs to centres while waiting for a space to enter into treatment. Mental health centres do not want people with addictions, as they want the person to be drug free, and addiction centres do not want people with mental illness.

Unless you are a millionaire, you cannot afford private treatment as the cost is anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 per month. I am a self employed hairstylist, whose husband suffers from congenital spinal stenosis and is on a disability pension. I am raising my granddaughter. I cannot afford to pay for my daughter's treatment. I have been working on sending her to a program in the United States, but our family doctor is reluctant to sign the papers requesting OHIP to pay for out of country treatment.

She has never treated my daughter with any compassion or respect, as have some of the doctors at the emergency department in our local hospital. For this reason she is afraid to go to the hospital for help when she is so desperate for it. The medication they gave her for her bi-polar is in such high doses, she can't even function.

Not One Dr. has suggested a different medication or lower dose. So she has quit taking any medication and is relying on her drugs of choice to help relieve her pain.

So as each day goes by I thank god she has made it through another day without harming herself or overdosing. How do I live up to my promise to her that I will get her the help she needs and deserves in order to have her life back?


Ingrid Ironquill from Canada: My experience with mental illness was 'all in my head' until I was about 23. As a baby, I cried all the time, never took naps, got into trouble every chance I could, but everyone thought I was just a difficult baby. It really started when I was about 5 or 6. Pulling out my eyelashes, eyebrows, hair & leg hair one by one was a release with each plucked hair.

Anxiety had always been a problem for me, I was no stranger to chronic stomach aches for the first hour of the morning and I cried a lot in my bed at night. Making friends outside of school was difficult, people didn't like me. In the years before the obesity epidemic I was always the fat girl, I was rare and no one down my street liked me.

This could have been a contributing factor, but eventually I developed rage like it was nobody's business just to protect myself from everyone else. No one ever questioned my behaviour and everyone agreed I was just difficult at home and had 'perpetual PMS'.

While in school, I would fall asleep, and I was always 'a delight' because I was always so quiet and well-behaved. Being a 60-average student, no one cared and neither did I. I finally hit rock bottom at 24, but it was a slow roll down the hill until that point. Starting with mild depression in high school, leading to severe depression at 24, I finally decided to take action. I sought help on my own.

7-month wait list to see a therapist and 4 therapists later I finally got help. It took a combination of drugs to get me motivated to start exercising, but it was really and truly the therapy that helped the most.

Feeling lonely my whole life and finally having someone to talk to about this stuff was what I truly needed to get through it. Living in a medically under serviced community, I am lucky to have received help, despite the 7 month wait.


Ted Dyck from Moose Jaw: A strategy to enhance recovery from mental illness that this excellent series has not yet mentioned is writing therapy.

Writing aids mental health by encouraging self-expression, by focusing beyond illness, and by raising self-esteem. Here's one story of how it works.

As writer-in-residence at the Festival of Words, I work with a group of writers who are clients or supporters of the local branch of the CMHA. We meet biweekly to share and discuss our work. Naturally, the subject of much, though not all, of this writing is individual experience. Our members have an inside take on anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, you name it, and we are assured of a sympathetic, critical response that is also inside. By focusing on how best to express our experiences, we can become so engaged in the art that the significance of the subject begins to fade. Mental illness becomes, like anything else, a subject of writing, not just a personal tragedy. We see that we are more fortunate than others, for we can write, and write well, about our intimate experience of the deepest human condition.

Writers in our group have written eloquently about the unwanted twin of postpartum depression, about the inner reaper who is our fear and hope of recovery, about the dance between madness and inspiration, as well about the travails of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Yes, the Roughriders, for we can also be satirically funny, and we are engaged in the community, not despite our illness, but with it. Our self-esteem raised further by reading before a live, appreciative audience at a local performers café, or by being published in TRANSITION, a magazine produced by CMHA (SK), we become participants in the fight against the stigmas of mental illness.

After all, healthy self-esteem is central to the healthy mind. That's how writing therapy works: you express yourself as well and as openly as you can, and you feel better and better about yourself as you learn that they are, indeed, us.


jean cameron from Canada writes: I am a grumpy old woman in my seventies. This means that I was a child of the Blitz in London. School friends were among the dozens who died when our railway station was bombed. When a passing Luftwaffe pilot emptied his guns into our schoolyard, I fell over. Cuts got infected and blood poisoning nearly killed me. I still have lumps in the armpits; they oozed blue-green matter back then and still amuse doctors who think they're cancerous glands or something. Sleeping problems ? I was hauled out of my warm bed most nights and hustled to a damp cat-smelling shelter in the back garden. When the V1 and V2 rockets started, my mother waved me off to school every day not knowing whether home or school would be a target. . . would we see each other again? I remember writing exams in the school corridors during an air raid - in case the classroom windows were blown in. Sadness, depression, anxiety, how the hell did we manage to avoid all these problems? Eating disorders ? By god, we ate what there was. Tantrums in public ? The parental remark would have been, 'Here's something to cry about.' Wallop.

I'd guess that my generation - the Brits anyway - are remarkably free from psychiatric problems and I would shout aloud, in my grumpy way, that kids today are pampered, under-exercised and certainly over-medicated.


Posted Nov. 27, 2008

c h from guelph: I have suffered from depression for at least 5 years, and have found that the resources I have encountered have been woefully inadequate. Admittedly, I didn't seek any sort of help until just over a year ago, but in that time I have only grown more hopeless. Doctors who don't seem to care prescribe drugs that don't seem to work. Over the summer, my doctor admitted me to Homewood Health Services, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I spent 6 weeks in the acute trauma section where the nurses ignored me and the psychiatrists were too busy to see me once during at least 3 of the weeks of my stay.

I don't understand why they think that what were essentially group information sections can cure someone of being suicidal. Eventually they released me despite my continuing suicidal ideas and left me feeling like nothing had or ever will change. Later, I requested my file from them, only to find out that I had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. However I don't know any of the reasons I was diagnosed as the psychiatrist didn't feel the need to inform me of them. now i continue to see a therapist who has deemed me too depressed for cognitive therapy and a doctor who is switching my medication because he has no idea what else to do. He had referred me to the campus psychiatrist at the beginning of the semester, and only yesterday did I receive a call to book an appointment. And my doctor tells me that Guelph is better served by psychiatrists than other nearby districts.

Basically my experience so far has taught me that nothing and no one will help me. I think about suicide constantly and continue to self-injure. I don't know what will happen, but I hold no hope of those in the mental health industry providing any real help.


James Buchanan from Toronto: In spite of the deficiencies and seemingly limited access to Canada's mental health system, the road to recovery today is one of promise.

The series Breakdown: Canada's Mental-Health Crisis is a courageous series of articles on the mental health landscape of today.

When I was growing up, nobody was talking about access, or ADD or manic depression. I was born in 1945 and it does not take very much research to discovery that mental health was not a priority issue at the time. Schooling for me was a frustrating exercise. I failed grades, one, four and nine. Hardly an exercise in academic excellence.

I would suspect that today, enlightened that we are, I would have been rescued from the system and diagnosed with ADD and possibly manic depressive syndrome, saving me from the demons that would really come to a head in my twenties.

It is important that Breakdown: Canada's Mental-Health Crisis has been read by millions of Canadians.


Posted Nov. 20, 2008

Mary Evans from Blind River: I have been reading your mental health series since the beginning and haven't seen Homewood Health Centre mentioned. It is a mental health facility in Guelph, Ontario that helps thousands of people learn to cope with their illnesses. I attended the Eating Disorders program from April to July this year for inpatient treatment for anorexia.

I have been living with anorexia for almost 30 years and with the help of Homewood staff and co-patients, I finally feel like I have the tools to stay in recovery longterm. There are no drugs to treat anorexia and like most mental illnesses it is not curable but the important thing to realize is that patients can learn to cope in a positive way with many of their symptoms and education is the key.

While at Homewood, I met patients from across Canada and in many other treatment programs besides Eating Disorders - Addiction, Post-traumatic Stress, Mood Disorders - and all of us were being given new hope of a better future. I think this country could use many more facilities like Homewood so that when people have the courage to seek help for their mental illnesses, treatment is available to them in or near their own communities and without long waiting lists. As for stigma, as more and more people speak about their struggles and seek help for dealing with them, the stigma of mental illness will slowly dissolve. Your series on mental health is a giant step in the right direction.


Steve Paterson from Windsor: I am a university student who has suffered from a debilitating anxiety disorder for the past 10 years. I am currently seeing a psychiatrist who has prescribed me a total of about 10 medications. I have finally found three that seem to work pretty well, yet every day is a struggle. What I would like to see happen now in Canada is a national mental health strategy.

It is vital that the stigma surrounding mental illness be terminated. I have fought for 10 years to get over this disorder of the mind, but I am still very scared to tell others in person. The medical profession does not put nearly enough funding into drug Research and Development for mental illness. Too often health is thought of as strictly physical without taking into account mental health. In order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, there needs to be a national strategy on educating the public on mental health.

I'd love to see a national standard of teaching young students in elementary school and high school about mental health. If we as a society can now openly discuss sexual orientation, then it only stands to reason that we can talk about mental illness.

A generation ago, sex education was not available in the school system. Now is the time to implement this education, since 25 per cent of the population will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives.

I also would like to say that treating mental illness requires a comprehensive approach. Medication is only about 20 per cent of the battle with our current drugs. Other major factors that contribute to mental health are regular physical exercise, abstinence from drugs including tobacco and alcohol, a healthy diet following Canada's Food Guide, a regular sleep schedule, and most importantly the social support of friends and family. The mentally ill should not be closeted or shunned by society. Ignoring the problem will only cause more suffering among the mentally ill which in cause incease the number of suicides.


Posted Nov. 19, 2008

Simon Sunatori from Gatineau, QC: I have lost a happy family to mental illness (paranoid delusions). My ex-wife unilaterally left the house 2005-06-03. After she left, I was crying every day. I sought help myself because I became severely depressed due to the unexpected separation. My parents are still concerned about my ex-wife's mental health with paranoid delusions, while her own parents are still hiding the truth at any cost, and are happy to see their daughter projecting an appearance of normalcy to the neighbours and to the colleagues at her office. To them, giving her medical treatment for paranoid delusions is not a priority at all as long as she makes a good salary.

I am absolutely disgusted by their behaviour, but such is the enormous power of stigma towards mental illness.

I did my best to save the happy family, but it turned out to be impossible. My 12-year old daughter described my circumstance as 'worse than dead'.

I was keeping notes about my crisis during the tragedy in 2005-2006 as 'Surveillance and Spying', which I hope would be published someday in order to help other people in combating mental illness and especially stigma towards mental illness.

I met a German widow in Skype early last year. After a few chat sessions, the German widow told me that she was grieving because her late husband committed suicide. She disclosed to me that her husband was under suspicion that Stasi (the ex-East German secret police) was after him. I explained to her that such paranoid delusions are due to mental illness. In fact, she had no idea at all that there was biochemical imbalance in his brain.

We have been supporting each other, but the odds of encountering a total stranger with identical mental health issue is astronomical. Or paranoid delusions may not be so rare after all...


Leslie Tobias from Toronto: Mental Illness was not understood by the professional for many years. I know people who have been mis-treated and/or abused by their therapist etc. Advancement in mental health is realtively new to Canada. We are just beginning to learn & understand what the symptoms are and how to treat them.

I have observed and noticed early on the symptoms individuals would have in the family & in the workplace. The truth is - no one would listen.

They didn't want to know or understand. They were and still are insecure about mental illness. Some people such as bi-polar are friendly & adaptable people - they suffer because it is not detected.

Bullies are excused - as having bad behaviour and go unresolved. It is difficult also the person who lives or works with someone with the illness. Eventually they to become depressed and in cases are abused more than one who has the problem.

As for the work environment - they are not equipped or have any qualifications/experience in handling the problem. Most often it is the victim that gets punished because managers don't want to know about it or managers assume they have the skills just because the title on the door says 'managers'.

Mental illness it seems has become part of the Canadian culture. We know it, we recognize it and we ignore it. Passive/Aggressive behaviour is very much common place. Mental Illness Awareness has finally made the front pages, however it will takes years before the work environment and family home will be to deal with mental illness. Unlike physical symptoms and remedies. Mental illness is inside - it is not visiable to the eye.

One solution would be - the workplace. Every Government Office and Private Business should have a professional physcologist on board as part of Human Resources. Managers who are not equipped to solve these problems should not get involved and make things worse. Pass the issues to the Physcologist in HR - it is unbiased and a safer environment.


Glen Stover from Pickering: Three years ago I was at the top of my game, at work and socially.

At work, I was viewed as someone who was highly motivated, a respected leader and it was obvious to me and those around me that I truly enjoyed my job.

I considered myself one of the few people who was able to bounce out of bed in the morning, feeling pumped about the potential that the day had in store. Then it all changed. Not suddenly, but over time. It started with sleepless nights.

I became much more introverted. I had to force myself to eat, and often laboured over lunch in my office for hours. Needless to say, I began to lose weight, noticeably. I began to question my memory and cognitive abilities, and had thoughts that I was suffering the early symptoms of alzheimers. I was always tired, but still could not sleep.

My mood was increasingly morose, and I started to suffer shortness of breath, tightness in my chest. I lacked the ability to deal with day-to-day challenges at work and at home, and I actually had anxiety when the phone rang at home, for fear that it might be some bad news, that I truly felt incapable of dealing with.

Eventually, I became so consumed by it all, and actually would have welcomed death as a way to stop the torment.

Today, I am a survivor. A survivor, not of cancer or some other tragic disease that we don't choose for ourselves, but a depression survivor.

Without the support of my family and my employer, I shudder to think of where I would be today - not a survivor at all, but a tragic victim, like others in my family before me.

My experience taught me to be open an honest with those who are curious about my sudden and lengthy recovery and absence from work. Talking about it released the demons in my family closet that were never spoken of, and hidden away like the most shameful secret.

My father gladly shared his heart condition with me, that killed both my grandfather and great uncle. And why would I not share with my kids? Dumb question eh?


Rick Drysdale from Canada: 'A suicide's family still wonders 'if what we were doing was right or wrong'

What the hell is ' a suicide' ?

Is it a mother, father , son, daughter , neighbour, or any other person we could pass on the street?

People who feel they have no other alternative do not lose their humanity and become ' a suicide'

Who wrote that line ?

Posted Friday, Sept. 26

Joanne Husak from Canada: Fran Kordoski from Canada writes: I will probably be dismissed as unsympathetic and unenlightened. However I feel compelled to say that your statistics refer to those 'diagnosed' with a mental illness. This does not always mean they actually HAVE one. Far from being a stigma, this has grown to be almost a status symbol. Teenagers are sharing news about their latest bi-polar medication like they would about a new shampoo. I know several who have gone to a clinic, to a doctor who is meeting them for the first time, and walked out with a prescription and a diagnosis.

Fran, my daughter is one of the young people with mental illness. Most of hose with true mental illness do not admit to having it and do not seek treatment or medication. While I can understand what you are saying, your comments do not apply to those who are truly mentally ill and are really not helpful.

Posted Friday, Sept. 26

Judy Allen from St. Albert, AB: Mental Illness, is it a curse for the person who has it or for the people who live with this person? It is something I think about a lot. I am the person in my household with Bi-polar. I am considered smart, likable, funny and creative. Why mental illness? Why such mood swings, one day happy another so very sad? I try to rationalize things all the time, I am happily married, great kids, great job but there always is that nagging feeling in the back of my brain just lingering, it's a cloud. I take my meds not in any great way because if I am too happy I am careless and annoying (talk too much, too agitated, too much twitching, cannot focus well), then I drop my meds to a lower level and the depression hits. The flashbacks, the downward spiral, the self destruction of myself. I put all the guilt, shame, and treat myself like dirt because I feel that is how I should be treated. It is constant work to be 'normal'. It's all I want. I'm told by so many I have changed and I know I have. I will never be that happy-go-lucky person everyone knew. Today I like to be alone a lot, I don't care for lights on in the house, I like curtains closed and quiet. I am boring. Mental health hurts, it is shameful to me and I don't like myself. Nothing is clear everything is foggy and dull. What do I do? I see my psychiatrist who is wonderful, I see my addiction counsellor who is wonderful and I lean on my family. I can be my old self but for the most part I am on guard and I feel like everyone wants to say to me live with it, I have tried that too, no meds and boy do I crash. I have to recognize that I am ill and that like a diabetic I have to take my meds everyday. When that dark cloud hangs overhead I try to think about all the positive things I have and my family and hope that cloud breaks up into a beautiful rainbow. If it doesn't an episode begins and it can be high or it can be low I just have to see what happens. Thanks for listening.

Posted Friday, Sept. 26

Judyms from Victoria: Pieces of my life lie discarded at the side of the road, I wrote recently, like old sofas and grocery carts.

Five years ago, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2, a type characterized by often extended periods of depression and relatively brief periods of hypomania ('little mania.') In the hindsight provided by this diagnosis, I can trace my depressive episodes back to puberty. But they were my secret; I merely thought I wasn't trying hard enough, or that I was weird. Not that I wasn't successful: I served as my high school's student council president, I am a university graduate, and I had a 15-year career in the film industry.

But this disease is insidious. It doesn't identify itself in a blood test or MRI, and symptoms can be mistaken for personal weakness, even by the sufferer herself. I'm grateful for my diagnosis, and for the excellent care I receive. Medication has been a godsend, levelling out the ups and downs, and keeping the downs from overtaking me. But I can't help but wonder how different my life might have been if I hadn't been hobbled by this illness.

In the pursuit of happiness, I moved homes 21 times (in 6 cities) and entered into a marriage that I then left only three years later. There were times when depression kept me from functioning my best on a film set, and times when hypomania/mania made me believe I knew more than anyone else. I have lost friends, estranging myself from them when I was depressed and offending them when I was manic.

We need to go into the schools and teach kids about mental health. It's not just about destigmatizing it, but about demystifying it. They should be taught to recognize symptoms in themselves and others, and be made aware of the resources available to them. They should be given the tools to support one another. Above all, they should know and believe that mental illness is not 'weird' and that it is highly treatable. No life should end up at the side of the road.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Deetrosa from Halifax: My mom was sent home by the hospital on Greyhound bus 72 hours after she tried to commit suicide. After being brought to the Halifax hospital, she was transferred to one in Kentville (small town 2 hours away) because there were no beds for her in Halifax. I was with her the whole time in Kentville, except the last day. I don't drive, or I would have made sure to pick her up. I assumed that since it was not her choice to go to Kentville, an ambulance or car would bring her back. When I came to pick her up from the bus station, she was still shaking, couldn't talk properly and I had to hold her up as we walked. They had not even given her enough time to completely detox.

While in the hospital, the 'doctor' on duty was unkind and cruel. The day after she was admitted, he had a consultation with my mom and me. She still had a lot of drugs in her system and would often stutter, or take a long time to speak. He would actually shout at her to 'hurry up' and tell her 'we don't have all day'. After a few minutes of this, I said 'I'm sorry we're such a burden to you' and I will never forget this, he said; 'You're not my burden, you're the taxpayers'.

Afterwards, the Halifax and Kentville hospitals kept arguing over who was responsible for my mom, and I couldn't get ANY help for her, no after care, no therapy referrals, nothing. The situation was frustrating to say the least because my mom has a long history of depression and this was not the first time (or to be the last) time she tried to commit suicide. I was 22 then, the first time I was 14 years old. The third time she tried was about 1 month after she was transferred to the Kentville hospital. No surprise there, as like I said, she was given NO after-care or help.

It seemed to take this 3rd time for the hospitals to actually help my mom. She was admitted to an intensive outpatient mental health program that really helped. It's been 2 years since then, and things are much better.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Papeters from Ottawa: I am so glad to have the opportunity to read the Globe series on Mental Illness and the debate that it has brought into the National sphere.

Not all mental illness is severe and is often very well hidden. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety several years ago and I don't think that anyone around me would know this. Thankfully I was at a large university in the US at the time where I had access to unparalleled mental health facilities.

During the first years of my diagnosis I had access to a psychiatrist, counsellor, group therapy, and world-class exercise facilities. How I long for access to these things again, and am shamed that others with mental illness have to suffer in silence without this level of support.

During this time I have gotten married, had a wonderful little child, learned a second language, lived in different countries, am finishing a PhD, and am working in a new position here in Ottawa. I still have episodes of severe anxiety but thankfully medication, therapy, and exercise have provided an avenue by which it is diminished. I am glad to see other people speaking up, challenging the out-dated assumptions that we should 'snap out of it.' I hope that there is some permanent, positive change from this series at a National level. At the very least, I hope it forces politicians to finally start supporting a national mental health system.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

kitty kosmetixxx from Canada: It is important to have a very open mind if you want to be working with other people's.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Spacedout63 from Independence United States: I feel like a freak! Everyone in my family is tired of dealing with me. I am 45 and just had two major mood shifts and was so tired of it all I tried suicide 150 pills, I should be dead but am not and glad I am not.

I just want to find a way to explain to my daughter how much I love her and need her and my two granddaughters. But she says just buck up like everyone does and straighten out your life. She has kicked me out like her father who is a creepy meth head. And was absent for 20 years of it. I think I have had this for a long time but for some reason it wasn't so bad. I am just rambling so I am going to stop here.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Bayrider from Toronto: Since my daughter was 8 I've been trying to get help for her mental health problem. She wanted to die. I called a psychiatrist -- there's a 9 month waiting list. I called the local children's treatment centre -- it took over a year until she was assessed. The psychiatrist reported she was fine at the time he saw her although she had been suicidal at some point before this.

Now she's 22. I'm still looking for the right treatment for her. She has finally been diagnosed correctly but it's been 3 years and we're still waiting to get the right treatment for her particular disorder. She's on a waiting list and they 'aren't allowed' to tell her how long it is before she might be entered into the treatment she desperately needs.

My teenage son was hospitalized last fall after making an attempt on his life. I pleaded with the doctor not to discharge him as I did not feel he was ready to be released. I was told to stop being such a fuss-budget, that I couldn't safeguard him forever. Two days after his discharge, he killed himself.

This week a friend decided to end his life but first dropped by to say goodbye to someone, who called me, knowing I had some 'experience with this kind of thing.' I had to call three distress centres before someone even answered the phone. The first distress centre told me all agents were busy and to call back later. The second call ended abruptly after I pressed 1 for English.

The government said it would put money into 'the system' to do early prevention, to add community services, and improve service for mentally ill patients. You hear and read about mental health reform. I'd say the system is overloaded, underfunded and has been a complete failure in helping me or my family. The government must do more to right the wrongs! These patients deserve the same care as anyone with a physical illness and the family needs help to cope with the stress, too.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Musketeerplus2 from Calgary: I 'suffer' from mental illness in the form of depression, and I have for years. Most days I don't suffer though - I live my life. I'm stable on my medication and have learned (through trial & error) that I NEED to be medicated to function properly. And function I do... better than a lot in today's society.

I've met some of these stigmas and the way I break through them is to be completely open about my condition, its permanence and how I cope. Unfortunately there are a large number of people who say 'Oh, but you're different' after finding out someone who holds a full time job, goes to university, takes care of ailing parents as well as having a fairly active social life is 'DEPRESSED'.

Many comment that they would love to be on my meds, so I know they don't understand that my meds lift the veil of depression and allow my true character to come through. True friends have seen the dark side, and not run away. I didn't realize how precious those people are until reading this article & seeing that 46% of people would stop socializing with me.

I don't know what can be done, but I hope I make my own bit of difference every time I show someone new that the mentally ill are not dangerous, crazy, nutty, crying people huddling in the corner.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Damunique from Canada: Maybe it's my depression talking, but I am a pessimist. I don't think anything will improve or change for us. In Ontario, welfare isn't enough even for a room, and disability benefits are routinely denied to people with mental illness. Appeals take 18 months. There's a ten-year waiting list for subsidized housing in Toronto. You cannot live with a family member if you want benefits, yet people with mental illness are those who experience the most difficulty renting rooms in other people's houses or sharing apartments with strangers. Suicide starts to look like your only option a lot of times.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Ted in Ontario: Mental illness happens like life happens. No one asks for it. I am 60 and retired, and had my first emotional breakdown in 1989 when my wife found me crying in the shower. The following 20 years have produced situations sometimes worse than the disease. I've had shock treatment that destroyed forever parts of my memory. I've attempted suicide once and think about it once a week. I've been on just about every medicine for what the doctors 'thought' I had. Is it depression or bipolar? They don't know. I've taken trycyclics, MAOIs, SSRIs, you name it. I've seen three psychiatrists, and no one can diagnose it. I'm now looking for a fourth. There is generalized anxiety disorder in the mix. I have OCD which, when I am not doing embarrassing things, makes me crazy wanting a gun. The gun is just for me, my ticket to home. I'm so tired of all of this.

But I could put up with all of that if not for three regrets: first, I passed along the genetic predisposition of mental illness to my children and they have both received it. They are managing with medication. Second, my wife left me after 34 years of marriage, and I marvel she lasted that long. Third, the doctors still do not know what they are trying to treat. Meds get changed, the chemical cocktail shrinks or grows. Nothing changes. Twenty years later, no better, no worse.

One of the best lines in 'Fiddler on the Roof' is when Tevya says 'It's no great shame to be poor, but it is no great honour either'. Substitute mental illness for poor, and that is how I feel. The societal stigma will always be there. That's just the way it is. The 'Do You Know who I am' campaign is a waste of money. The issue is not knowing who I am, it is what I have, and how can I be helped so the public won't care who I am, because I will fit in.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

michelle flynn from toronto: I am so grateful that Mental Illness is getting some attention through articles such as yours. I was diagnosed in February of this year with Bipolar after many years of being misdiagnosed. It has been a very painful and destructive path I have had to go down. Along with many many other mentally ill people something very destructive had to happen for me to get help. I have support through a Mental Health Association and with their advice and support I applied to Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)back in March/08 for Assistance.

Aug 22/08 I received a letter stating my application was denied. Basically I am not disabled enough. I am still struggling with this disorder, take my medication as prescribed but inside I am not well yet. I try my best not to let anyone know how I really am but I can't be an actress all the time. I guess what I am getting at is without assistance I don't know how I can try to better when I cant even afford to get to my therapy sessions.

I am not well and now the Government is telling me that they won't help to get better. Now I have to go through the whole process again and should I be denied again I don't know what I will do. I am really scared for myself. Thank you for the exposure you are providing about Mental Health issues. Sincerly Michelle Flynn

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

novelgirl from St. Albert, AB:: Mental Illness, is it a curse for the person who has it or for the people who live with this person? It is something I think about a lot. I am the person in my household with Bi-polar. I am considered smart, likable, funny and creative. Why mental illness? Why such mood swings, one day happy another so very sad?

I try to rationalize things all the time, I am happily married, great kids, great job but there always is that nagging feeling in the back of my brain just lingering, it's a cloud. I take my meds not in any great way because if I am too happy I am careless and annoying (talk too much, too agitated, too much twitching, cannot focus well), then I drop my meds to a lower level and the depression hits. The flashbacks, the downward spiral, the self destruction of myself. I put all the guilt, shame, and treat myself like dirt because I feel that is how I should be treated.

It is constant work to be 'normal'. It's all I want. I'm told by so many I have changed and I know I have. I will never be that happy-go-lucky person everyone knew. Today I like to be alone a lot, I don't care for lights on in the house, I like curtains closed and quiet. I am boring.

Mental health hurts, it is shameful to me and I don't like myself. Nothing is clear everything is foggy and dull. What do I do? I see my psychiatrist who is wonderful, I see my addiction counsellor who is wonderful and I lean on my family. I can be my old self but for the most part I am on guard and I feel like everyone wants to say to me live with it, I have tried that too, no meds and boy do I crash. I have to recognize that I am ill and that like a diabetic I have to take my meds everyday.

When that dark cloud hangs overhead I try to think about all the positive things I have and my family and hope that cloud breaks up into a beautiful rainbow. If it doesn't an episode begins and it can be high or it can be low I just have to see what happens. Thanks for listening.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

l thibl from B.C. : The single most difficult challenge facing families, certainly in the early stage of mental illness, is getting their ill loved one to agree to medication. This happens because the brain, the organ of reason, is the one that isn't working.

The complex and difficult hurdle of getting treatment for loved ones must be simplified if there's to be any real progress in the field of mental illness. What's worse, with much of the focus now on youth, as has been happening in the last 10 years or so, many older people with mental illnesses are being forgotten - left to their own devices to deal with serious psychosis.

I speak as a mother of twins who have been ill since 1981. One of them has been desperately trying to cope with severe psychosis and delusions since 1997, when his illness took a turn for the worse. It seems that 'the system' has given up on him and, rather than his doctor putting some serious effort into trying to alleviate his condition, he has pawned him off to the mental health system where he has languished first in a group home and now in a 3/4 house (assisted living I believe it's called).

We know our son can do much better, as his brother is, but not without a concerted effort to that end. On his bad days he has reached out to his doctor for help and been told that isn't the answer - in other words - don't bother him! The other problem that must be dealt with is the severe lack of hospital beds for the mentally ill across this country. It's worse than a crisis situation and complicit governments at all levels are responsible for this dreadful and inhumane treatment of a whole segment of society. If we have any compassion at all, we must recognize that this situation is simply not good enough and demand that changes be made.

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28

Helene Picard from Kelowna: My husband was diagnosed with depression. After different medications & appointments with a psychologist, there is progress due to early diagnosis. This episode can be tracked back to his work environment. As a photography business owner for 25 years & after a recent acquisition with the largest North American school photography company, his unheard concerns of a demotion, (11/2yrs.) caused chronic stress. Rather than using his knowledge & skills of his prime, he experienced neglect & mismanagement. This company is not accepting any responsibility & continues to deny any accountability This was a preventable situation. We've been affected with a reduced income being on disability for 6 months, we face an uncertain future & financial stress. On his physician's advice to not return to the same working conditions he received a termination notice. He was upfront with his illness & raised concerns as to how this continued denial will hinder his recovery? Do we have to go to the mental & financial stress of having the courts decide a fair & equitable settlement?

Thanks for allowing people to speak of their experience, it puts value on their situation & enables them to move on. The younger generation should question why some companies are not able to attract the best work force. I support legislation & education is crucial otherwise what does it say about our regard to human development?

Publish stories of companies that are proactive in the training of managers & offer their employees a supportive work environment. It would be a much needed statement. This could be useful to companies that want to change, a guide to those seeking employment in companies that are proud to display ethical conduct (financial & emotional) as a part of their commitment & also to future consumers who wish to support this type of movement.

Posted Friday, Aug. 8

Duncan Matheson from Charlottetown: I am a parent of a child with a severe mental illness. Our family has been dealing with the associated challenges for 5 years. While we have made many mistakes in trying to help our son, we have also had to deal with under-resourced hospitals and staff and a lack of meaningful programs to assist both our family and our son. We have lost the services of caring and concerned doctors who have left the province in frustration for the same reasons. They wanted to facilitate change and improve resources and services, yet, had to deal with stigma, budget restraints; lack of awareness of the real challenges and more. The experience has left us feeling that those suffering chronic mental health illness are marginalized and under-served. It is no wonder that many of our streets and prisons are populated by mentally ill individuals who have fallen through the cracks.

I recall trying to get long-term funding under our son which led us down a long winding path to our provincial social services offices which handles disability support and 'welfare'. We were shocked to learn that our son, with a severe mental health disability, did not qualify for the disability support program. We ended up in front of a 'welfare' counsellor who did his best to assist, however, was not trained, equipped or comfortable dealing with a person with mental health issues. I really felt bad for the guy yet absolutely perpexed that this was the last line of defense for someone with this kind of disability.

I wonder at the cost, socially and economically, at not effectively addressing the serious shortcomings on this issue. It was hopeful to learn that there is some focus being placed on a national mental health strategy for the future. Based on our experience, it is very much needed.

Posted Friday, Aug. 8

Olivia Beck from Canada: I'm tired. I want stability. I want to know that I will be able to have a roof over my head. I want to know that I will have food in my mouth. I want to know that I can have the life I dream of having, and have the life that is promised to every person who 'plans' and 'does the right thing.' (Whatever that is!) I'm not asking for big things here. I just want to have some shelter, and some food, and someone to keep me warm at night. I want to be able to dream about the things that other folks get to dream about... like having kids, maybe going for a trip somewhere, maybe I'd even dare to dream of the things I'd like to accomplish before I kick the bucket. I want to know that people can love me and be in my life without sacrificing their own lives and security. I just want to know that it's going to work out, for all involved. If this were only about me, I really wouldn't care. But there are others involved. And it bothers me that everyone who touches me needs to think twice before they can do anything with their lives. I've done the best I can to make sure I'm healthy. Really I have. Now it's your turn to hold up YOUR end of the bargain.

Posted Friday, Aug. 8

RD W from Canada: I suffer from depression. And 'suffer' is the right word. I used to be a successful engineer with a family. Now I am unemployed, I haven't seen my children, and I have little hope for the future.

Every day is a struggle as I decide if today is a day to live or die. The doctors and psychologists are trying to help, but so far I feel nothing but despair.

Sure, some days are OK, but most are a nightmare as I envision my own death whenever I blink.

The resources to help people like me are stretched beyond the limit. They say that 20% of us have some form of trouble, yet we feel like the forgotten ones.

Posted Friday, Aug. 2

Elizabeth Elder from Burlington: What the Government can change: Part 1 One thing that is very distressing to me and, I think, to many people with mental illness is the trauma experienced in the first few years of developing the illness. And there is much we can do to help. In my experience of developing bipolar I had no idea what was happening to me. Because of this i was on no medication. So i began to experience and eruption of foul and dangerous feelings. My education, relationships, and who I was as a person all crashed in a mess. Having no reason to give anyone for why, I was all alone trying to shield my vulnerable state from the anger and frustration of everyone around me. One simple change can protect people who are going to have an experience like mine.

I believe every doctor in Canada needs to ASK every patient if there is a history of mental illness in the family. Although it may not be pleasant; if there is a history, then the whole family should be prepped on exactly what to expect. They should be provided with all the information that's available. And I strongly believe Doctors must talk to these children when they reach their teens- before they get sick. Then before they have the illness clouding their judgment, the teens can feel the support of their families; they can properly assess how dangerous it is to be sick when not on meds; they can begin to accept that they may have to live with an illness such as bipolar; they can fully prepare themselves and they can know what to expect. I think, then there will be many who can nip the illness in the bud as soon as they are sure of symptoms and save themselves form years of confusion, anguish and embarrassment.

Part 2 There are many things that people and the government do to support Mental health. I am thankful that there are conferences out there; bipolar support groups etc. These are the people who are making others sensitive and more aware of our conditions. I am especially thankful for the government support for those who are too sick to work. I have yet to hold down a job and without Ontario Disability support program I wouldn't be able to survive. However, nobody in the Health care system told me of O.D.S.P when I really could have used it. I eventually heard of it from a friend. Therefore another positive change for the government could be that they make their services more available and widely known. They could do this through advertising, informing doctors to tell their patients etc.

In my opinion, Canada is one of the better countries for health care. Sure there is a long wait sometimes but the relief my wallet feels is much appreciated. I love my government paid psychiatrist. He has changed my life.

Finally I want to comment on Canada's hospitals, specifically Joseph Brant. I have never been turned away except from space issues. They have a wonderful, hardworking staff. For all the trouble us patients give them, they do a fabulous job of meeting our needs. The nurses would sit and chat with us, making us feel more at home. The hospital has entertainment for us like musicians and animals. There is also many activities to be a part of. They made it nice there and I felt secure.

Posted July 31, Thursday

Vancouver Canadian from vancouver: So this article deals with brain chemistry and drugs. How about doing an article on working through adversity. Depression often follows adversity. Stuffing down feelings brings depression, keeping a secret can bring on depression, a major life change can bring on depression.

I had to learn to work through all the beliefs and behaviours and emotions. Over time, doing this restored my mental health. I had to let go... said some therapists...when I asked how, they said release the feelings... I asked how... got no answer...so I learned myself.... tears can be healing but only if you develop a deeper understanding, forgive and develop healthy habits of compassion and gratitude.

Its not an easy journey, but it is a very worthwhile journey to heal. PS: Just to clarify, I'm not talking about clinical depression here, I'm referring to stress, adversity and reactive depression....

Posted July 31, Thursday

Horst Mulliner from Vancouver: Thank you for publicizing this important issue.

In 1990, while working as a travelling sales rep in my early 30s, I had a breakdown. I had suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since childhood. At various points, my OCD became a big problem for me. But when I took a high pressure well paid job in 1989, working for two bullying managers, my OCD went sky-high. I stopped sleeping properly, had panic attacks, started getting valium (diazepam) and sleeping pill prescriptions from the doctor. Then he put me on antidepressants for the OCD, including Prozac.

It became unbearable, and one day I was about to go on the freeway when I became totally unable to drive. Had to call the emergency service and ask to be rescued. That was the point when my problems really got bad, because the psychiatrist put me on heavy duty tranquillisers to help the panic attacks. I got addicted very quickly and was gobbling these pills by the bucketful. Soon my liver became unwell and I collapsed in the grocery store in the checkout line one day. I had to stop taking the pills, and went through 3 weeks without any sleep as my body detoxed. Horrific, absolutely horrific. The OCD was still with me.

One factor that saved me was my Christian faith. I had already come to faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and I just trusted him to help me through all this terrible fear and anxiety. He did so. In 1999, my brother died suddenly, and the fear came back. I didn't take antidepressants or tranquillizers, after my earlier experience. It was not so bad this time, because I was older. But once again, the answer was to turn to Jesus, because he is the rock on which I stand. It may well be that in this life, I will never be free from OCD, as it appears to be a neurological condition - my father and grandfather had OCD, and on my mother's side, there is a history of anxiety and depression. But I know that I can give my fears and worries to Jesus to take care of.

Posted July 31, Thursday

K A from g Canada writes: My story point form: Mother professional classical pianist, visual artist, type 1 diabetes Father professor Biochemistry, survived war trauma, Charcot-Marie Tooth disease (rare neuromuscular degenerative disorder), developed alcoholism in mid-life. Education Walden school 3 years Catholic school 8 years, 2 international schools Responsible for care of 2 younger sisters by age 10, by 15 responsible for mother's physical care, trained to be full time nanny at home Witnessed physical abuse of sister, rape of mother. Age 15 felt suicidal daily, severe migraines. Sought help from 3 school counsellors, 3 doctors- told there is 'nothing wrong, you are young and healthy.' Age 16 felt extreme terror and guilt, turned to parents recent conversion to a pentecostal group. 18 left home to work. 22 actively suicidal. Saw psychiatrist biweekly for one year, given antidepressant. Ended with 'you're doing fine'. 24 returned home at dying mother's request. parental abuse escalated emotionally. left and teen sister moved in with me, on social services. Suicidal -Saw 2nd psychiatrist-appt's in a restaurant -2 yrs No medication/counselling Ended since no help. Mother died - struggling through university, supporting myself, parenting sister. Father disowned me. Sisters angry at me. Graduated 'with distinction' Started teaching Got married Collapsed age 30 Husband abused me Father's abuse left me undefended, unaware of violations Left husband once aware Abused by 2 counsellors No one believed me O.d.'d Ignored in Psych ward, sent to unsafe shelter 10 days later Terrified alone Returned to counsellor who conned me 100% of property finances credit 3 years later to 2nd shelter NO legal protection Cannot go bankrupt costs $1500 Terrified alone psych ward says be responsible for your life diagnoses PTSD now live below poverty line no family function 40% of time age 51 UNNECESSARY DUE TO LACK OF ADEQUATE CARE FOR ABUSE/TRAUMA

Posted Monday, July 22

Vitor Medeiros from Sarnia Canada writes: As a society we must remove the stigma associated with mental health. I will tell you a story. A man approximately 50 years old suffers a heart attack. He goes to hospital has everyone he knows come with get well cards and flowers. His room is filled with all this warmth and sincere words of hope. He recovers from surgery and goes home to complete his recovery. He falls into a deep depression. Why, you ask? Who knows he just does. Now picture him in a hospital room by himself, some friends, some family. No funny get well cards, no balloons, just him physically well but not mentally.

The cards and balloons and flowers that he woke up to when he was healing his heart helped. The visits from friends and family helped. Now alone when he needs his family and friends the most.

Posted Monday, July 22

Tracey Gallant, Riverview, New Brunswick: It is wonderful to read that Canadians are all too aware of the many people in our lives that we hold dear being challenged daily with medical afflictions of the mind. It is even more wondrous to watch people despite Mental Illness, thrive! That's my favourite little simple sunshine.

When I witness people I love challenged and struggling through it all . . . falling and getting right back up, and moving on . . . you can't know how it excites me.

I am married to the most amazing man, who teaches me everyday how to cope with our Families that have so many loved ones afflicted with Mental Health Concerns that it's exasperating . . . yet he just keeps on keeping on with his 'this too shall pass' while I'd be SCREECHING ' it better be well soon because I sometimes feel like I'm on the moon.'

Michael has been treated for nine different medical afflictions in the past 12 years, and is a walking talking example of the wonder side of treatment. He is well.

The article is long overdue. All of us will have people we love afflicted with Mental Health Concerns if we live long enough. The most important ingredient in the Health Care System to help Canadians Coping (or Not) with Mental Health Issues is 'Acceptance' of the fact that all of us will be Healthier if we work diligently as individuals, as families, as neighbours, as communities, to 'Slay the Dragon Demon Snotty Nosed Monster - Stigma' just do it.

As Canadians, we must work to embrace one another, and end the embarrassing 'oh, God not another one' sortta thing when someone we love becomes sick.

End the Stigma now.

Love Ben & James' Mom, who screeched her way through apparent madness so many times we've all lost track. Wouldn't it be lovely if our Children's Children lived to see the day when there was 'no stinkin ole' stigma' attached to Medical Affliction of The Mind. God Bless everyone in the world and especially The 6.2 Billion that became 1....Dreamer I remain

Posted Wednesday, July 16

Joanne Dunn, Sarnia: I'm 48 years old. My first episode (not sure what to call it as I am still, to this day, undiagnosed) was at 13. Without understanding it, I wanted my life to end. Daily living was hard. Smells nauseated me. I couldn't sleep.

My second episode was at 19. I tried to sleep but couldn't because I was busy scolding myself for not having figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I was scared to death that I would not be able to fend for myself in the 'real' world and that I would be on social assistance. These thoughts were pervasive and rendered me unable to sleep one wink for about a month.

My last episode occurred after giving birth in 1988. I obviously suffered post-partum depression (bordering on psychosis), but could find no help anywhere. Even when I drove to the Emergency room at a Burlington hospital to tell them I could no longer cope. They sent me home.

I cope rather well today. I have found a psychiatrist that is willing to help and allows me to challenge him (as if I know better than he - not!) I'm now dealing with my emotions and mood disorder in a healthy manner. For years I drank to self-medicate. I fully and completely understand anyone who does same.

I have friends who also suffer from various mental health issues. We rail at the lack of help. Thank God we are articulate enough to advocate for ourselves. I pity those who don't have the energy to scope out community resources and mental health specialists. They certainly don't come to you. You have to get out there and look. And keep looking... I mourn the childhood I never had.

Posted Wednesday, July 16

Elizabeth Elder from Burlington Canada writes: Medication: Part 1 Doctors don't have it easy. They are pressured by the patients and their families, and they are pressed for time, for their patients can harm themselves when not medicated. Sometimes you hear of doctors pushing drugs, well the three psychiatrists that I've been to were very careful in dissecting my life's history to be sure of my diagnosis. Then they immediately started me on the highest researched drug with the best success rate, and added only what I needed to be stable.

In my experience of being around many mentally ill people while watching them get medicated I've found there are many reasons behind a person getting overmedicated. With the psychiatrists we try to find a perfect dose, balance and combination. Psychiatrists usually do know how much medication a patient needs and they go with their seasoned knowledge.

The thing is, when you go into their office and sit down, they are aware of how many people before you and just like you have been picked up by an ambulance or detained by police officers and so yes, maybe they are eager to put you on the highest dose that they've found success with. But if you are committed to your wellbeing and continue to explain the details of your symptoms, and explain what's bothering you about your medication, I've always found they are willing to carefully try adjusting your meds. Unless you have been already a danger to society, then I've actually seen a social worker go to that person's house daily to enforce that the medication is taken. Those types of people have to be on a high quantity of drugs just so they're not dangerous. The person may not like it, and it may seem alarming to you, but I don't think that the police officers, ambulance drivers and the hospital with its staff and those who fund it would have it any other way.

BUT after being medicated and stabilized many patients find they are still experiencing symptoms such as racing thoughts or voices. And it's the patients that push for more drugs hoping that they can feel as though they have no mental illness at all. But what you need to know is that it's just not like that.

My doctor tells me all the time that as the pill does something good in your body it will also leave an additional, unwanted effect; your body's reaction. That's the nature of most drugs. So, sometimes the amount of drug needed to completely extinguish the symptom (i.e. racing thoughts) will cause gross side affects such as drowsiness or slurred speech. In your opinion this may be overmedicating because the only thing obvious is the side effect of the drug. No one likes that, but patients keep going back to their doctors demanding relief from their symptoms, and unfortunately, increasing the medication is the only way they can get that relief.

Of course there are a huge amount of people who are different. Some people have immediate success on little to no drugs. Or there are people who learn to deal with the extra symptoms because they want to avoid the terrible feeling of being too medicated. And of course there are many levels of a type of illness, and many types of illnesses.

One time a psychiatrist did take me off meds that were harming me but didn't put me on anything after that. This was so he could be sure I was even bipolar. I therefore became dangerous. But since he didn't have enough information of my history, he had no other way to learn of my diagnosis. He didn't want to medicate me if I didn't need it.

It is probable that if a psychiatrist or doctor doesn't take the time to discover what exact type of illness a person has, they could misdiagnose and overmedicate. That is why it is so important to write down exactly what is happening to you daily and consistently present this info to your doc. It is also important to see a psychiatrist, not just a doctor. Only when I wanted my doctor's help instead of a psychiatrist did I get misdiagnosed and put on the wrong meds. And it was very terrible for me.

Once you know of your diagnoses, I believe it is empowering and important to do your own research on medications. Ask your doctor for all the info on drugs he or she may prescribe. Finally if the drug is not widely used and you hear no success of it, chances are it will not work. Thankfully now I have a psychiatrist who explains all of his choices with much depth and many analogies. He wants to give me enough knowledge so I can make choices myself. He actually feels my pain when I complain about weight gain, etc. He also pushes me to go for my dreams and do things that help my soul, not just my mental state.

I don't know how long my stability will last. But I have luckily found a way to keep from danger (going manic), while still staying at a level of functionality that I'm happy with. But yes, it comes with ignoring a huge symptom in my life (hearing things) in order to avoid being 'overmedicated. ' Because yes, slurred speech and no desire to do anything does suck!

Posted Wednesday, July 16

Damuniqued, Canada: I haven't told everyone before now about my diagnosis. This is for several reasons. First, because it doesn't define my life. I don't tell everyone about my back problems, either. Mental illness is something I have, not who I am. I also have talent, salt-and-pepper hair, a big nose, a wicked sense of humour, a hell of an I.Q., a bad wardrobe and more education than I will ever use.

Mental illness has, indeed, made a difference in my life, usually for the worse. So have my bra size and my intelligence.

Next, I prefer to avoid having every aspect of my life and actions, especially my politics, analyzed through the prism of mental illness.

Finally, there is always the danger that anyone who wishes to harm me could get away with it, simply because I may not be considered credible. People such as myself live in constant fear of abuse by others with impunity. Statistically, we are victims of crime far more often than we are perpetrators.

To me, the biggest social change necessary is the assiduous avoidance of the ad hominem fallacy: i.e., remembering that just because someone you don't like says the sky is blue, doesn't make the sky orange. We need rigorous fairness in the justice system and too often, don't get access to it at all because we are not taken seriously.

Posted Wednesday, July 16

kathy Isinghood from Canada writes: I remember being 6 and so sad, life just wasn't really that great. My family was, but I was always alone, trying to just do the things that kids do. As I grew older, I always figured I was weird or crazy, or both. Now I am 41, I understand it all, the self medicating, the sexual issues, being in abusive relationships. I went to a doctor in BC 15 years ago after my son was born. I went again, and again, trying to understand the immense hatred I had for myself. One attempt on my life when I was 19 years old, something had to be wrong.

Living my life with those wonderful sayings 'Just think happy you will be happy' and 'Wake up and decide you will be happy for the day' only served to make me realize that I was a failure at the simplest stages of life, and for years I wanted the pain gone. A huge change in my life bought upon a breakdown, and finally the realization that I was sick. This bought about a lot of pain, a lot of self recrimination, and so much healing that today, when I feel depressed, I can cope, realizing its my illness and not my shortcoming.

I suffer bipolar type 2. My son's friends all know that I have a mental illness and in being open with them, I am realizing very quickly I am not alone. Many of these parents have issues, the teens have issues and I am watching them self medicate, all the time letting them know, its ok to be sick, you need to get help when you are ready!! These are kids who are 14-18 years old, who are understanding the trauma and crisis MI brings to families, to friends and social circles. Many have been in rehab, drug and alcohol charges are frequent, and the city I live in has a huge population of 'using' teens.

My life has been hell, I have been through so much. Thankfully it is better now, and I am surviving, even thriving some days. Life can be good if you get the help and can put this terrible illness into remission!!

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Elisabeth (Tina) Holland from Winnipeg: I was diagnosed with Bipolar illness at age 27, but suffered since I was 12 years old with what I thought was depression. I would go on medication and off meds, my life was a rollercoaster for so many years. At 27 I decided I would finally kill myself or learn to live with this illness. I was put on the correct medication after dozens of tries, I have been on the same medication ever since. I then began trying to redo the way I was thinking so I would be more positive now I know that is called CBT.

I had a very successful career in Real Estate with the help of a very understanding owner who paid me a draw salary while I was getting better. I eventually paid it back, but had that not happened I would have ended up destitute, instead I am still a productive member of society.

I have since retired from real estate and started working at The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, heading there Education Department and speaking and teaching wherever I can. This is definitely the most satisfying work I have ever done. My favourite audiences are teenagers, I hope if I can get through to just a few teens then I can spare them the years of ups and downs I had.

I find so many people try to get off medication and their entire focus in life is getting on or off medication. For myself the best thing was to find a medication, learn to get used to it and then concentrate on living my life to the fullest, learning how to move ahead, and finally realizing that I can help other people to accept there illness, treat it and get on with there lives.

Why do so many people advise us (those with a mental illness) to get off our medications? If this is truly a chemical imbalance like diabetes let us get used to the meds and get on with living.

Thank you for listening to my long tirade as you can see I feel passionate about the subject.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

H Alexander from Surrey writes: Never give up seeking support. Fight for your kid. Too many doctors undermine concerned parents. If Mom thinks something is wrong with baby, then listen! Offer referrals, support services, respite. Early intervention is critical, but medical professionals often write-off Mom's concern as post baby blues or anxiety and write a prescription for anti-depressants.

Negotiating the waters of getting support is complex and begins with the family doctor, if that doctor is willing to listen. Extended family members need to be supportive too and withhold judgment calls. Having a mentally challenged child is a huge strain on family resources both financial and emotional. Marriages can break down. Most often Mom has to stay home to deal with ceaseless demands of a troubled baby and her career may be on hold indefinitely. Siblings have to learn cope and their needs are put on the backburner.

How often when a teenager or young adult is finally diagnosed, Mom wonders back and always knew something wasn't quite right. A baby that never, ever stops crying isn't suffering from colic; there are many more complexities involved and all avenues both physical and mental must be explored. Unfortunately for the parents, costly private analysis is often a last resort.

Two of my four kids have challenges and it is by the grace of strangers that they travel on the road to their recovery and adult independence. But for the younger little boy, that road is still long and treacherous. Blessings to all of you out there that are coping, supporting and loving someone in your life that needs your help.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Alison Philpotts from Calgary writes: It is interesting that there has been no mention of alternative care for mental disorders; Acupuncture, reiki, energetic and spiritual healing have all helped people or clients in the past ( I have been a massage therapist for sixteen years). Clearing away the 'dark clouds' , ( low feelings, low vibrations) have worked, plus meditation, retraining of thoughts (riding of mind chatter) are extremely beneficial. Empowering the individual to curb or heal is the most important and they can!!

Medication is just a band-aid, but the individual can become more conscious and find a way to heal themselves and move on. There are solutions outside the allopathic health model.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

carol emery from Canada writes: I read with great interest your article Breakdown Seeking Solutions. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the brain stimulation procedure could eventually help people with all types of mental disorders.

My son is a recovering drug addict who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder. He takes medication for it, but imagine the freedom my son and thousands of other people could have if this procedure becomes available to all people in need. This is something that the government should be putting money into. There are too many people suffering. Imagine being able to treat a person with addictions, so that they would no longer have cravings for abusive substances. I hope that research will continue and that help will be available to anyone seeking it.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Lindsay MacKinnon from Toronto writes: The past 4 have been hell for my family and myself as I have been struggling with Mental Health issues. Currently I am 15 years old, and have recently just gotten out of long-term treatment. Doctors have diagnosed me with labels such as Depression, Major Depressive disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

After my uncle died at age 10, i started going downhill. At age 11, almost 12, i started experimenting with Self Injury. I don't know what drove myself to pick up the razor for the first time but i did. At first it was only little scratches, like cat scratches. After a few months it started getting worse. It turned from scratches to cuts, then to even deeper cuts. At age 13, things started getting way worse. I began to think of suicide as my only option. After not being able to get better, i attempted suicide by ingesting a handful of random pills i found in my house. After ingesting them i felt guilty that my parents might find me dead, so i decided to tell them. They took me to the ER, and after taking my blood and treating me, they took me to a different hospital to a children and adolescent psych ward. After a month and a half stay they diagnosed with depression and sent me home with a prescription for Wellbutrin XL. After a few months of being home, i got so desperate that i took my whole prescription on Wellburtin. This lead to my trip to the ICU, which eventually lead to another trip to the psych ward. In the following months there were 3 other hospital visits, the last one leading to my admission to a long term treatment facility.

After a year and a half stay at the treatment center, I can definitely say that getting treatment helps, as i today no longer self harm. I do however get the urge to do it, but with my new found coping skills i no longer feel the need to self injure or feel the need to commit suicide even though i get the thoughts sometimes.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Michael Miller from Pierrefonds, Canada writes: I live in a subsidized mental-health apartment building, run by a community organization. I suffer from anxiety, which is improving, and depression.

What one policy change would I recommend? I have little to complain about as the welfare system in Quebec for those considered unable to work is quite generous. Perhaps more mental-health subsidized housing, or an increase in welfare cheques for those living in non-subsidized apartments. For me in particular, it would be more funding and availability of part-time work or volunteer work for those with mental health problems.

But there are many things that could be done to help more, like increase the quality of care in hospitals and increase the number of workers to help those with mental health problems.

I have suffered from agoraphobia, and it would have helped to have a therapist come to help me by driving me further and further from home, taking the bus further and further and just giving me tips on how to heal myself. The agoraphobia program is located a two-hour bus and metro ride away from me at the Allan Memorial. What good is that if I am nervous taking a bus for over half an hour? The help in this case never really came, although I do have a social worker who does drive me around once a week. There is help, but not enough, I would say.

When I say quality of care at hospitals, I mean like having more phones, more activities, more actual therapy in the hospital. The main emphasis in my experience in the hospital is on medication and I think very little is done in the way of talking therapy. I tried to commit suicide once, and barely anyone talked to me about it. To quote from Gary Renard's bestselling book, 'Your Immortal Reality','Suicide is the biggest problem in the world that the world is in total denial of...people...have no idea how widespread it is.'

Sorry if I gave more than one idea, but I felt it was important to share my thoughts. God bless. Thank you for raising awareness about mental health.

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Sharon Evans from Penticton, B.C. writes: I graduated from Riverview Hospital in B.C. in 1967 as a Psychiatric Nurse. During these 40 years, mental health care has moved from distant large hospitals to home community services.

It is my opinion that what has NOT moved is equivalent funding to promote and maintain community based services. I am a family member and volunteer for the Penticton Branch of the BC Schizophrenia Society. Our primary organizational goal is peer support for the front-line caregiver: the family. Families, as repeatedly noted in the series, struggle to help our loved one stay alive, to cope with the demands of daily living, to cope with the rejection of others, to set goals and achieve their dreams. These struggles are not related to any specific diagnosis but to all. By sharing experiences and strategies, families can help themselves and each other.

As described by Mr. Picard (June 27), our lived experience must be used to develop and sustain mental health systems. The lived experience of our family members who are in recovery from a mental illness must be used to evaluate services. Funders, including Ministries of Finance, want to have tangible goods purchased with their dollars. It is easy to see a medical device beeping away in a hospital room. It is not so easy to see the improvement a psychosocial rehabilitation program provides for an individual in the community. Recovery programs require trained staff.

From the recommended $10 billion mental-health fund, there must be dedicated funding for education for mental healthcare providers. Technology provides opportunities for distance education and conferences through the Internet. The Schizophrenia Society of Canada and its provincial societies can provide grassroots leadership to the Mental Health Commission of Canada to promote mental health programs, and to eradicate the scourge of stigma. Sharon Evans RPN, ADPN, BSPN Penticton Branch BC Schizophrenia Society

Posted Wednesday, July 9

Lina Dhingra from Toronto writes: In June, 2006, my mother was murdered. This crime was committed by my father, Ved Dhingra, who had been released from hospital after his fifth serious suicide attempt, a stab wound to the stomach, within one week. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1988.

In March, we won the battle to have the first-degree-murder charge dropped and my father declared not criminally responsible. However, he did serve prison time at Lindsay Correctional Centre from June, 2006, to March, 2008. ... Currently, he is in the forensic rehabilitation unit of the Whitby Mental Health Centre.

I have seen huge improvements, but clearly there is a problem within our justice system and the mental-health-care system.

Something needs to be done, and hopefully I can help to create change.

Posted Friday, July 4

Diane Cizek from Burlington Canada writes: When I was diagnosed with a history of major depressive disorder, I was experiencing only moderate depression, but the diagnosis was devastating enough to catapult me into an episode of major depression.

I was horrified at being mentally ill and suffered from my own stigmatization. A cascade of horrors followed. After only one term at graduate school, I took a one-year leave during which time I fell into deeper depression and anorexia. There was outpatient therapy, multiple trips to the ER, and self-destructive behaviour. After returning to my studies, I overdosed and was hospitalized, at which point I dropped out of university, never to return.

My nightmares continued when I discovered that the doctors thought I might have Borderline Personality Disorder (this was later confirmed). I was appalled because everything I knew about borderline patients was extremely negative. They are the most dreaded of patients—some doctors even refuse to treat them—and they are considered the most difficult to treat.

While it is agreed that a mood disorder is not a weakness of character, how could the same be said for a personality disorder when there is no consensus that it is even an illness? I thought BPD meant I was BAD. Even the suggestion that I might be borderline was enough to make me plummet into despair. I have never met anyone who admitted to being borderline. Even in the many submissions to The Globe and Mail about mental illness, there was no mention of BPD, so deep is the shame and stigma that surrounds it. And none of the stories published by The Globe featured BPD, perhaps because borderline patients do not usually evoke compassion; someone with BPD is an unlikely candidate to be a poster child for mental illness.

For many psychiatric patients, the treatment or even the diagnosis of contributes to the illness, something the profession calls "iatrogenic." Having had this experience, I wish for a greater understanding of mental illness for everyone.

Posted Friday, July 4

Andrea Paquette from Victoria Canada writes: Most media stories/people focus on the tragedy that people with mental illnesses endure, but often forget to highlight how mental illness can sometimes be a gift as it has been for me.

It does not define me but is a part of me, just as are my hazel eyes and my defined dimples. I was diagnosed 4 years ago with bipolar disorder and many would say that my story is tragic, sad, and disturbing. I used to convey that I lost everything as I was stripped so far to the bone that I attempted to end my life. It was not my time.

How can bipolar be a gift? I am assured that a lot of my energy was a catalyst to complete a double degree, run for the nomination for member of parliament at age 26, teach overseas as a University Professor, and most especially write poetry like the wind. I feel so intensely, possibly like no other. I often say, I would rather feel great devastation and sadness like I have, then nothing at all, for I know I am alive. I feel overwhelming happiness, hope and most especially empathy in a way that I have never experienced before the breakdown.

I have seen, heard and experienced things in a way that 99% of the population never will. Creative genius did not escape Edgar Alan Poe, Virginia Wolf, or Vincent Van Gogh and this truth reminds me that we are not doomed but indeed are given a gift. Perhaps a cursed gift, but a gift nonetheless. It may be a tireless battle for many at stages in their lives or every day, but luckily for me, I am renewed.

I am an advocate for the mentally ill and I am finally ready to battle stigma as I am working on a project that will bring education and clarity to all people. It begins with people like me, cursed with this gift, to speak of the experience and in doing so, we create a dialogue and eventually a universal acceptance.

Who wants to be normal anyway, perhaps being normal is its own from of insanity. I remember when I was insane...ironically, the world actually made sense for the first time.

Posted Friday, July 4

Virginia Gill from Sault Ste. Marie Canada writes: It was a great relief to finally admit that I suffer from Depression. My doctors tell me that it is a life long medical condition and that I will be on medication for the rest of my life.

What bothers me the most is when people find out, they resort to cliches: Just buck up...quit thinking about yourself...keep busy...exercise.

If it were that simple you can be assured I would have tried it. This condition is no fun and there is no cure. The medication helps, but not 100 per cent. I would love to be energetic and involved, but unfortunately, it is not possible.

Posted Friday, July 4

Garry from Canada writes: I would like to share with you my story. It all started one day in 1998. I sat in an office on my own, shaking, sweating and full of nervous anxiety. I had reached my bottom. I had finally gotten to that place, I could no longer go on like this.

I went to my boss who agreed to get me help. He informed me in the old boys network way..." If I screwed up, I was gone!"

This was and is a sentiment still held I am saddened to say, by many in big business today. Sadly very much alive, is an old boys network where alcohol is part of the job, a sign of manhood, part of the team.

I was a functioning alcoholic, the No 1 producer on the crew always managing to hide my alcoholism. Each day started with a screwdriver, then pouring a bottle of vodka in a bottle of water and sipping on it all day. That day back in 1998, changed my life. Thanks to a fellow craftsman Dennis Buckley I have regained a sense of self worth. Dennis was and still is the chairman of a wonderful recovery house called NEWGATE 180 located in Merrickville Ontario.

In Newgate I learned there were several reasons for my drinking. One...I have a genetic marker making me more susceptible to alcoholism, a learning disability, and a very poor family dynamics. In the 28 days I was in Newgate, I learned to accept and work with these contributing factors. I also feared returning to work and the stigma that would come from some of the old boys network. A stigma that is very much alive today with co-workers commenting that I use alcohol as a crutch and that I am weak. I learned in Newgate to cope the these attitudes, and have tried with limited success, to change the thinking of management and the old boys network.

Newgate gave me skill and knowledge that if I didn't have, I believe today I would be on the street drinking. In AA they teach us anonymity. I have always broken mine, hoping it would help someone who may some day turn to me for help.

I invite you to visit Newgate 180 and see the wonderful atmosphere and staff that have helped to keep me sober for 9 years, 24 hours at a time.

I close this letter giving thanks to the 3 people who have saved my life ... so many 24 hours ago, my loving wife Nancy, my late sponsor John Desroches, and of course Dennis Buckley. There is more to my story and my little successes along the way, but for now I thank you for your articles. They have given me the courage to speak out and as we move forward I hope I can help in changing attitudes about addictions. Thanks for your time......yours in recovery Garry Pryor

Posted Friday, July 4

Bev Lundahl from Canada writes: Breakdown, the recent series in The Globe and Mail inspires me to comment. As one who went through this nightmare years ago and now watches a son struggling to recover from a similar disability, I think about the way society has dealt with people like us.

Both of us have gone the medication route, a blessing and a curse. Medication has enabled me to function independently for almost three decades, but I have also spent a great deal of that time walking around in medicated lethargy, a side effect which can often be misunderstood.

What concerns me today is what I call a breakdown of community. The privacy laws make it difficult for family and friends to be involved with a loved one's treatment or even admission to hospital. I found it disturbing to walk into the psychiatric ward and see staff look down at the floor to avoid eye contact when I approached. They are bound by the law not to discuss the patients who can often be so out of touch with reality they are unable to give the necessary permission for release of information. Granted there is a fine line between help and interference from relatives and friends.

During a time of intense stress, which comes during a breakdown seeing signs that read "abuse will not be tolerated" in health facilities is not conducive to one's sense of well-being and comfort at a time when one needs it most. People on both sides of those signs are however dealing with a difficult area of the law and what I suggest is symptomatic of community breakdown.

I might add that I was comforted when a hospital security guard, a man I knew, went into the parking lot to coax my son back into emergency when I couldn't handle the situation. And to have a wonderful family doctor for almost 35 years that would go the extra mile. But then I have been in this community for a long time. What about those who have not?

Unable to care for my son by myself, he is now perilously close to the "streets". At the moment he has been able to access affordable housing where he is safe and is presently working at a job that is an asset to the community. SARCAN, a successful bottle recycling business in Saskatchewan employs people who are being rehabilitated. This is the great side of community and I have a deep gratitude for these programs. But the road getting to this point has been long and fraught with danger spots. It could have ended differently.

Walking downtown now with my son, I am getting to know some of those people hanging around the street corners. Some he has met in hospital and they are now out in the community. Do we recognize them and give them the time of day? Do we know why they are there? Do they really want that quarter or that cigarette, which they may ask for or do they just, want to belong?

On a more positive note, technology is creating new types of community of which the on-line information-sharing group is an example. Thank you to The Globe and Mail for creating this therapeutic community and for this awareness-raising campaign.

PS: The series inspired me to bring to your attention a book about the old mental hospital in Weyburn, Sask. by a former patient.

The book "Lady With A Lantern" by Kathleen M. (Kay) Parley was published by Benchmark Press (offices in Regina and Winnipeg) in 2007. ISBN 978-0-9782876-2-7

The author is unique in that she was a patient in the 1940's and later trained there in the 1950's to be a psych nurse. Her father became a patient there when she was seven and also her maternal grandfather was a patient. She trained there at the time research was being done at this hospital into the new medications and LSD was being used experimentally by researchers to simulate effects of psychosis. Weyburn Hospital also received the American Psychiatric Association Achievement Award in the 1950's.

Kay's book shows how patients in earlier days were isolated from the community by being kept in a custodial institution. Her own personal experience is on the cusp of the old ways and the new. The evolution of the new way is described below in my own experience in the 1980's and my son's two decades later.

Posted Friday July 4

Sandra Reid from Toronto Canada writes: I have suffered from 4 depressive episodes since 1977. After the last instance I determined that I could no longer live without anti-depressant medication. It was not always that way, to my detriment! I have now been 'symptom-free' for over 15 years.

I have also suffered from Grade 3 breast cancer and survived chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy along with additional treatments of Herceptin. I was diagnosed in 2004 and continue to thrive!

I would gladly undergo more treatments for cancer in preference to being depressed.

Your articles made me realize that, while I speak freely of my cancer experiences, I still reserve my comments about depression. Yes, I still often hold back after all these years and it is because of the stigma attached to mental illness. By providing the safe forum to talk about mental illness as we do about breast cancer I believe we can change attitudes. I will try to do my part. Thank-you for opening up our means to communicate.

Posted Thursday, July 3

Sandra Larter from Canada writes: We lost our only child to schizophrenia when he was 17. I noticed subtle personality changes for several years but thought it was normal for a teenager. The crisis came when he used LSD and saw the face of the devil. After taking him a psychiatrist, he was sent to UBC for diagnosis and hospitalized for the first time. Social workers recommended he be placed in a group home.

This started the revolving door, as he was non-compliant with rules and medications. VGH and then Riverview were next. After 9 months in Riverview, he was released with a bus ticket, some cash and nowhere to go. The downward spiral continued...he went from hostels, infested apartments and sleeping on the street. I would help get an apt. but he would be evicted due to not taking his meds, drinking and unkempt conditions. This cycle went on for 12 years.

At 30, he met another mental health consumer at the clinic. She became pregnant, so they married and had a child. Extended families on both sides agreed to help them take care of the child. Life was too difficult for them and his wife subsequently left with her child to live with her parents. He was eventually evicted from the apartment for accidentally setting a fire.

Now 40, he lives in subsidized housing run by the Kettle Soc. Threats have been made by his landlord to evict him but he is hanging in. He was hospitalized again last summer and released on the condition that he had to take his medication. He recently got legal aid to help him fight the system and he is no longer on medication.

Our son needs help. He needs a job. He goes to Coast Foundation every day but there doesn't seem to be any help there. How do we help him?

When he gets ill again (and he will), I will have to watch him 'hit bottom' again. We won't have any right to force him to take medication or hospitalization. The toll on families is unbearable, but we love our son and continue to support him.

Posted Thursday, July 3

jodi foreman from toronto Canada writes: it's quite ironic, that as i was leaving my nutritionist's office the other day she had a client coming after me that she has been telling me about it was sean miller. i was asking her how i could learn more about that procedure, because since i was 10 years old i have been in hell. Diagnosed with ocd originally, i got into drugs and alcohol as a lot of people do to self medicate, but unlike most people who get sober and join 12 step programs it got worse for me. for the first few years i was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, ocd, and severe depression and i tried every anti depressant, none worked and some made me psychotic. about 8 years later i was diagnosed with bipolar II rapid cycling and mixed states as well as ocd, but again no meds worked and the side effects were unbearable. i tried spirituality, hands on healing, homeopathy, intense & cognitive therapy. orthomolecular treatments. i have been suicidal for over 14 years , i have had many breakdowns but for the last six years i have felt like i have gone down so far the damage is unrepairable and i will never be free. seeing people who are happy makes me even more sad cause the i remember being a kid feeling that love of life and wishing i could feel it again. i don't think life is supposed to be this painful, especially when i have so much love in my life and so much to live for, but mental illness has broken my spirit and i have become lost in my disease. i heard that they will be doing tests for deep brain implant for people with bipolar and ocd, i don't know if this article or the fact my nutritionist knew sean miller and he was coming to see her right after me is a coincidence but i am hoping that it is a miracle and one day too i will be free from this hell and maybe it will be with this procedure for i have exhausted all others.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

virginia glover from Brockville Canada writes: As many other contributors to this conversation have described, the anguish of mental illness can devastate the family and friends as well as the sufferer.

My son disappeared for over two years after many years of troublesome behaviour, starting in early elementary school. I will never forget the advice of a friend who suggested that I take a course offered by the CMHA 'for people who have a concern about a family member'. This 12-session course, developed by the National Advocates for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), explains the various kinds of mental illness, its effects on those who are ill, and how one can best help the sufferers. Most importantly, it shows participants how widely mental illness pervades society. In my class of twenty I discovered five acquaintances. What I learned in the NAMI course opened my eyes to the struggles my son was facing. My new understanding made it possible for us to forge a new relationship once we had reconnected. I strongly recommend the CMHA/NAMI course to anyone affected by the mental illness of a co-worker, friend, or family member.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

Christine Mulkins from Toronto Canada writes: From the bottom of my heart, thank you to The Globe and Mail editors, writers and participants who agreed to tell their tragic stories. This is exactly the attention this devastating condition needs to raise it up out of the darkness and fetal position and into a lightness of love, acceptance and understanding.

I have watched in slow motion horror as lightening bolts of mental illness have struck down loved ones, mentors and acquaintances. Some people are too afraid to admit, face and treat these illnesses; they are mostly afraid that talking about it will make it worse or that by admitting it, they will also have to stare down their addictions and excuses.

The lesson from this series is that we need to fully address these conditions - not avoid or hide them. As I raise my two young children - and struggle with my own state of mind - in this terrifying, rapidly changing world, I will try to encourage my kids to keep their fingers on the pulse of their own mental health and to reach out to me, friends or doctors when/if they feel things going the wrong way.

We need to support each other through all illnesses - physical or mental - and keep striving for a balance of good health, consciousness and love. Thank you again and keep up the outstanding work.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

elaine sack from toronto Canada writes: Please reprint Globe and Mail, Wednesday September 29, 1993 Facts and Arguments page under FAMILY. Doris Sommer-Rotenberg had a son, Dr. Arthur Sommer-Rotenberg,who had battled manic depression for over 18 years before he took his own life in November 1992. Out of her anguish, his mother initiated a chair for studies in suicide at the University of Toronto department of psychiatry to try to spare lives and pain. This work is continued at St. Michael's Hospital and elsewhere.

The Globe was not a newspaper to shy away from this subject then, and 15 years later, The Globe has begun a diverse and inclusive dialogue which I hope supports the cause; information and accessible treatment. Mental illness does not play favourites.

I hope these articles bring questions to mind on improving the lives of our fellow human beings, young and old, rich and poor. Depression is not merely sadness or grief. It is a deeply entrenched joy-buster. We need to bring out how there are treatments that help, there are places to go, we can help people we know and ourselves by contributing whatever we can to assist people suffering to remain part of society in whichever way they choose.

The doctor I spoke of was working temporarily in a colleagues general practice after-hours. When he saw my medical history, he took the time to discuss life and how I saw it following 3 hospitalizations. It is not just his family that has lost out; the practice of medicine has lost a compassionate and caring doctor.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

zahava lambert from Canada writes: I live in Toronto and received a call from North Vancouver to say that my daughter had been hospitalized after hanging from a bridge. The doctor there wanted me to take her out of his hospital, but although he wanted her out of his institution immediately - he had no desire and made no attempt to facilitate her admission to a facility here in Ontario. And because of the provincial authority over mental health, her dangerous behaviour in British Columbia had no relevance to any Ontario institution.

No one in Ontario was willing to admit her or help me get her here. Even though I hired a private nurse to help me escort her on the plane, and cleared it with the Montreal head office of Air Canada, the pilot did not want to allow her on the plane.

What is the responsibility of our national carrier to people with health problems?

Once in Ontario, she had other episodes. But, as she was over the age of 18, the staff could and would tell me nothing. The hospitals here wanted her out within two weeks and offered no follow up for her - and the policy of giving no information to the parent simply exacerbated her inability to get treatment.

What kind of insanity on the part of the mental health act does not recognize that the mentally ill patient is not able to decide whether or not they need treatment until they have received enough stabilization to be able to think more clearly?

The law needs a serious overhaul. It must be country-wide in its record of danger to oneself. There must be communication with care givers consonant with helping the sick. The two-week stay in acute care must be followed up with some sort of long term care option. There must be some provision for consultation with care givers in the treatment options for their children, whatever their age.

My daughter has disappeared. I don't know if she is alive or dead. The system failed her.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

Ann Carson from Saskatoon Canada writes: Thank you for the wonderful insightful articles on mental health. I am a psychologist and there is such a need for people to speak out and for people to get help. Also children, since I work with children who have been maltreated and the mental health consequences they suffer due to maltreatment (abuse and neglect). And no one is an advocate for these children, very sadly. Children do not vote nor can they organize marches of awareness, so they do need adult advocates.

Hopefully your articles will contribute to their needs being brought forward. Thank you again.

Posted Wednesday, July 2

Deborah Sawyer from Canada writes: You ask what single change in society or policy will help. This is simple: Ensure that the disability insurers start honouring their contracts and obeying the law!

Most Canadians don't realize that valid claims for "income protection" benefits are routinely turned down by all the insurers. For the person struggling with a mental illness, this creates double torture. On the one hand, you are trying to work through the illness inside your mind. On the other, your mind is overloaded with the hideous stress of constant financial worries. Disability insurance is referred to by the courts as "peace of mind" insurance but this is rarely the outcome experienced.

For self-employed people, this is triply stressful because such Canadians do not have access to the public purse, such as Employment Insurance benefits. Often, the only provision a self-employed person can make is to pay for their own "income protection contract." The case law shows many people lose their houses while waiting for their claims to go through the courts. How is becoming penniless and losing your home - unnecessarily - supposed to help restore mental health?

I know I would have recovered two years ago if I had started receiving my benefits in a timely fashion. Now, the likelihood of full recovery is remote.

Posted Monday June 30

M'edea from Canada writes: The artist who had $20,000 and $25,000 in assets should have sold them to live on and buy psychology care. The point is to get well, even if you have to sell things that have value to you to get there. Your house? Sell it. Your cars and toys? Sell them. Those assets could have paid for medical care, rent, food etc, instead of ending up in the dump.

K. Allen-Shepherd from Toronto Canada writes: M'edea from Canada wrote: "The artist who had $20,000 and $25,000 in assets should have sold them to live on and buy psychology care. The point is to get well, even if you have to sell things that have value to you to get there. Your house? Sell it. Your cars and toys? Sell them. Those assets could have paid for medical care, rent, food etc, instead of ending up in the dump."

This is a perfect example of the kind of biased thinking people with mental illness must face. Sometimes it makes us fearful and want to hide, to avoid scrutiny and possible tactless criticism from people who don't understand depression. When my depression hit, I often had people say, "Shake it off! Everybody gets depressed." And, "You don't look sick to me." Would M'edea feel justified asking a hearing and speech impaired person to "Suck it up and sell some of their assets to buy care?"

How are they supposed to do that when they may be extremely limited by their disability? Would anyone have the insensitivity to suggest to a paraplegic to get well by selling their things to pay their bills? The point of losing everything because of illness is … some people are too ill to manage their own affairs. In my situation, I wasn't even aware I had manic depression when it hit me. I simply cried every day as things got worse and worse around me. Not all sufferers of depression have supportive family to bail them out. Sometimes they are cruelly shunned by ill-informed friends and relations who buy into the misconceptions of mental illness. Being ostracized by peers is heart-crushing. It's a torture added to the torture already inflicting people with mental illness. It invokes feelings of heaviest sorrow, mindless inertia, indignant rage; whatever best masks the pain and protects the sufferer from their harsh reality. No, M'edea, the artist was bedridden and swallowed up by fear and terror of what was happening to her. She was totally ill-prepared to organize a 'sunny day yard sale.'

Posted Wednesday, July 2

Gillian Richards from Toronto Canada writes: To the Globe and Mail, thank you for your compassionate, intelligent and solutions-focused approach to this very important cause. To the individuals who shared their stories, thank for letting us shine a light into your world, so that others may know they are not alone. Your courage humbles me. To the families that support each of these individuals, your strength inspires me. My mother was diagnosed with a mental illness last year after a 20 year struggle with depression and anxiety. She did what we could not do, or did not know how to do when she voluntarily checked herself into the hospital once the pain became too much to bear. While she has received tremendous care and support since that time, both on an in-patient and out-patient basis, I will always regret that it needed to reach that breaking point before the proper diagnosis and support was provided.

We simply did not know the signs, only that something was wrong, and tried to help her as much as we could. With the proper diagnosis, medication and outside support now in place, she is on the path to recovery. While it will be an ongoing journey, we are all better equipped to manage the road ahead. I am so proud of my mom, and all those who suffer from mental illness and have the courage to face the inner demons that cloud their lives. Each of these individuals have such tremendous gifts to share with the world, perhaps none more important than the strength and learned belief in oneself that they find in order to help heal.

Posted Monday June 30

Vania de Souza from Toronto Canada writes: I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto when I first experienced depression in 1994. Although I've looked for help from the U of T , I found that they had very few resources to help students and, in January 1995 I had to quit my graduate studies and left my research project behind. That was very, very painful.

Unfortunately, for many, having a mental illness means that you are going to loose some or many things that are very important to you. I had to abandoned my beloved research project and I had to accept that I could not work as a physician any more. Although medication (I'm on 4 of them) has been extremely helpful to make me a functioning human being again, I do have some side-effects that make it difficult to work as a full time physician (which from my experience and observation is a very demanding job).

I love medicine. It's my passion. And the idea of not being able to work on what I love was and is very painful. I used to dread social functions because eventually someone would ask me: " What do you do?" And I would go through a convoluted way to say that I really didn't have a job. But this year I made a decision: when asked this dreaded question again I'll firmly say: " I m working on being healthy and happy. What about you?" But I'm one of the lucky ones. I've met people who lost not only their jobs but also their houses, the custody of their children, their friends and everything that made up their identity due to mental illness. And it takes a lot to stand up and "brush the dust" from such a fall.

How can society not see what a toll it is to have mental illness and still have the near-sighted vision to call us lazy or stigmatize us?

But it's not all bad. I learned and I grew a lot as a person. I learned we can redefine ourselves if need be. I found I can give love and care to animals and wildlife. Now, I advocate for animals as a volunteer with the same love and enthusiasm that one day I took care of people in emergency rooms.

The truth is that we all have a need to feel that we contribute to this world in some way. With all the restructuring and downsizing of many work places in Ontario at least, it is difficult to find places that will accommodated to people with mental illness. You are often expected to work after hours or on weekends and God forbid you need to miss some days of work!

People with a treated mental illness are still creative and very capable but they need a more structured work-life situation in order to maintain their health and…actually, don't we all need this?

As volunteers we can contribute to something that matter to us. Although we are not being utilized as "work force" and many of us are part of the "stats" of unemployed or disabled people in this country, we still contribute many countless hours as volunteers.

It would be great if the public sector and private companies could realize the loss of creative human resources that is happening right now because they can't accommodate people who may not be able to work crazy long hours and without any rest.

The amazing journalistic effort undertaken by The Globe and Mail this week should be highly praised. And, it would be great if it doesn't stop here. Many smaller cities have only one psychiatrist who can't retire because .... "Who will take care of all his (her) patients?" In other towns the only emergency room closes at night and, where should you go if you are suicidal at 2 AM? Moreover, what should you do if your doctor is on summer vacation and there is no other doctor for you to call if you are not well? And, how can we help decrease the pain and toll of alcohol and drug use in native communities? These are just some of the questions and concerns I've heard on the phone while volunteering for a peer-support non-profit organization a few years ago.

Mr. Greenspon, I would like to thank you and your staff of journalists for the courage and effort demonstrated during this past week. God bless you all!

Posted Monday, June 30

Mary Henricksen from Victoria Canada writes: My maternal grandmother was one of 11; my mom always said that some of her aunts and uncles were a little bit ... strange. I know at least one of them was committed. My mom, near the end of her life, reflected that I only came along, 10 years after the others, because she was depressed and that she thought the only reason to live was to have something living inside her. My brother was schizophrenic, or at least that seemed to be the diagnosis that made sense after a decade of misery. My brother died, not of suicide, so common in schizophrenics, but of a toxic reaction to the wrong medication given to him by a provincial clinic in Vancouver. A happy intelligent boy, who grew up in Vancouver's tony Shaughnessy, whose life collapse in adolescence, died in a flop house on Powell Street.

I have two mentally ill cousins - one bipolar, one schizophrenic - both coping well with their illnesses with medication. I have chronic long-term depression, a diagnosis I refused to contemplate for years because of the stigma attached. I, too, am coping well, because my mother refused to give up on me, because my husband is strong, loving and understanding, because I found (after much trial and error) medication that works for me, and because I have been lucky to have a few friends and employers with empathy.

But the system for those like my brother who cannot cope, and who cannot find medication, is horribly broken. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to walk the street of any big city to see the human toll. Thank you to The Globe and to other readers who have had the courage to speak up. Now, let's not be quiet again.

Posted Monday June 30

Fran Kordoski from Victoria Canada writes: As i suspected, my comments that 'Mental Illness' is becoming the new status symbol among the young rather than a stigma, apparently did not make it past the moderator. Is there no room for the thought that maybe the pendulum is in danger of swinging too far?

Posted Monday June 30

Phyllis Baldwin from Toronto Canada writes: Well done everyone who has written this week about mental illness for The Globe and Mail. And thank you G&M for giving it such prominence. It is so true that very few families are unaffected by illness, mental or otherwise, and it is long past time to put mental illness on the front page.

Please, please, now that it is there do not let the discussion disappear. For those who feel smug now, there is always dementia that might be waiting . . .

Psychiatrists should be placed at the top of the specialties, not at the bottom. All health care workers who work with mental illness deserve our deepest appreciation and respect. And let us please lose the word 'shrink.' It shows the discomfort of the speaker. As we talk more, perhaps that will disappear.

Posted Monday June 30

K. Shepherd from Toronto Canada writes: The Globe and Mail has performed an incredibly philanthropic deed. To provide a forum for those touched by mental illness is an opportunity that begs participation. The G&M welcomes people who suffer from depression to "out" themselves here without shame or condemnation. That's heady stuff. There are millions of people in offices, on the subway, at the market, in traffic, who cope with varying forms of depression. Some are just an altercation away from erupting into explosive rage. A comment, an insult or simply cutting in front in line can light their fuse. If they blow, is it their fault, or not? It's a rude world out there. Power-tripping authority figures in the workplace and educational institutions are one source of extreme angst for most depressives. Workplace and school shootings are classic examples of mental illness gone wild. The tyrant boss or teacher is a stereotypical joke on TV and in movies but in reality, there's nothing funny about harassing people without forethought towards possible consequences. It's imperative that sensitivity training be forced on many in supervisory or authoritative positions. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours are lost, affecting the bottom lines for most workplaces. That's because 120% production is demanded but impossible to deliver. It's an absolutely unrealistic expectation. It causes extreme animosity between "management" and "managed" and is a viral breeding environment for depression. Depression has become an epidemic. It's an emergency! The solutions are to create awareness through public education about the realities versus the myths of mental illness. Another is, the government needs to be educated the most about the gravity of mental illness and provide useful funding, effective programs and more doctors to handle the pandemic. Thirdly, demand modification of unrealistic expectations in society, towards employees, students, kids, families. Basically, "lighten up!" Before it's too late.

Posted Monday June 30

MRS Baker from Richmond BC Canada writes: My loved one was first hospitalized in St Mike's in Toronto. He was found unconscious under a boiling hot running shower in a hotel room. He spent 3 days on a stretcher in emerg. He was then admitted for 17 days into the psychiatric ward. It was the first time he had received any meaningful treatment. I was elated with relief! Unfortunately, after 17 days someone (Nurse Ratchet?) decided he had had enough and he was ejected onto a cold Toronto street at 6 pm in February. My pleas fell on deaf ears. He did not have an OHIP number. I was in another province thousands of km away. He needed much more treatment. Happily he did not die alone on the streets of Toronto that night, but with NO thanks to the Toronto mental health system, which I think is in crisis. After many more crises and a final desperate 911 call, he spent about four months in hospital that year, in BC.

Mental illness should not be the devastating nightmare that it is. Patients should not have to be in crisis to begin receiving treatment. The G&M series is a good beginning. I hope they keep it alive, front and centre, for all politicians to read and form policy around. While Andre Picard has sound suggestions to help our woeful system, many of them do not sound like 'on the ground' immediate solutions. This is urgent! So, while a 10 Billion dollar 'fund' sounds good, here is one thing patients and families can do right now to help: Buy and read and keep by your bedside the book 'When Someone you love had a mental illness' by Rebecca Wooliss. It saved our family. I would also probably change the order of his list, moving housing closer to the top. Clean supported housing is essential for treatment to work. Changing meds is a highly dangerous time, and should be done in hospital under 24/7 supervision. Expand educational programs to include training for all university professors who often see kids just as their illness is beginning. Just some thoughts that would help.

Posted Monday June 30

Brian Jones from Canada writes: Although there is evidence that mental illness--in the brain chemical sense--exists, I wonder if the lies of capitalism and the 'media' preclude hope. Because I think hope, justice, for some, may be the cure. That's all: hope, justice. Sustainable communities. A life less reliant on oil. But I am anecdotal. One person, one life, one mind. How could any informed person not be considered mentally ill if they realized the implications of the greed that mounts society. We are all taught that my house, my car, my gear, my this, my that, is the end. Me. Me. Me. MY taxes are too high. MY gas costs too much. MY GREAT country, Canada, colludes with the Americans to kill people in poorer nations. The Liberals were no good, the NDP are posers, Steven loves Jesus. Jesus is coming soon. HE, great GOD Jesus, will bring a new heaven, a new earth. Therefore, it doesn't matter if the AMERICANS, Canada's military oil allies, shoot off depleted uranium shells on the Iraqi children. No problem, we have hamburger's. Oh?

I am diagnosed bi-polar. Or something else. These brilliant doctors, our saviours, our gods--they can't figure me out. Bi-polar? How about the general term: adjustment disorder, recurring, of course. Minimalize me. Medicate me. Hide me away. Oh?

But how can god be stupid? How can Jesus be a lie? That's not what they taught me in Sunday school. How can these great psychiatrists be so simple? I am simple. I am mentally ill. Medicate me. Take my mind away. Deny me my mind. Deny the criminal activity of the wealthy. Deny the criminal activity of the Canadian government. I just think that hope--truth--justice-- might be better than Resperidal, Effexor, or some other poison. I'll post more if the G and M censures post this.

Posted Monday, June 30

Janet Bain from London Canada writes: I have a son who was diagnosed with Bi Polar Type 1 with Schizophrenic tendencies in 2005. He was 21 by then and we had been going thru hell for about a year. We had many trips to our family physician before he saw what my husband and daughter were seeing. Josh became obsessed with Jesus. He started going to church. He felt the birds were talking to him. If he became agitated he would bang with his foot on the floor, or thump with his fist on the wall or table - 3 times. It has been a long journey but we have come thru this. Josh is doing well now. The frustrations that we have experienced along the way have been many.

It is amazing all the people you need to know to get little bits of information to lead you in the right direction. Out of all these people not one of them knows the whole picture. I've had to piece things together. Why don't the doctors, hospitals, psychiatrists, The Mental Health System know how to point you in the right direction to get the help you need? Why is there no information packages available to the public? Why are the drugs not free to people with mental health issues. The cost of some of these drugs can be $400.00 a MONTH. There is now wonder a lot of people do not stay on their medication as they cannot afford it. If there is free medications out there I would love to know where to get them. Janet

Posted Monday June 30

Barney Bangs from Ottawa Canada writes: The week long series on mental illness has been very enlightening. I have suffered from OCD for several years. Until the age of 24 and prior to my first marriage, I suffered using my own repetitive methods. After marriage, I had a difficult time coping and entered therapy. The negative thoughts kept coming back. It became difficult to function including keeping a job and maintaining a 'normal' marriage. After four years of marriage, the relationship collapsed. It became difficult to keep a job and I was hospitalized on two different occasions. I was finally diagnosed with OCD, was prescribed medication and participated both in group therapy and CBT. As I approach my 52nd birthday, I have just completed more CBT and I am off medication.

I am happy to report that I have 'kept going' and I am now a 'successful' businessman being President and co-owner of four different companies (two in Canada and two in the United States) employing over one hundred employees. I have been in a 'happy' relationship for the last sixteen years, the last six in marriage. My family is very supportive and help out when I reach out for their assistance. My OCD is still a struggle. Everyday I have to work hard to overcome the obstacles of OCD. I am thankful that I am self employed as on the 'bad days' I can work from home. I would encourage anyone suffering from mental illness never to give up as I am living proof that you can be successful.

Posted Monday June 30

Patrick MacGillivray from Ottawa Canada writes: I would just like to thank The Globe and Mail for their effort to bring mental illness and the stigma associated with it to the fore as a vital issue facing Canadians and people all over the world. I am a resident physician here in Ottawa and experienced 3 years of major depression before finding a medication that has kept me healthy. Having experienced mental illness from both sides of the fence I have to echo the sentiments expressed by so many others - people with mental illness are so often dehumanized and treated as second class citizens within the health care system and in society at large.

The only way we can change this is to educate and raise awareness of the reality that mental illnesses are rampant, they are medical illnesses, and it is a moral tragedy that those afflicted have been treated so poorly for so long. I applaud this week long series and hope for continued efforts by the responsible media to draw attention to the reality of mental illness.

Posted Monday June 30

Hugh Kerr from Waterloo Canada writes: Thanks for your series on 'mental health'. I was hit by depression, suddenly, in my late 40's. I came close, on different occasions, to crashing a car into a carefully selected spot, jumping from a high height, or using a knife. Thanks to a very supportive wife who acted quickly to get help, (including time in a psych ward), supportive doctors and later counsellors (because the psychiatrist help became unavailable after a time- apparently related to government funding), friends and a series of antidepressants / dosages, I think I am now stable - on a low level of antidepressants.

Some of the help available to me over 15 years ago is no longer available, and I sympathize greatly with people who have recently encountered this problem, especially if like me they had previously been perceived to be very successful. The stigma of being 'damaged goods' certainly is very strong: partly because people do not know how to talk to you about it- or don't want to, and partly because your moods (especially in bipolar cases like me) may make you very difficult to work with. Even devoted spouses get tired of hearing how awful the world is, how difficult life is, how unsuccessful and useless one is- especially if they do not agree. Workmates have less time and often less compassion.

The Globe's priorities are very important. One could argue about the order, and the sums, but they are a good start. Community treatment plans, and linking them to advisory groups for families and campaigns to 'fight the stigma' are crucial. There is hope for many who become depressed. The task is to convince both them and their families and work[places. It needs both money and time.

Posted Monday, June 30

Chris Emberson from Orillia Canada writes: I have been very lucky and I have been blessed with many helpful and supportive people during my journey through mental illness.

I was diagnosed with a mood disorder 30 years ago after I became very depressed during my first job after university. I left that job and returned home to Toronto. In the ensuing time I have been hospitalized several times and attempted suicide a number of times as well. I can't say that I always received excellent care but there were a number of mental health care workers who worked hard on my behalf. I have also had a number of wonderful friends and family members who have taken time to help me.

My comment for sufferers, friends and family is to educate yourself as much as possible and to work to help your self as much as possible.

Posted Monday, June 30

LMCASS from Red Deer writes: Your articles on Mental Health during the last week really hit home for me. My husband became significantly depressed a few months following the birth of our third child. He saw a psychologist who recommended anti-depressants with counselling. The first prescription made him more depressed. He was suicidal many times over the next few years. Finally medication got him 'out of the black hole'.

I attempted to give my three children a relatively normal life. When he was very depressed I had to leave the children with someone else. I confided in only one friend about how bad the depression really was. I could not tell any of my co-workers. He confided only in his family physician and his psychologist. His psychologist after a year, went on to commit suicide. We went to marriage counselling and I went for individual counselling. Four years later, our marriage ended.

Looking back, I know how little we told our family and friends about the depression. We became quite isolated as his depression remained. I would have talked about a physical disability more easily. Although I can talk about my former husband's depression now, I can tell very few people about my 21-year-old son that was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder a few years ago. Unfortunately he is unwilling to be treated. I continue to hope that with medication and counselling in the future, he will realize that there is a better life. I cried over stories where so many families and friends try to make situations work. Maybe this will help me to start talking to others about my son. After all if it is easy to talk about my teeth that require three crowns, my knees that have trouble doing stairs, then why can't a mental health issue have the same status?

Posted Monday June 30

carolyn boyce from Canada writes: The Globe is doing a tremendous job in truth-telling - how imperfect the medications, how inadequate the supports, how profound the stigma. The Globe's editorial (28/06/08) comments, 'And because these patients and their families tend not to shout, scream and demand the help they need, governments have not developed a full range of supports for them.' I would add that most people immediately affected by a major mental illness are just too exhausted.

It will take the community at large to effect change. Also, currently, to ask for help is to risk being doubly shamed. This is true at every level, from family and friends (the 'pull up your socks', or better yet, 'exercise') to the medical institutions and personnel who are `helpers.' If you have a severe illness or are treatment resistant (no matter how treatment compliant), sympathy can become indifference or contempt.

The `recovery' story while intended to reduce stigma can actually increase it. An individual (sometimes famous) has denied a mental illness, admitted to it, took medication and is now `recovered.' It smacks of religious revivalism and an easy solution. For those who have never had the `luxury' of denying their illness, who have faithfully taken an increasingly complex cocktail of medications and are still not well, the `recovery' story suggests that they are just not trying hard enough. I also suspect a `brave face' in this. Right now, there is no cure. I suspect `recovered' people are working extremely hard to be `O.K.' enough to be accepted, to not make other people uncomfortable. Currently, all medications work imperfectly and have considerable side effects. In this important series, many people have spoken out. Let's hope that the response is more than sage head nodding. The initiatives cannot come from those suffering without adequate resources. They must come from society at large. Denial serves no one. Let the averted face become direct and dedicated to change. Carolyn Struthers

Posted Monday June 30

Toby Trompeter from Canada writes: Thank you so much for your series - I hope it achieves everything you hope for. I would like to call attention to the fact that so many people wish to be pro-active in terms of mental health, both for themselves and for their children. And yet, what is heartbreaking is that there are so few opportunities for therapy that are not cost prohibitive. Why can we not fund visits to psychologists, analysts, and others licensed to practice psychotherapy under our provincial health coverage?

I am sure that so much anguish could be relieved and damaged prevented if we only made this one change in our current mental health care system. What about the marriages that could be saved with the proper counselling? It is almost a bad joke that so much emphasis is being placed on trying to remove the stigma of seeking help, while those who are already mindful and taking that brave action cannot get it because it is just too expensive; or else people have to make huge outlays of money for therapy, only adding to the burden of their difficulties.

Another unspoken problem is the arrogance, boredom and apathy in the attitudes of many practitioners out there whose main concern is the bottom line and NOT the welfare of the troubled souls who come to them for help. There should be a complaints bureau where such behaviour might be reported and some governing body to keep standards in check.

Posted Monday, June 30

Barb Thompson from Kingston Canada writes: Reading the articles on depression and anxiety as well as the postings and letters have had a profound effect on me. My first husband, my son and my daughter have all suffered from clinical depression. We have been blessed with a wonderful psychiatrist who has been a support to the whole family. What a difference it makes to have a skilled and caring clinician. We have also been fortunate in that those around us - family and friends - have not been influenced by any stigma attached to mood disorders. When my son was diagnosed at age 17, his friends rallied round. When my husband went through a manic episode and was hospitalized, his colleagues in his profession gave him a chance to re-enter the workplace in a modified work plan and today he is fully engaged in his profession. My daughter still struggles with anxiety and this makes it hard for her to enter her chosen profession. As the wife and mother I know what the 'lead weight on the chest' feels like and I know what it is lie awake at night with worry. I know what the suicide watch is like. But I cannot imagine what it must be like to live without good medical and without social support. We have been lucky. Millions of others have not and it is time for that to change. Thank you, Globe and Mail, for an outstanding series.

Posted Monday, June 30

Suzanne Solnik from Toronto writes: Nine years ago my husband took his own life at the age of 40, leaving behind me and my two children who were 2 and 8. He had been diagnosed with depression 3 years previously, and was successfully treated with medication. However, he changed medications to try and minimize side effects, and quickly spiralled out of control. He had never been suicidal during the entire course of his illness, until the last few weeks. We had recently moved to Toronto from Hamilton, where he was an accomplished physician. Because of the 'connections' we had with the medical community in Hamilton, as soon as he became ill, which was very suddenly, he received immediate care. This was not the case in Toronto, which I feel contributed to his death. He was still being followed by his psychiatrist in Hamilton, but when it became clear that his condition had become extremely serious, my family doctor told me that if I wanted to get him help in Toronto, the only way was to show up at an emergency department. There was no other way to be seen by a psychiatrist. He viewed a hospital admission as his last bastion of hope, and voluntarily admitted himself to a local facility. This turned out to be nothing more than a holding cell. The staff was anything but warm and caring, and the whole experience was humiliating and demoralizing. This was, if not the last, a huge nail in his coffin. He was released from the hospital on a Thursday, and they could not even find a psychiatrist to do follow up. Friday afternoon he jumped in front of a subway. Not a day goes by without feeling the pain of his absence, and wondering how things would be different for my children if he were alive. But I saw how much he suffered, and how little help there was available for him, and so I understand why he did what he did. No one is handing out awards to the mentally ill, as they do for others who struggle with physical conditions, but their efforts are just as heroic.

Posted Sunday, June 29

K. Shepherd from Toronto writes: In 2005 I developed major depression. I lost all my creativity & couldn't work as a freelance artist anymore. Family & friends distanced themselves. Others said, "Snap out of it!" My savings and credit maxed, and without disability insurance, I was in trouble. I appealed to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). They sent me to Ontario Works, (OW) where I received only $520 a month. I felt shamed to be on welfare but the depression wouldn't "leave" so I could make things better. My memory suffered and I became unsure and timid. I could only afford to buy cereal so I developed anemia. I fell behind in my rent, Hydro, Bell and cable. I needed to act but was too sick to pack my house and business and move everything into storage. Finally, I was evicted and over the following week, the landlord threw everything I owned in a dumpster parked in my driveway. He wouldn't allow me to get my property out. He destroyed over $25,000 worth of furniture, $20,000 worth of my art business and over $10,000 in art. My beds, dishes, carpets, drapes, clothes, food, etc., all went out. I was homeless for two months. I cried in bus shelters and people's basements. Nobody wanted me. In July 2005, I found a tiny room with a lumpy bed, for $500 a month. The landlady was a tyrant. Once, her boyfriend made improper comments to me but I just "took it" as there was nowhere else to go. One day, I entered hospital emergency, with quiet, tearful thoughts of suicide. I was shocked at the stark lack of concern shown by doctors. They sent me home, untreated. Three other times, I visited different hospitals' ER's. The staff treated me contemptuously each time. I had to find my own help. I'm now being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and with the compassionate aid of my expert therapist, I'll join this cruel world again. But today, at my age, I doubt I will ever be able to restore my business and reclaim the standard of living I had before depression changed my life.

Posted Sunday, June 29

Tricia W. from Calgary writes: Fifteen years ago I had a choice of perimenopause or depression. My doctor did the tests and decided on the latter, and prescribed medication. In 2006 I started missing work because I would wake up in the morning and literally could not force myself to get out of bed. My supervisor told me to fix my problem and stop missing work. She obviously thought I was faking my problem. My work attendance did not improve and last November she sent me for a 'fitness for work' assessment. The doctor who assessed me got it and put me on restricted hours. My supervisor still did not believe. I have seen 5 doctors, 3 counsellors and a psychiatrist. None of them has questioned the fact I am depressed; they are interested in finding out why and helping me fix what is dented and broken. Every time I brought in an updated fitness for work form from my doctor, my supervisor asked me when I would be back to full duties. Her support and concern has always boiled down to 'fix it'. Employers need more education to help them understand that people do not want to be depressed, but some of us are. It is a sickness, not an excuse to stay home from work. It helps to know that you are believed when you ask for help. I am back at work full time now but only because I decided by myself - and subsequently with my doctor - that it was time for me to do it. My supervisor continues to be as abusive as ever. I am waiting for her to ask me how I enjoyed my 7-month holiday.

Posted Sunday, June 29

Jean-Victor Côté from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville writes: Workplace support for people suffering from mental health problems is a great idea in theory, but in practice it is like prompting the sorcerers to report to the Great Inquisition. Stand up and be counted among the excommunicated, i.e. those who will hit a wall whenever they want to be in the know and hold meaningful roles in the workplace. If rumour has it that you suffer from a mental illness, then you must obtain clearance either from a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but the stain of the insinuation on your reputation might stay on anyway, foremost in the minds of your co-workers. Especially if you do not want to submit to a professional investigation, whatever your reasons since there will be nobody to hear about them. There are no doubt many high minded individuals in those professions, but there are also many self serving ones. It is the latter that will misdiagnose treatable but incurable illnesses that will justify their protracted intervention and pander to the prejudices of those who will foot the bill. One may very well recover from mental sickness, if there was any to start with, only to be overcome by prejudice stickiness or the ensuing professional malpractice. Weaning from that kind of medication can make you sick. Legislation against workplace harassment is a laudable initiative in this regard, but the burden of proof is on the victim, if I am not mistaken. If the victim's testimony can be discounted because of a suspected mental sickness, then harassment can continue unabated and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constructive dismissal is what you do to someone when you have no grounds to fire him. And protection against discrimination in hiring practices for those who appealed to authorities against wrongful dismissal is non-existent. No witness protection program for them. Fortunately, it is still a criminal act to push someone who is out of his mind to suicide, whether or not the harassment is what brought the victim out of his mind.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Lori Savory from St. John's writes: I applaud the Globe and Mail for this series, and what it is doing to lessen the stigma of mental illness in Canada. Unfortunately, a significant category of mental illnesses has been left out of the discussions. Eating disorders affect a large number of households in Canada, yet the resources available for treatment are minimal. Many of the people suffering are teenagers and young adults. Eating disorders are misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated. They affect every aspect of the sufferer's life and that of their family. They are life-destroying, life-threatening and lifelong. It wasn't until my family was touched twice by this horrific disorder that I realized the plight of those afflicted and the nightmare that families face. As with the other mental disorders you've profiled, eating disorders need to be discussed and understood.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Sylvia Paris from Toronto writes: I have been depressed on and off since adolescence, with no treatment until my thirties. I missed my teen years (the happy times anyways) because of this. Suicide has been thought of often as a way to end the pain. I have a strong family history on both sides, but my parents never recognized it in me and neither did I at the time. I was just sad most of the time and found it difficult to get from day to day. I always felt 'different' from others, as if I was leading a parallel life with a glass between me and the rest of the 'happy' world. I have 3 children, and I have made them aware of our shared history and have encouraged them to talk to me or to seek professional help on their own if they are feeling as I did. So far, all 3 seem to have been spared. With the help of therapy and medication, I am now in my 60's, and am doing OK, but the depression is always at the door for me, so I am ever diligent. This is a life-long illness but it can be managed and life can be better. It takes time and effort, but also understanding and assistance from others, especially spouses and parents. It is too hard to do all by oneself.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Elisabeth Robinson from Ottawa writes: I couldn't agree more with today's editorial in the Globe and Mail: Efforts to eliminate the stigma of mental illness are important, but they will be of little use if effective services are not available. Like many who have written in already, I have had a protracted struggle with mental illness - in my case, depression - and, until recently, received insufficient, inadequate, and sometimes downright retraumatizing 'help.' The main reason that I am now, in my forties, receiving better support is because I can afford it (and just barely, since my 'excellent' benefits cover only a tiny portion of the cost of therapy). It's a sad statement on our 'public' health care system. Since my early twenties when I first sought help, 'mental health professionals' of various sorts have: refused me help because I 'didn't qualify'; browbeaten me for being angry; given me long complex psychological tests, and told me little to nothing about what they revealed: 'It shows that you are impulsive'; made me take an IQ test, told me that it came out really high and that I could do anything I wanted, so just get on with it; told me I'm a privileged middleclass kid who has nothing to complain about and just needs to stop feeling sorry for herself (after, I went to work, burst into tears, and lost my job); told me, after one visit, they don't want to do therapy with me because I'm too negative; after finding me drugs that helped, refused my request for referral to therapy because 'therapy doesn't work'. Enough. I have finally controlled my troubles with drugs, dietary changes (I was diagnosed celiac and environmentally sensitive) and therapy. I think that people like me should be invited to be involved in fixing the present system. This system re-victimizes people with mental health issues by making them fell like hopeless rejects. It provides too little, too late, at too great a personal expense. Thank you Globe and Mail for providing this forum.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Fran Kordoski from Canada writes: I will probably be dismissed as unsympathetic and unenlightened. However I feel compelled to say that your statistics refer to those 'diagnosed' with a mental illness. This does not always mean they actually HAVE one. Far from being a stigma, this has grown to be almost a status symbol. Teenagers are sharing news about their latest bi-polar medication like they would about a new shampoo. I know several who have gone to a clinic, to a doctor who is meeting them for the first time, and walked out with a prescription and a diagnosis. Anyone who suggests that one can use logic to recognize irrational thoughts, and develop the ability to face them down with behavioural techniques, is vilified, unless they are a psychiatrist or counsellor who labels this advice 'Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.' I do realize that people are suffering and may need intensive help. But a reality check is needed. True mental illness is being trivialized when every episode of distress causes alarm bells, hysteria and self-identification as 'someone with a condition' that will require life-long medication. How depressing must that be?

Posted Saturday, June 28

Mark Roop from Canada writes: Hi, first thanks to this newspaper for taking a huge step to bring all this out into the open. For me, mental illness has been part of my life about as much as physical illness. Cancer got me at 5 ... how I survived is still strange to me. Unfortunately as a kid growing up with this I had to keep everything sterile clean at home... Separate bathroom.. separate towels etc... Somewhere along the line a switch went on and couldn't turn off... OCD was the result. Being afraid of going anywhere much less school was next to impossible. Treatment was spotty at best, psychiatrists were either too willing to shove pills down my throat or were too preoccupied on their theory on how to help (i.e. its all 'stress related'). Finally I went to college and seemed good for about five years and seemed to improve on my own. Around year six, with other factors involved, I wanted to end it all and sought help for it. Depression was what the campus medics thought, so again more pills. At that point I tried numerous times that I thought it was more than depression, but again I was ignored. At the end of that year I moved and again for a while things were good. Then i crashed again. This time I was hospitalized and given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Finally someone got it right. Unfortunately then though I had to move again for work reasons and have new people treating me. Not so good. I don't know which is worse, waking up in the morning not knowing who wears your face, washing like crazy or having doctors and therapists that just shove pills at you, not listen to you, treat you as person, not a disease. If we want to fix the system we need mental health professionals who are willing to listen to us fully and not just whip out the Rx pad and to treat us as individuals and tailor programs to meet out individual needs. For example, CBT is treatment plan and does not work for everyone.. and medication... well... don't say because you have this or that you have to be on 'x' mgs of medication 'X'.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Laura Nagel from Kingston writes: My only sibling killed himself 10 years ago when he was in his early thirties. I told my friends at that time that he died in a car accident, because it was easier than explaining that he developed schizophrenia when he was 15, and lived a difficult, lost life until his death. Now I tell people the truth: that he died because I failed him, his psychiatrist failed him, his family doctor failed him, his family and friends failed him, his school failed him, his country failed him. I would like to think that, if my children develop schizophrenia, it will be different for them.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Paul de G from Toronto writes: At long last, a very welcome addition to the true crisis that is besetting Canada. Mental health which has been ignored to our great detriment these past few decades is now exacting an incredibly heavy toll. As someone who works in the Criminal Justice system, I am continually appalled at the way in which the mentally ill are criminalized and warehoused. One wouldn't have thought that this would occur in Canada in the 21st century, but it does. This series does a long overdue service to those who suffer from mental illness by suggesting some very worthwhile remedies. The fear, echoed by other writers, is that this concern will just dissipate once the series is over. My question would be why there is such a proliferation in mental disorders in terms of prevalence as well as in variety of disorders. The standard response is that it is just because it is now more out in the open, but I wonder if there is something else at work here. Social breakdown, for one, would seem to be a contributing factor, as is disconnectedness and isolation. If this is the cost for the type of society that we are creating, then one wonders if it is worth the price. After all, we all collectively suffer if the mentally ill among us, are treated in such a unsatisfactory manner. Our humanity is really at stake.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Diane Dawber from Kingston writes: Dear Globe and Mail, I have witnessed a friend's son changing instantly from rational, commonplace conversation to wild, delusional talk. The trigger was a whiff of gasoline fumes. I have witnessed my friend change, from depressed and unable to accomplish anything to upbeat and forging ahead, by eliminating wheat from her diet. I have myself changed, from weeping at the drop of the hat to cheering on myself and everyone else, by adding minerals and vitamins in carefully selected types and amounts according to my genetic requirements. Since my mother committed suicide, I was in a high risk category and now I'm far from that. Nowhere in the series have I seen anyone suggest that simple things, like environment, diet and nutrition, have an impact on mental health. Wouldn't it make sense (and be cheaper) to do these things first before boring holes in skulls, applying electric shocks or spending years on medications and talk therapy? Our support group has just been studied (by the Environmental Health Clinic with U. of T. Medical School) and found to be one of the only successful models, simply because we address these simple issues. Please don't let your readers down by missing out on the most basic . Simple is good.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Jaeger Polotzski from Canada writes: I wanted to thank The Globe for publishing such an in-depth series on mental health issues in Canada. I am a young physician who has struggled for many years with depression and PTSD stretching back into my teens, and finally I am receiving help after almost hanging myself just after finishing my medical degree. Even though as part of my work I dealt with numerous patients with mental health issues, I feared being 'found out' by my peers and colleagues. I still fear it to some degree. One of the biggest issues in treating patients with mental health issues in the community is the lack of resources for counselling. I find myself often unable to get my patients therapy unless they have private means of paying for it. At over $140/hr for a qualified psychologist, patients are often medicated instead. Provincial health plans will pay for physicians' services but many psychiatrists do not provide psychotherapy and are focused more on psychopharmacology. The last patient I referred for counselling at a provincially-funded centre was placed on a one-year waitlist. The problem of the mental health crisis spares no one. In my very short career, I have already lost colleagues to suicide. I hope that The Globe's series will wake the government up to the cancer of the mind, and that finally this problem will receive the attention it needs and deserves.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Jose Gonzalez from Edmonton writes: My 25-year-old son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year ago, and the life of each member of the family has been affected since then. All of us have been in a roller coaster during the past year, seeing him stopping a promising professional career, losing his possessions one by one, friends, etc. I was also out of work for four months because of severe depression last fall. In our Hispanic culture, it is a big shame and stigma to recognize ourselves with a mental health problem; for some of our people, mental health problems do not actually exist. I truly thank you The Globe and Mail for this series because publishing stories from real people is a proper approach. Mental health in Canada can be addressed in an effective way by all stakeholders: Government, health providers, agencies, patients and their families and friends.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Arlene Saunders from Elora writes: Why? Why are psychiatrists at the bottom of the doctor pay scale? Why are dermatologists at the top of the doctor pay scale? Why did it take over six months for my son to see a psychiatrist? I think there is a co-relation. Why did the police assume my son was lying? Why did the police almost kill him in the booking room? Why didn't the police notify us that he was in custody? I think there is a co-relation. Why did my son enter a psychotic state? Why did he loose all his friends and his ability to do any task? Why did all of our worlds crumble around his? I think there is a co-relation. Why did it take over two years to prove his innocence? Why was he on curfew for over two years? Why was life stolen from my 16-year-old son? I think there is a co-relation. Why is he now living on his own? Why are there support workers helping him? Why is he working, whenever he can? I think his is very strong, and.... there is a co-relation. I made myself a promise that I would do everything in my power to make sure that he did not end up on the streets, in jail or dead - and because of the sorry state of our mental health and justice system he was heading like a runaway train to all of those scenarios. It has taken four years. He is diagnosed schizophrenic. He is on medication that keeps him thinking more clearly. He has not touched a sip of alcohol or pot in a year and a half. He is amazing. His reality is not conventional - but it is not harmful, he is unique. We need more help.

Posted Saturday, June 28

B. S. from Toronto writes: I have been immersed in the world of mental health not as an individual suffering from depression, but rather as a sister, sister-in-law, aunt, wife, mother and daughter of those afflicted with various mental illnesses. At times my life has been turned upside down as I attempted to be a supporting relative to my loved ones. Due to the importance of privacy because of the stigma of mental illness, I have often been isolated during those periods which led me to seek professional help and to confide in only the closest of friends. I am very happy and joyous in my own existence but sometimes the weight of supporting those around me has been heavy. Often friends assume I suffer from a mood disorder because I am depleted. I silently accept this but it is something I struggle with. Sometimes I'd like to climb to the top of a hill and share my reality with all those who sit in judgment. I can't begin to imagine if I feel this way how someone suffering with mental illness feels. We have a long way to go. One suggestion I have would be to gradually do away with the term 'mental illness' as it is too closely associated with visions from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I'm not sure what term should be adopted, but if we are to view it the same as other biological diseases, let's give it a name like 'Diabetes' or 'Parkinson's'. 'Mental' is like Kleenex--it's not going to change it's perception easily.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Walter Wilmot from Ottawa writes: Here's some of my story. My journey of recovery has taken me through the "stages of grief" - shock, denial, despair, anger, acceptance, hope and now, a level of empowerment. During the first five years of illness I looked outside myself for solutions (change occupations, change cities, change relationships etc.). The second five years, out of desperation, I searched for medications; I tried about a dozen of them, to no effect. I settled on Nardil (an old fashioned MAOI), the only one that worked, somewhat. On this medicine I gained 50 pounds, began smoking and was so agitated and wired I hardly slept. I took this for three years. The next five years I began taking responsibility for my healing, realizing that no doctor or counsellor was going to fix me. I learned to quit running away from my negative moods, instead to be with them in the Present Moment, learned to love & accept myself, connect with others (love), and provide service to others. Nonetheless, too often, I've been in survival mode, dragging myself from professional appointment to professional appointment. That was the extent of my "life." I felt I had the emotional equivalent of the Ebola Virus i.e. incurable. My biggest fear was ending up in a psychiatric hospital — something my self-image wouldn't allow me to do. During this time I saw the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of Christ with a group of Monastic Priests. After the show, I told them that I would gladly exchange my years of suffering for the physical / psychic suffering of Christ. And what has been the response of the bulk of my family, friends, co workers and acquaintances? "Don't tell and don't ask." The psychiatrist I was seeing during this time was useless, utterly useless! Like many people with a mood disorder I didn't have the energy to find another doctor. To me there's no quick fix, it's a journey. I see mental illness as a 20-piece puzzle, yours being different from mine.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Jeff Kelland from St. John's writes: I wish to commend the Globe and Mail for devoting a full week to mental health. Rarely are such features as substantial, as comprehensive and compassionate, or as clearly devoted to helping advance the issues. I have been a public advocate for mental health here in St. John's, Newfoundland for eight years now, following my emergence from decades of disabling depression in 2000. I delivered a presentation to the command staff of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, gave testimony at the Reid/Power Inquiry, and since 2000 I have added to my BA (hons.) in philosophy with a Diploma in Applied Ethics (spec. in mental health ethics), and I am presently working on a Master's thesis in Community Health in the School of Medicine at Memorial University. I look to make further contributions in this area with mental health and illness research, and by putting my range of credentials to work to inform and improve the public understanding, and influence public policy in this area. Toward this end, my thesis is a critical analysis of the CIHR health research funding database; to ascertain Canada's health research priorities by determining the relative proportion of funding across all thirteen of the CIHR's 13 virtual institutes and, more specifically, to delve into the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction funding database to provide a breakdown of its funding allocations. All findings will be graphically illustrated. It is my hope that the findings of my research will be used by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the public at large, and organizations working in all areas of health research; and the analysis of the database, both generally and specifically, may well be of value to the CIHR itself. May I take this opportunity to encourage any and all individuals and organizations who share these goals to stay the course, and to once again thank the Globe and Mail for such a timely and significant contribution to the cause.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Jill Campbell-Miller from Canada writes: I don't think I want to leave the name of the city because I'm still scared my brother will find me. Even though it is sort of ridiculous. I haven't seen him in nearly ten years. He has some form of schizophrenia, I think. He's never been properly diagnosed, because in Nova Scotia the mental health care for a rural person at that time was non-existent. He was the nicest person imaginable, so creative, so imaginative, so funny. But definitely odd. He couldn't write legibly, he had trouble with table manners. Then he started to act strangely. He couldn't get up for school in the morning. One night he said the clock was talking. Worst of all, he was violent, and my parents also had to make the difficult to choice to have him arrested to protect us. He went to a mental health centre (in Dartmouth, I believe it is closed now) but was released. I'm fuzzy on the details because I was only 8 or 9. Miraculously, he made it through university, but the disease started to affect him again. He came home when I was fifteen. Needless to say, things didn't go well. He was violent and delusional again, I left because I didn't feel safe, he left again. The hardest part about it is that my father died a few years later of leukemia without knowing where his son was, or even if he was alive. We don't have the money to hire someone to find him. My guess is he is on the street somewhere. I hope people give him money, and don't ignore him. I hope he's somewhere, stable on medication, living well, and just doesn't contact us because his delusional memory tells him we were awful people. My parents tried their best, but we didn't have a lot of money or knowledge. The best part about your article was that it showed that even people with a lot of resources who know the system have trouble getting help. What chance did we have?

Posted Saturday, June 28

Karen MacAdam from Toronto writes: I have been struggling with depression and anxiety disorders for three years now. I teach in the Toronto area and when struck down with these mental illnesses, I was at the top of my career. Now I'll be lucky if I can find a job teaching a subject I love dearly. My school board and administration have been so unsupportive and I would like to know how the largest board in North America can go on enabling the stigma and lose incredibly passionate teachers.

Posted Saturday, June 28

Lindapc Foothills Rocky Mountains from Canada writes: The mental health of all Canadians is at risk. As a society we try to sweep mental health under the carpet, keep it in the dark where it belongs. In my family when our mother had mental health issues, she was locked away in a prison-type setting, subjected to various wonder drugs, given electric shock treatment, and in the end her mental health only declined over the years. She had undiagnosed Diabetes. My step-daughter has mental illness and she gets a shot every two weeks to keep the voices at bay; does she actually ever get any help? Probably not. There are really no perfect settings for the multitude of individuals that suffer from severe depression, anxiety and/or any other mental condition. Places like Kingston Mental Hospital, where my mother resided for some period of time I believe are still operating. What good do they do?

Posted Saturday, June 28

Sensitive Sue from Canada writes: I have had Depression for 25 years but it took me 21 years to admit I had an illness. I saw my depressive episodes as weaknesses caused by situational circumstances. Each time I had a depressive episode, it would present itself differently. Eventually I came to accept that Depression is an illness that has physical causes and can be triggered by external events. Except for my medical practitioners, family and very close friends, nobody knew what a painful ordeal I went through. There was reason for such reticence, given the platitudes, erroneous perceptions and minimizations people say to someone suffering from the disease. I developed an amazing skill at hiding my pain from others. I had a job managing a not-for-profit organization whose mission was to provide compassion for those when they need it the most--when faced with a life-threatening illness. My creative juices were always flowing around the intent and mission of the organization, however there were unhealthy stresses and practices that put my mental health at risk. I tipped over the edge and went into another relapse that crushed my spirit and even my will to live. This time I made a suicide attempt. I have been really hurt and bothered by the lack of support I received from my colleagues. Here I was working for an organization that advertises its compassionate care to those living with a life threatening illness or with grief by offering information, support, hope, choice, dignity and meaning. However, I was isolated and experienced negative behaviours from others. No cards, e-mails, phone calls, flowers, meals, invitations for coffee -- nothing. My past performance at work has been discounted and my problem has not been put in context of my work history. In reality, it seems like they are casting me aside. The irony and disillusion of it all is mind boggling. If I had a physical illness, they would have supported me. We have a long way to go in erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Posted Friday, June 27

Sandra Klapstein from Canada writes: Thank you, G&M, for running this series of articles & comments. I have read through all the submissions, & find so many which could have been taken from 'my book'. First, though, I would like to make a comment.

Harold Maio from Florida is a man with a long string of 'qualifications' behind his name. He said he is 'far too educated' to stigmatize 'people with mental illness', 'people with physical illness' or 'people without illness'. Sorry, Harold, we are all just people with the only label attached: 'people of the world'. We all have our own cross to bear. I hate to judge, but could yours be lack of humility?

My cross? I was diagnosed almost 9 years ago with severe clinical depression & anxiety disorder with panic attacks, & all the lovely goodies to go with it (eg. short term memory loss, et al).

Fortunately, I have a wonderful family GP who had seen it coming & was watching for it. When I crashed, I crashed hard! With his help, & the usual amount of trial & error with psychologists, psychiatrists, & combinations of meds, I now have a psychiatrist with whom I have good rapport. We have found the right 'cocktail' of meds which have me functioning fairly well. I will never be the same as I was, but I have accepted it, & am no longer ashamed to talk about my illness.

My children have a hard time accepting me as I am, even though 2 of them have & are going through depressions of their own. My grandchildren love me anyway. I was also lucky enough to have a good benefit plan through work, & now, with that & CPP disability, I can almost make ends meet (until someone moves the ends!). I will never be able to return to work.

To Heather Lee from Toronto wanting a Psych. Service Dog - it is not necessary. I was adopted by a beautiful RottweilerxG. Shep. from my local SPCA. She gives me unconditional TLC & always senses my feelings & instinctively does the right thing. It's hard to contemplate suicide when you are doubled over in laughter!

Posted Friday, June 27

Ellen Richardson from Toronto Canada writes: I was delusional from Sept. 2000 to July 2001, having been diagnosed with major depression in my 20's. I am now 44.

During those 11 months, I went sometimes one day after the next to try to get treatment, perhaps over 60 times. There were two serious suicide attempts, the first one being an overdose. I complained at this time about hearing voices; still no proper treatment. With the other, I went to the hospital in the week prior to the attempt and stated that unless hospitalized, I intended to jump from the Bloor Street Viaduct. Instead of being hospitalized, I was sent to a psychiatric crisis centre that was in fact walking distance from the very bridge I threatened to jump from. I left the centre and went home. Two days later, I called 911 on myself, again expressing my fears that I would jump from the bridge. Again, I was sent to the crisis centre. Unbeknownst to me, I was part of a study that promoted in-community care of the mentally ill. I stayed at the centre for two days, and walked to the bridge and without hesitation, threw myself over, thinking it was 'God's will' for me to do it.

I am now paraplegic.

I have also written a book entitled, 'Hope for the Heavy Heart: For the War-Weary and the Heaven-bent' that is due out in the fall. It for anyone who has ever been low enough as to think of suicide and is an attempt to dissuade people from suicide.

Just three years prior to my developing delusions, I had graduated with a Master of Divinity in Counselling. I am in fact a trained individual, marriage and family therapist. My psychiatrist at the time of these two suicide attempts had pulled me off an antipsychotic medication, the very kind I required, stating that I did not need it. He also told me about three weeks prior to the jump that 'hospitalization was not an option'. I got the proper medication when a new psychiatrist diagnosed me correctly. I firmly believe that the newly diagnosed need mentors in stable psychiatric patients.

Posted Friday, June 27

Ashley Swalm from Ajax Canada writes: When I heard that the Globe and Mail was doing a whole story on mental health I was very happy because maybe the horrible mess that has happened at the Rouge Valley Health Ajax Pickering hospital would come to light.

At the start of April the residents consumer and their families have been living a real life nightmare that does not go away when you wake up. I am one of the consumers who has been living this nightmare and has been fighting for my voice and many other voices to be heard by Rouge Valley and Central East Local Health Integration network. Unfortunately the voices of those are not being heard and a whole mental health ward is being transferred to Rouge Valley Centary Hospital in Scarborough. This has caused an uproar in the community. There are has been public meetings and rallies where 1,000's people have shown up to protest them moving these beds. The cracks are getting larger instead of smaller and a lot of people will fall through before they can get the help they need.

1 in 5 people will be affected by mental illness in their life time , Will it be you or someone you love? I sure didn't think it would be me nor did my family. Please remember this when you are tearing mental health services apart because it might be you or your family or friend who needs these services maybe not now but one day you may. What will you do then?

Posted Friday, June 27

Joanne Curran from Ottawa Canada writes: How to begin. There is so much I can say about the professional and peer support that is required to help someone with a mental health problem reach the point where they accept their thoughts and feelings while allowing themselves to move towards a life they value.

This path to recovery demands much of the person with the mental health problem and of their family. I am the parent of a now young adult who, at the age of 11, became fixated on food so that she could redirect her focus away from her 'crazy' thoughts. Her severe anorexia caught everyone's attention and subsequently led to a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I'm writing today because of my experiences as a mother of a child with mental health problems. I am blessed with a wonderful mother who has always been there when I needed advice on parenting our three children.

When our daughter became ill, my mom didn't know how to help me parent a child with mental illness. She had no life experiences to fall back on. As a parent, I desperately needed advice and a listening ear to guide and support me over the course of those four years when life was anything but stable or predictable. Mom and my siblings were unbelievably supportive to our family but they did not have the training to give us the sound advice that we needed to support our daughter through times that were frightening, confusing, and consuming.

As caregivers, we have to be included as active members of the mental health workforce and given the training, support and voice that is essential to the well being of our children and ourselves. Professional training, peer support and the opportunity to be engaged in the decision making process of the mental health system is critical to families who are invested to helping their child live the life they want for themselves. This is the change I envision and wish for.

Posted Friday, June 27

L B from Canada writes: I have struggled with social anxiety and panic attacks for too many years to remember. I have always felt it was my dirty little secret that I needed to keep hidden, but, after confiding in a friend, she convinced me to discuss it with my doctor because there were helpful treatments available, especially for the panic attacks as they take a very physical toll. My friend assured me that doctors deal with these things all the time, and that my doctor would be supportive and would help find me some relief.

Mustering all my courage, I hauled myself in to talk to my doctor about it (you can imagine the panic attack this brought on). Her response: take a hot bath, find more time for myself, and learn to live with it, because people think you should never experience any emotional discomfort these days.

I was humiliated, devastated, and have yet to find the courage to seek help from another doctor. So I live with it, and it rules me.

What I would consider a number one priority is the education of doctors on what anxiety disorders are about. My doctor thought it was a phobia that an exposure therapy style of living my life would cure, despite me telling her that I work in a profession that exposes me to social situations constantly.

Anxiety and panic attacks are different from phobias - mine can come on without warning and with no apparent trigger, even in the calm and quiet of my own home, and I do believe that medication would be an effective treatment for these. However, there is a very giant barrier - doctor ignorance and societal shame - to accessing that relief.

Posted Friday, June 27

Gilbert Michaud from Sarnia On Canada writes: Today friday june 27th you published that Australia has set up a good system and you have neglected to mention that the province of Alberta has set up and fashioned on Australia. They call it 'First aid for mental health' I am in the process of becoming part of their system... Look into this. Gilbert Michaud

Posted Friday, June 27

Jennifer Forbes from Ottawa, ON Canada writes: On behalf of the online resource eMentalHealth.ca, I commend The Globe and Mail for shining a light on mental health in Canada. No doubt there will be many individuals, who upon reading these articles and viewing the interactive web content, will look to get help for themselves or others.

In addition to the many excellent resources provided on the Globe and Mail website, I would like to bring your readers's attention the website known as www.eMentalHealth.ca, http://www.ementalhealth.ca/splash.php an online directory of mental health services and events in Eastern Ontario. The web resource eMentalHealth.ca makes it easy to find where to go for mental health help. We are an Ottawa-based, non-profit initiative of the Crossroads Children's Centre in Ottawa, with start-up grants from the City of Ottawa and Community Foundation of Ottawa. We invite all interested readers to visit our website. Our hope is to take this project national so that Canadians outside Eastern Ontario will have online access to mental health resources in their respective regions. Thank you! Jennifer Forbes, Advisory Panel Member, eMentalHealth.ca

Posted Friday, June 27

Katherine Adlam from Aulac, Canada: My descent into depression began June 7, 1996 when I was struck from behind by a fast moving car in front of the school where I taught in Ontario. I suffered a head injury that was only diagnosed when a psychiatrist in Nova Scotia made the link between my accident and the depression.

I had complained to my doctor that I was experiencing cognitive problems. She thought these were related to my migraines which had increased many fold since the accident. A complete breakdown at the Toronto International Airport signalled the end to my career and the beginning of a long journey to attain some sense of well being.

I was fortunate in that a move to New Brunswick enabled me to access the services of a caring family doctor and a health care system that although cash strapped provided much need diagnosis and support. I attended the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Centre in Fredericton where the diagnosis of a head injury was confirmed and I received strategies to cope with the cognitive part of my injuries.

The depression and anxiety disorder incapacitated my day to day life. I struggled with parenting three teenagers and a preteen and the role of wife of an academic. My husband jeopardized his career with his support. He drove me to a multitude of medical appointments as I could no longer drive safely. My children seesawed between fury that I was no longer the strong parent and teacher they were used to but a weeping stranger who found it difficult to get out of bed.

If depression was a silent companion who followed me everywhere then suicide was a jealous lover who tantalized and monopolized my waking thoughts. I cried rivers of tears. I cried in the bank with the bank officer as I gave up all rights to banking as I could no longer handle money. I cried on my son's lap as the despair threatened to overwhelm me. My husband held me for hours as I would cry unceasingly.

I no longer live with this level of depression. But I struggle with sadness regularly.

Posted Friday, June 27

Karen from Canada writes: I wish that I were able to be comfortable enough to write with it there. Too many people would be ashamed of me in my family that I would write about 'their daughter with mental illness'.

I have read the articles and comments. So much of these resonate with me. I have been hospitalized twice (my choice). The third time they didn't have any beds. I have been off work full-time since Sept 11th 2003. A small stint back under the RTW program was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. I have been off since February 14th and am to return now July 2nd on a graduated return to work.

I have been fortunate during the this last period that my insurance company and some people in my work didn't give up on me completely and brought in a Voc Rehab Counsellor. With working with Voc REhab, my psychiatrist, my manager and a very special lady (whom I am not supposed to contact any more).

I hope that this will be successful. That we all learned from the mistakes that were made in easing in my return to work. It hurt immensely that since February I didn't get a card from the office. I know that the group I am going back into want me back, but am unsure how many of the others will respond to me. I wish that everyone in my work and actually all managers in our Dept (DND) read the articles, took the time to understand the issues in dealing with those who have mental health disabilities. Treat us not as a staff relations issue waiting to happen, truly want us and truly support us.

I am hopeful that this attempt to return to the workplace will be successful. I have too much to offer and a sincere desire to be a contributing member of society again. I sucks big time when I have to tell my kids that because my disability didn't come in today that I will not have money for the long weekend. I have had other support during my time off from some very special people who know who they are.

Posted Friday, June 27

rev. lynn from Toronto Canada writes: My mother had a 'nervous breakdown' when I was 13. She was first diagnosed with 'chronic depression', then with 'manic depression' - neither of which seemed to explain why mom acted the way she did.

A few years later, the diagnosis was changed to paranoid schizophrenia - which made a lot more sense to everyone but my mom. She didn't believe there was anything wrong with her, and continues to hold that belief. When my father died 7 years ago, my sister still lived at home and tried to keep mom on her meds, but she wasn't always successful.

Mom's behaviour got both of them evicted from their apartment. Mom moved to a retirement home, but was again evicted a few months later. On the recommendation of her CMHA caseworker, we moved her to a Home for Special Care. These homes are licensed by the Province specifically to house those with chronic mental health issues, and have staff trained to deal with these unique issues. At least that's what I was told.

In fact they were a shocking disappointment. These homes were in a different catchment area - so mom gave up her GP, her psychiatrist and her caseworker. They were never replaced - so no health care, mental or otherwise, was available. She was evicted from one Home into another one. And from that one she was evicted onto the street, without notice and with the help of the region's mental health team (i.e the police drove her to a local motel and gave her the number for an emergency shelter). When I called the HSC Program, run from CAMH, they said they would no longer house her.

I've seen our mental health system in action for 30 years now, and I'm still capable of being disappointed by it. Now mom's in private housing, similar is appearance to the HSC- but they're actually working to keep her housed and trying to get her a GP (hard to come by) and get her meds reviewed (nearly impossible). The province and the HSC program should be ashamed.

Posted Friday, June 27

karen midwinter from southern ontario Canada writes: May I commend the globe for tacking this horrendous issue of the breakdown in the mental health system. I have been dealing with mental health issues for over 47 years. Name it I have had it done to me in the name of 'curing me' another word is controlling me.

My body is covered in scars from slashing it plus numerous suicide attempts

I have multiple personalities -bi-polar-years of being heavily medicated with variety of drugs plus suffering from some horrible side effects.

From day when I could I took responsibility for myself and later on for our system through reading phoning and non-stop journaling.

I will not go on into detail of the revolving door at the local hospital were they basically denied me treatment or help let alone respect. Finding someone who would work with me was hard as they said I was to difficult .

I had 4 wonderful years with a GP and now he is retired. I have been reaching out for help/support in a new area but I am not getting anywhere. I so much want to work with local agency's and help bridge the gap from the public /EMS to clients but it keeps hitting a brick wall. AS you see I am still here . I have been married for 22 years and now divorced my choice. I have been to college and half way through my social work degree. I have the most wonderful strong adult children who have been to hell and back plus seven grand children that are keeping me on my toes who at time as are suffering because of their parent's life.

I have wonderful jobs and not so wonderful jobs that I lost due to my mental issues -- lost my house and have very low funds at this point. I fall through the cracks for any assistance.

I have 4 wonderful girl friends I have known for over 30 years .. I am still here off all meds everything is not perfect there is still pain anger etc -what is next -- My motto -- WHY BE NORMAL?

Posted Friday, June 27

elly litvak from Vancouver Canada writes: BRAVO to the Globe and Mail for your series on mental illness.

I am one of the millions of Canadians who has been challenged with serious mental illness from the early age of 13. I am now 57 and consider myself 'recovered' from bi-polar disorder.

My journey of recovery has been a long, slow process of ups and downs (I lost custody of my two small children back in the early '80's).

I have been working in mental health for over 12 years and now it is my goal and passion to help others achieve the quality of life that is possible after being diagnosed and struggling with the inadequate services available.

It is the stigma that so profoundly affects most people. Stigma prevents many people from reaching out to get the help they need. It also acts as an invisible scar for many of us diagnosed. It is my goal, through my work with others and my one woman show 'Now Who's Crazy Now?' to help bust the stigma of mental illness.

The Globe and Mail's series this week is a humungous step forward to breaking down the stigma and developing quality mental health services. The Kirby Report was hopeful. The Globe and Mail series is that much closer to the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Elly Litvak www.whoscrazynow.com

Posted Friday, June 27

anthony from toronto Canada writes: As a brother of a bipolar sister, I have a constant concern when she relapses as to how the medical system treats her re admittance to the psych ward.

If we are unable to reach her psychiatrist in time she actually has to go through the emergency room process to get into the ward. There is no modus operandus for her to go directly to the ward even though they know her and have been treating her for years.

It's quite scary to imagine her being turned away at 2 am on a Saturday night or wandering around an emerg room full of gunshot victims and stab wounds while vulnerable and manic but that is the system as it stands today. (please withhold my last name for my sister's sake)

Posted Friday, June 27

Cindy Rose from Toronto Canada writes: My son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia 5 years ago. He was fairly stable on Resperidone for a number of years. On Resperidone he gained a lot of weight and fearing diabetes he was switched to another antipsychotic last summer.

The medication switch did not work for him and despite my warnings to his psychiatrist that his symptoms were increasing, He is considered an adult who can refuse his own admission to hospital unless he is a danger to self or others.

It was not long before he progressed to that point. During that time he lost all friends and social supports with the exception of me. Since last summer he has had four admissions and each time he has gotten a little better to the point that the doctor refuses to extend the involuntary status fearing that he would no longer meet the criteria for involuntary status.

Not wanting this cycle to continue the last time I pleaded with the doctor to renew the form but he wouldn't each time as soon as the form lapsed he left the hospital. Two of his recent admissions were as a result of my having to go to a JP and ask for a form 2. This has made him very angry at me and I am his SOLE support.

There is something wrong with a system that forces a wedge between a person and their only support in order to get them the help that they need.

He is currently missing and the last time I saw him he was sicker than ever before. It is as if my son no longer exists. As I listened to the slide show of Jesse's story I could so relate to the breakdown part. The behaviours seem so classic. And yes I have hidden the knives also.

The system has totally failed my son and myself. The onus needs to be taken off family members to have to get a form 2 and once admitted they need to be kept involuntary until insight returns and ability to understand why they need to take medication is proven. It is not fair to have to wonder if my child will still be alive the next day.

Posted Friday, June 27

Erin Schulthies from London Ontario Canada writes: I am twenty-three and have been suffering from major depression, anxiety, ptsd, and a number of other serious mental issues for seven years now. My life has been destroyed.

I have local friends suffering from similar mental issues and have lost a friend to suicide. We all suffer much more than we have to due to London Ontario's lack of mental health facilities and dedicated workers.

London has lost any hope with the mental health field. People come here to study at the University of Western Ontario but have no desire to work with the people in the community who desperately need their help.

London also has literally no services to help people outside of the hospital and outside of needing immediate crisis intervention. Even in the hospital help is limited - you get two weeks, maximum, and then they kick you out. Only those who can afford costly private therapy get a fraction of the help they need. Waiting lists for available psychiatrists in the community are incredibly long. London has no eating disorder treatment centre, either.

From the sounds of the recent articles about mental health stigma in Canada, there aren't many services in our country at all. It's no wonder so many of us are depressed.

Posted Friday, June 27

j s from Canada writes: I can speak from personal experience about the prejudice and the stigma people face when they are forced to deal with mental illness. (I still struggle to cope with depression and PTSD.)

Although I am one of the fortunate people who are covered by a good health plan through my job, when I was ready to return to work I could raise no complaints regarding the fact that the corporate culture in which I worked was a strong contributing factor to my becoming ill in the first place. I could not return to the same position I left.

I wish your series could have probed more deeply society's tolerance of how the mentally ill and the differently abled are treated, particularly when working in environments where the corporate culture is cutthroat, and there is no room for people like me, (I have Asperger's Syndrome) who seem eccentric and strange to those who work with us. Usually our medical problems have very little bearing on our ability to perform our jobs, yet we are treated as though we are totally incompetent.

A lot of corporations in today's world talk up diversity a good deal, but they fail miserably in enacting policies of diversity and tolerance in the workplace. Unfortunately, it seems that in today's workforce, your ability to come across as slick, socially competent, and likely to succeed trumps your ability to perform a decent job, your qualifications, your experience, and your integrity.

Having experienced the psychological terrorism of workplace bullies, my congenital inability to present in a glib, socially savvy way hurts me terribly, and has contributed to much persecution, frustration and egregiously unfair treatment. I am now in the same entry level position I started in 25 years ago, despite the fact that I have qualified myself for much better jobs within the organization. I hope your series is a good starting point for real changes in attitute to occur towards not only mental illness, but also other disorders that are publicly misunderstood.

Posted Thursday, June 26

Barbara Bawlf from Vancouver Canada writes: I am writing to express the view that people with mental illness have the best outcomes for recovery when they are given something meaningful to do and are encouraged to be productive members of society. Too often mental health consumers have been told they are not capable of working or going to school and that belief becomes internalized. Over-medication can also result in impaired cognitive functioning which further interferes with the ability to concentrate and therefore tasks become increasingly difficult.

I am a manager of a non-profit organization which employs people with mental illness, recruits them as volunteers and includes them in activities. Many of my staff have progressed along the continuum from participant to volunteer to staff member. The pride I see in these people cannot be measured. I am also a mental health consumer in a very responsible position.

Hopefully the trend is swinging more towards recovery and stigma is being reduced as a result of your excellent coverage.

Posted Thursday, June 26

JJ from Toronto writes: In one sense, I am one of the lucky ones. I currently have a very caring and compassionate GP and, after an initial 3 month wait, bi-weekly appointments with a psychiatrist. But, I have been unfortunate at times too. When first seeking medical treatment, I was referred to an MD specializing in mood disorders. In a both contradictory and condescending fashion, this doctor gave me a prescription for Remeron and told me I wasn't troubled enough for further treatment. Since that time I have been on and off various anti-depressant / anti-anxiety medications to varying effects, although only rarely have I felt my best.

Weight gain or sexual side effects would often lead me to try alternative medications, even if my mood was in an acceptable range. I use the word 'acceptable' loosely, because it's hard to feel your best when you're taking a pill that makes you fat and prevents your orgasm for all but a Herculean effort.

Crass doctors and annoying side-effects aside, I view the biggest obstacle to my treatment as the lack of a precise diagnosis.

To this day I do not know whether I suffer from GAD, bi-polar II, dysthymia, cyclothymia, major depressive disorder or any other condition the American Psychiatric Association came up with in DSM-IV. As a result, my medication regimen over the last 8 years has largely been an exercise in trial and error.

Regardless, my battle wages on and I continue to do everything in my power to beat my illness. Some things come easy, like not smoking, not drinking and taking my supplements and medications. I know eating well and exercising will help, but they are a struggle.

In one sense, depression is like AIDS. Both diseases attack the one thing that can cure them. For AIDS, it's the immune system; for depression it's the drive and motivation you need to do the things that can make you feel good. Lithium is the latest weapon I've employed from arsenal and next week it's a trip to the Naturopath. Never give up.

Posted Thursday, June 26

Karyl Pope from Dundas, Ontario Canada writes: As a nurse for 20 years and a psychotherapist for 30 years, I have always been shocked and saddened by the lack of training or even concern in the police and prison system, for the mentally ill who use drugs. It seems to me that more and more, we copy the US with their overuse of prisons to treat anything that they find distasteful in their system, unless, of course, the family has the money for private clinics.

Posted Thursday, June 26

Sharon Fawcett from Moncton Canada writes: I was diagnosed with major clinical depression at the age of 26. My battle with mental illness lasted nine years and in that time I was prescribed approximately 20 antidepressant medications and combinations, received more than 100 electroconvulsive treatments, and spent 80 weeks as a patient in psychiatric wards. I participated in numerous forms of therapy and when not in hospital I made the bi-weekly 100 km trip to my psychiatrist's office.

I'm grateful to the Medicare system for making this treatment possible for me. It kept me alive, but it did not heal my depression. After nine years my diagnosis was changed to "refractory depression"—depression that does not respond to most forms of treatment. It was obvious that if a cure for my depression were to be found, it wouldn't come through medical treatment. I decided to seek spiritual counselling. Three months later, the depression was gone. That was nine years ago. I never relapsed, never returned to the psychiatric ward, never had another electroconvulsive treatment, and no longer need medication or psychiatric care.

Depression can have emotional roots, biological roots, or spiritual roots, yet the spirit's needs are virtually ignored in government-funded treatment. I can't help but wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars Medicare would have saved on my case alone had spiritual counselling not been my treatment of last resort.

The change in policy that would help most is for the treatment of depression to incorporate care for body, mind, and spirit. If counselling services were made accessible to all through Medicare coverage, the roots of mental illness (in those cases when they are spiritual and emotional) would be addressed and resolved, rather than having sufferers linger with medical treatments that are often inadequate or unnecessary. The government would save money in the long run and our citizens would be emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthier.

Posted Thursday, June 26

Claire Carle from Toronto Canada writes: The opposite of "stigmatize" is "normalize". How to normalize mental illness and addiction? Tell the truth. Stigma is borne ignorace and pride. The fine journalists and editors at the Globe and Mail have this week brought facts of mental illness and addiction to national light. Pride remains the internal work that we with severe mental illness and addiction must take on with courage. If we are to recover, we must first tell ourselves the truth. "Shame" is a term used by many to describe their relationship with mental illness. In my life I have made poor choices of which I've felt ashamed, but I am not ashamed of a process of disease over which I have no control. In being human, I have limitations. A hard lesson to learn, I believe that what plagues many of us with mental illness and addiction is less shame than damaged pride. Pride says "I'm better than this"; it says "This will not happen to me." Pride manifests as willfullness and defiance, and camouflages an internal level of denial. We are not unique in this. All with severe illness or disability struggle; even natural aging has it's stigma...enter Botox, and thank you 'Campaign for Real Beauty'! On what basis can we expect others to respect and accommodate our psychiatric illness when we ourselves are loath to do it? It seems reasonable that to the extent we shun our diagnoses and keep silent about our needs, others will do the same. The feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir said that "it is in the genuine conditions of our lives that we must find our strength and our reasons for living". There is no room in recovery for pride. Acknowledging illness is not the same as being dispirited; it's more about allowing for soul. In our own campaign for real beauty, as we learn to accept our limitations with grace, it follows naturally that we begin to heal. Those around us also begin to heal, and to learn. Authenticity emerges, we see the good reasons we live, and stigma dissipates

Posted Thursday, June 26

David Heath from Canada writes: I am a psychiatrist and congratulate the G&M on this series on mental health.… You ask what changes in the system would help. I suggest that programs be developed that enable people having break downs to avoid having to be admitted to hospital and be treated in their own homes instead. Hospitalization of mentally ill people — as the articles point out — takes up an enormous number of bed days and is very expensive. Most mentally ill people would prefer to be treated out of hospital — at home — as would their families. Being admitted to a psychiatric ward increases the stigma that the mentally ill experience. Research shows that 30 to 50 per cent of people destined for hospitalization can be diverted to treatment at home — at much less cost. This approach has been used extensively in Australia since the 1990s and became a major plank in Britain's mental-health policy in 2000; there are over 200 of these programs in the UK, with plans for more. I developed the first progam of this kind in Canada in 1989 — the Hazelglen Service at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. There are similar programs in Edmonton, Victoria and Langley area of B.C.…—3 in all. I wrote a book on this topic called ' Home Treatment for Acute Mental Disorders: An Alternative to Hospitalization by David S Heath, published in New York by Routledge in 2005. I have been trying very hard to interest our Ontario Ministry of Health in developing these services, but without any success so far. Different names are used for these services: ' crisis resolution teams—CRT' in UK; ' Crisis assessment and treatment teams -CATT in Australia; I call them mobile crisis home treatment teams . [These services] can even be used to treat a portion of individuals who would otherwise have to be involuntarily admitted: Just be cause a person refuses to go to hospital does not mean that… — with the right approach — they cannot be persuaded to accept treatment at home.

Posted Thursday, June 26

Andrew Li from Canada writes: My son suffers from the shocks and conflicts between the Chinese culture and Canadian (West) culture, also the bully from his class-mates in his primary and middle schools (I think the Canadian education systems fail to protect the victims of bully) since my family immigrated to Canada in 1996. He was doing great in academic: he was the Top Student in his high-school, still he was often in sad and angry moods. He even got the title of "Prom King" somehow when he graduated from the high-school, yet he was lack of confidence and had negative feelings to himself. When my son became a first-year student in University of Toronto in 2002, we thought he would become more mature and forget about his pains in the past. However, his situate became worse: he kept thinking of his past bad experience and tasting negative feelings. He couldn't concentrate on his study and kept dropping courses. In a few times, he talked about killing himself. We were so worried about him and tried to contact University of Toronto's administration staff for help, but we didn't get meaningful helps from them (University of Toronto is Not good for undergraduate students, especially the ones with mental problems like my son, who really need tremendous supports from the caring teachers and administration staff). After three years struggles, my son ended up with a psychiatrist who diagnosed that my son was in severe depression and need to take medications. Now my son has taken the drug daily for more than three years. From our experience we know that a lot of people think the person with mental illness is "Week" and "Cycle". Now it's time to educate the general public: mental illness patients are suffering the same or even more pains than the patients with physical illness. Save our children!

Posted Thursday, June 26

ellen m from Ontario writes: I am very glad we have this series, but in all reality, what Is going to happen after. will everybody forget about it and go on with there everyday lives?

when I was in the hospital the nurses keep saying over and over to me that I have to look at what I am dealing with as if I had high blood pressure or something physical. that I need the medication in order to get better and to live hopefully a normal life.

Now, society sees the opposite. because of lack of knowledge of society, they are unable to connect the two together.

The people with metal health issues. often hearing that 24-7 from people around us. we end up embarrassed, so we internalizing everything, we may go off our medication because there is a high standard of wanting to be Normal..... 'WHAT IS NORMAL'??

can anyone answer that.

as being a person, dealing with a number of mental health issue's, you know what, I don't want to take medication....the thought of giving up is always there. I want everything the way it was 2 yrs ago.

Now someone that has a stroke and cannot walk. people except them still and they are compassionate towards them and try to uplift them. the people that have mental health issue's need the exact same. we need society to start us as human, we have feelings, we need the acceptance, from our society.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Tricia Kell from winnipeg Canada writes: My daughter was in an accident 20 years ago and was in a coma for 2 months. After she came out of the coma, she worked very hard to get herself back to a good quality of life, considering her injuries. Three years ago she started to have some problems and we were referred to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed her to be clinically depressed and prescribed her large doses of antidepressants. Within a couple of days, our daughter became manic and even with taking her off these medications, the mania didn't stop.

We walked through mental health system in this province for the past three years and watched them continually pull our daughter back into the small box of policy that only made her more ill. Then we were told she was beyond the system.

That lead me to sleeping on the legislature steps on a hunger strike for 4 nights with full media attention. The days were spent in meeting after meeting until finally the Minister of Health and Family Services seemed to realize the crisis we were in. For the past two years, it was so bad that keeping my daughter safe became a full time job for both my husband and I. This is now been taken on by the Ombudsman in Manitoba and our hope is the outcome will be a new policy in this province.

It is our understanding that Manitoba is now down 7 psychiatrists and there is no Neuropsychiatric doctor here at all. It has been a daily walk with the Minister of both Health and Family Services since April and we are now at the stage of our daughter being sent for a two week assessment at the University of British Columbia Neuropsychiatric Assessment Program for two weeks.

This is about my daughter and the hell that we have gone through as a family in the past three years but we have known for a long time that there is also a much bigger picture here. We are now walking through that bigger picture. As hard as it has been burning holes in the system, looking back and seeing a path for others to follow makes it worth every step.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Norm Albert from Canada writes: Erasing the stigma may not be as easy as we are lead to beleive. How do you explain to your employer/employees, family and friends how you feel and why you feel that way when you don't know yourself. Ten years ago I was forced to leave my job because of physical illness brought on by a mental disorder I had been living with for more than a year. Life(for the most part) has been a down hill spiral ever since.

Unable to successfully compete in the job market, a less than empathic spouse, a less than benefical medical program and an enability to be fully truthful about my condition with those closest to me only exaserbated my condition. It is painful and demeaning to passively stand by and watch everthing you held dear just disappear. The Chineese torture results of mental illness. Why can't I do something to stop this.

I ran the gauntlet of medical treatments only to come out on the far side less optomistic of anything beyond meer survival. Attempting to survive on slightly more than $500. poses it's problems as well. Having been one of those people consumed by meeting my financial obligation added insult to injury. Having someone who earns more in one year than I was in 20 or 30 years telling me that I would have to lower my expectations and adjust my expectations did not ease my frustrations either.

Maybe that is a big part of the problem. Great expectation with limited resources combined with those frustating circumstances over which we have no control. Then expecting meds and talk therapy to erase the damage. We all row to the beat of a different drummer or do we.

I really do have a lot of sympathy for health care workers who have to deal with this ghost we can not see.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Emily Elder from Toronto Canada writes: The solution to erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness lies in education and awareness. The Globe and Mail should be applauded for bringing attention to a growing problem that is never going to disappear. With the stress of today's living it will only get worse. It seems that more and more people today, especially youth, are being diagnosed ADhD, bipolar, depressed, and have high levels of anxiety and stress. This is becoming the norm, and people are being over-medicated, or misdiagnosed.

My younger sister suffered a severe bout of depression as a teen and was put on high doses of anti-depressants. This made her high and she was overcome with extreme episodes of mania. For years she was given the wrong medication, constantly being passed on from doctor to doctor. Finally, at the age of 19 one pyschiatrist was clever enough to see she was bipolar and prescribed her lithium. Now her life has some order and control to it and she is finding a way to be happy again. My youngest sibling, a brother, is also taking lithium, but I really question whether he needs it as he's never had an episode of mania.

The point I'm trying to make is that doctors need to be educated as well. The best way is to listen to their patient, alerting themselves to the symptoms. An aspirin isn't going to take away the migraines this time. Neither is ritalin necessarily. There are so many drugs out there, and so many different faces of mental illness. People need to be sensitive to a person as an individual and not as a statistic or guinnea pig for a new brand of meds.

Families affected by a loved one's struggle need to educate themselves by reading about the illness, and learning everything there is to know. I found Patty Duke's memoir 'A Brilliant Madness' extremely important in opening my eyes and answering my countless questions about bipolar.

The best solution to educating myself was listening to my sister and spending time with her. I have discovered great patience and love.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Annamaria Jackson from Edmonton Canada writes: Mental Illness As a child, I grew up in an unstable family, where my dad was a violent man, and my mum suffered from undiagnosed OCD. Everything in our house was 'contaminated' and if we touched anything and then touched something else, we 'cross contaminated' things, and we might be guilty of making somebody ill or die. I fed on all this stuff and took it to heart. I suffered from great anxiety to the point of panic attacks, vomiting and lack of appetite. My mind was constantly worried about everything. Nobody could ever explain why I was like this, and it was put down to me being 'weird' or 'weak', and resulted in poor self-esteem.

By the time I was an adult, I finally used alcohol to 'soothe my nerves'. Alcohol then became my friend, and I used it to cope with so many situations that I had failed at in the past - social gatherings, concert performances, interviews, eating in public and calming myself down. Of course I knew it wasn't normal to do this, but I knew I wasn't normal anyway, and anything to bridge that gap was a great relief.

Over the years, things didn't improve and I became an alcoholic. My OCD became worse when I had young children of my own, and I was finding I was passing on my obsessions, just like my mum had. I could see what was happening but was unable to stop. My husband saw me as weak and useless and he repeatedly told me to sort myself out. I felt so bad and so guilty that I could not do so, and fought this 'weakness'. I would look in the mirror and hit myself and scream at myself to try and make myself change. Eventually, I was taken into rehab where I was told I wasn't bad or weak, simply sick.

With these words, I started to get well. I was put on anti depressants to help me with the OCD and also went for professional help to understand this more. Once I knew I was sick, I had the self esteem to recover. I loathe the stigma attached to mental illness. It sends the already sick soul into isolation.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Susie Q. from Canada writes: Many excellent posts! One that stood out for me right at the beginning is the one by Tom Muskett. A big yes to everything he says. To his comment 'tracking the number of staff absences due to depression and adding that criterion as a new factor in annual performance reviews of managers might encourage senior staff to treat subordinate staff more carefully, the way they would be treated themselves', I would add however that sometimes the problem IS that senior staff treat subordinates the way they treat themselves.

I remember well the time when a top bureaucrat, well known for her 24/7 dedication to government, called a subordinate in the middle of the night to say the big cheese needed something done by 8 a.m. that morning. So although the subordinate was sick, she dragged herself to the office and tried to do as told: she was found the next morning lying on the floor from having fainted, too weak to get up. Subordinates often have to pay a heavy price for a higher-up's ambitions, as the latter will imlicitely put across the message that if they can sacrifice everything, including health, family and hobbies, so should everyone else. I believe in loyalty, but that kind of loyalty is slavery.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Lupa Nare from Canada writes: I was 10 when I first thought about killing myself. My parents had just divorced and I was angry, confused and wanted to make everything stop spinning. It was my exit strategy. I'm in my early thirties now, have a wonderful spouse and a baby daughter who is the centre of my world. My suicidal thoughts aren't frequent, maybe twice a year, but they still creep up and I'm haunted by the black dog. I'm in family medicine and my career would be in tatters if I ever revealed these thoughts to any of my colleagues. I have never sought help as I manage to struggle on my own through these dark periods. And they very seldom happen to me. But I realize that deep in the recesses of my mind, I still see suicide as an escape, an exit from all of the bullshit.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Pat Vanderkooy from Guelph, ON Canada writes: I congratulate The Globe and Mail on running this series about mental health and mental illness. You ask your readers to recommend best approach or solution. I recommend that we collectively, through our government, invest in poverty reduction and early childhood development. One of the biggest predictors for poor health - physical and mental - is poverty. It's no coincidence: if a baby is born into a household that is stressed to afford rent and not able to access/afford enough nutritious food, it's no surprise that this baby will grow up at greater risk for falling behind in early childhood brain development and having difficulty in school.

Check out the excellent work of the Council for Early Child Development (cecd_general@councilecd.ca). I had the privilege of hearing Dr Fraser Mustard speak this morning - he shared how much it costs to treat mental illness and deal with crime... and how little it would cost in comparison to fully fund supports for early childhood development. All the costs of human misery aside, how can we NOT afford to give all our children healthy starts, with most development happening in the brain before they get to school?... and why can't our provincial and federal governments 'just' get on with poverty reduction, with adequate income, supported housing, food and health care for all, early childhood supports and care for all our babies and tots? If we started now, we could make a real difference in the prevalence of mental illness within a generation's time. If you think that will cost too much, remember that it costs so much more to pay for treating illness and dealing with crime. As a health professional, I believe we've done most of what we can in our noble efforts of raising awareness, promoting health, running educational programs... the real barrier to making further progress is that we need to get rid of poverty.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

SPALFRAM from Canada writes: I had my first direct experience with mental illness last summer, when my husband's acute mania bridged into psychosis. My children lost their father for four months. His fear of help was so enormous he ran off in the middle of the night, even though he was convinced our home was surrounded by murderers, just before the police and ambulance arrived.

My biggest struggle in getting treatment was caused by the mental health act in Ontario, which was enacted to protect the mentally ill from the type of permanent involuntary incarceration that caused so much grief and horror. The right of someone who is seriously mentally ill to refuse treatment is not a right at all, but an additional hindrance. My husband's illness could have been treated, but was not, forcing him to climb slowly down from his mania and return to his family. He lost four months of his children's lives, months he feels terrible about. Yet during those months, he had no awareness of his illness and therefore any resulting need for treatment. The doctors did their best, but he wasn't violent and so couldn't be treated against his will.

When the brain is sick, decision making is impaired. We should have a capability test other than violence that lets physicians determine who can't decide on treatment for mental illness. I'm not saying the patient should be entirely removed from the process, but they should not be able to refuse treatments as long as those treatments are not experimental, represent the best standard of the day, and do not have intolerable side effects. The "right" to refuse treatment is meaningless and harmful for those unable to make rational choices.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Bill Gibson from Vancouver Canada writes: Three university degrees and a professorship until misdiagnosed hypomania ended it.

Starting several years later, I sought psychiatric help for five years before getting it only after becoming suicidal. Then a series of contract jobs, some good and some awful. I usually function very well and think it's really no big deal, but at the same time, wouldn't wish it on anyone.

In my attempts to hide the illness, I haven't always been the kind of character I would like to be and the person I am.

The one thing most desired is: knowledge. If those succumbing to illnesses knew more, if general practitioners were better able to diagnose, if families understood, if employers accurately realized what was happening and if the person with the illness knew more about their illness, so much suffering could be avoided. I didn't understand what was happening to me and did not want to. My then employer wanted to be rid of me. My most recent, an institute purportedly dedicated to research into mental illness, demeaned my credentials and abilities.

Knowledge. Better diagnosis and medicines. Freedom of opportunity. Freedom of acquaintance. Freedom to be able to say, right now I'm not completely well. Freedom from being treated without individuality. No more quick prescriptions, demeaning jobs and segregation within our kind. No more fear of being uncovered. No more being used as political pawns.

Knowledge: the source of understanding, compassion, empathy, skill, patience and fun.

Some mentally ill have taught me deep lessons about life. Some well folks have saved mine. The differences between us all are not really so big.

I lost hostility some time ago and haven't been looking for it very hard. Ignorance causes fear and acts based on fear usually lead to regret. I have not given up on humans. Well or ill, it is time to embrace knowledge. It is time to lose the fear of just what we humans are.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

L Mitchell from Orangeville Canada writes: I am a flight attendant by profession and I began to have anxiety attacks while at work. This quickly moved into a fear of flying and I was off work for some time. The pain and the angst that I suffered from hiding the truth from so many people was probably the most difficult part. It is so stigmatized to this day. Until we can begin to talk with one another about mental illness just as we would if we had diabetes or an ulcer we will not have progressed enough in my mind. Mental illness is still seen as a weakness that the sufferers succumb to rather than something that is for the most part beyond their control.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Mark Heber Brown from Calgary Canada writes: I have read the articles posted in the June 21, 2008 edition in Globe Focus on Canada's mental health crisis and want to applaud the courage of the contributors and writers in opening up a dialogue, that is sorely needed in this area. I also want to share with readers, even at the risk of creating disharmony within my extended family on this badly stigmatized subject.

My wife has suffered from mental illness most of her adult life, and has been misdiagnosed at least twice (schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder). A few years ago she recieved a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder and has been living with the prognosis and treatement options available to her, with marked improvement.

The years she has spent suffering with this disease, the impact on her, on the family and on our marriage has been horrific. That is to say, this disease does not define her, it is what she has to contend with and what we in the family have to deal with too. The key for me has been open dialogue and a willingness to look for solutions and coping strategies.

Our families have fallen into the stigma pit, and very little is discussed openly or honestly. It is a difficult topic as it affects everyone in the family. On my wife's side virtually everyone is touched in some way with the disease. Her dad has struggled with depression all his adult life and the therapies have focused almost entirely on medication. Her brother struggles with other manifestations of the disorder and so it also has touched the lives of her two sisters. Proper diagnosis, medication, and therapies have been the challenges for everyone. The single biggest barrier is a willingness to recognize this as any disease such as diabetes, thyroid disorder, high blood pressure or for that matter any disease that has a strong genetic link.

Both the maternal and paternal side of the family have been directly affected with depressive disorders and there is schizophrenia on the father's side too.

Posted Wednesday, June 25

Jane Adgett from Saskatoon writes: I am an ex-health care worker who suffered depression from chronic stress due to excessive workload. I was denied compensation by the workers compensation board and had to try to heal while going through financial crisis, losing my home, my pension and going bankrupt. I have not recovered even now, seven years later.

The single change I would like to see would be for the federal government to address the discriminatory policies that were put in place during the 1990s by provincial workers compensation boards that categorized workload as a labour relations issue and made chronic stress diseases due to workload non-compensable.

A recent study from Australia highlighted the substantial under-compensation of psychological injury by workers compensation boards in that country and stated: 'Job strain and associated depression risks represent a substantial, preventable, and inequitably distributed public health problem. . . job strain is an important contributor to mental health inequalities . . . there is substantial under-recognition and under-compensation of job strain-attributable depression'. The same thing is happening in Canada.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Chrystal Ocean from Duncan writes: I feel compelled to express an alternative view, a partial warning about our acceptance of 'mental illness' as a disease and mental health labelling. It comes from my own experiences with people so labelled. I have been one of them and was hospitalized for 11 months at the tender age of 14.

Unfortunately, there's not enough room here for me to include all that needs to be said and so I refer The Globe and readers to my blog, where I've written a fairly extensive amount on this topic: http://challengingthecommonplace.blogspot.com/ - Search for the articles under the 'Mental health-illness' tag

Posted Tuesday, June 24

THancock from Toronto writes: Wages and benefits terminated....that was the news today...25 yrs at a public utility...fourth generation....2 billion dollar company...won't accommodate me to work closer to home...anxiety disorder with panic attacks and agoraphobia.

Not enough 'objective' medical information. Is there a blood test to show post partum depression? An MRI that shows schizophrenia? A 'test' for depression?

The 'walking wounded' is more than just those that are 'walking' but their family and friends that suffer along with them emotionally and financially. It's a disgrace.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Tom Muskett, Lakefield writes: Passing workplace laws to force management to respect staff will never happen and would never work even if they did happen -- but tracking the number of staff absences due to depression and adding that criterion as a new factor in annual performance reviews of managers might encourage senior staff to treat subordinate staff more carefully, the way they would be treated themselves.

An end to quasi-military corporate cultures in which staff are regarded as foot soldiers who -- to keep their jobs -- must silently accept new lots in life imposed upon them by management without so much as a word of discussion, would go a very long way to preventing the causes of absenteeism and sick leave for depression.

For as those who have been there know, being manhandled unjustly by an indifferent management crew gives cause for feeling powerless, insecure, worried, anxious, panicked, sleepless, exhausted and outraged -- that deadly soul-deep anger that invariably ignites final collapse into clinical depression.

Then follows the hard part -- the use of short-term sick days, the label of disability, the dismissal into long-term disability, reduced income, and the need for courage to start over, to come to one's own rescue, to sell the house, to say goodbye to friends, family, and neighbourhood -- to leave behind all the things one loved when times were good, to move on, and one day forgive and be free of what was done.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Lauren M from Toronto writes: Mental Illness still carries with it a great stigma. I believe that this is partially because we cannot always see the damage it causes. It can be an almost invisible disease. People suffer in silence and there is often a very incorrect belief that just because someone can wake up, get dressed, and present themselves to society-smiling occasionally, that nothing is necessarily wrong.

People mistakenly associate mental illness with the most extreme cases. Unless it can be seen, it must not exist.

I work with the Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC) at Queen's University to provide information on mental health as well as to end the stigma surrounding it. It is not an easy task and there must be a willingness on behalf of everyone-those suffering from a mental illness or not-to change how we perceive these conditions and diseases.

We must learn how to talk about them, how to reach out and how to open up to one another. Schools and workplaces must learn how to accommodate those suffering with mental health issues in a way that they would with any other type of disability or disease.

I believe that more education and awareness is necessary if we want people to change how mental illness is viewed and handled. We cannot point fingers and remain frustrated that no one understands.

It has become well overdue for all of us to become aware of these types of illnesses and to become informed.

In a time where the internet is so easily accessible, obtaining this information is a simple task that does not require much difficulty. Learn, read, research, pass on the knowledge to others. TALK.

We can all do our part in ending the stigma surrounding mental illness if we try.

I commend The Globe and Mail for providing its readers with these valuable stories and educational articles. It is fantastic to see that this matter is gaining the attention it needs to become less stigmatized.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

John S from Toronto writes: Read Claire Weekes' books. She is an Austrailian Doctor and PhD, who devloped, pioneered and applied Cogntive and Behavioural techniques in the 60's - almost 50 years ago.

Science did not accept CBT for a long time until they could image and scan the brain and see that it works. Since science has no spiritual basis and does not believe in anything it cannot prove, CBT was rejected.

Sad that a pioneer like Weekes, was buried in science all this time.

The body wants to get back to normal. Attitude is key to everything.

We all have souls and spirits, science does not believe this because it cannot prove it.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Rebekka Bondy from North York writes: Well, as a teen with mental health issues, I can say that it really is harder than it may look. Being diagnosed with a myraid of syndromes: Tourette's, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, and depression, I can feel the pain that Alyse goes through every day - the obsessive thoughts that haunt you, the rituals you can't stop, and the tics that you can't manage.

I also have spent time in hospital, and recently graduated from 1 year and 6 months of residential treatment. I've met a lot of people just like me, and just like a lot of mentally ill teens. One girl is almost exactly like Alyse, taking many years to complete high school, and although after 4 years of treatment she is not cured, there is hope. I've seen myself, and many other kids go above their illness and actually do what they want in life.

I know that to most, and to me, life can seem hopeless when you know you face such overwhelming challenges, but it's always a plus to have friends, family, and supports.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

asproull from Vancouver writes: While participating in a long distance fundraising ride for cancer research this past weekend, I was overwhelmed by the bravery and courage of the cancer survivors that were a part of it, and the love and support that people showed each other as the families and friends of those who were either battling this terrible disease, or had already lost the battle, or both.

It was a deeply emotional experience, and very positive. The day after returning home, however, I found myself crying without knowing why...until I realized that my social anxiety had been tripped hugely, yet again. I had been innocently asked to call into radio stations to report in on the progress of the ride, which is about an 80 on my scale of anxiety! I did it, of course, and am obviously still alive, but as I watched everyone supporting each other in the brave, open struggle that is cancer, I couldn't help but feel the harsh sting of the reality that mental illness is still a hidden and shameful struggle for millions of people and their families; amongst so much love and compassion, I felt utterly alone.

So reading this timely in-depth examination of mental illness by the G&M is beautiful, and hopeful: If even a tiny fraction of the love, understanding and compassion given to people with physical illness could be also given to people with mental illness - if people could just BE, WITHOUT SHAME, then healing for everyone - those afflicted and those who love them - would be so much closer.

Money for research and treatment is also absolutely essential, but erasing the stigma and fear within our society would go a long way towards erasing the fear and shame within ourselves. May we all, someday soon, be able to 'speak our minds' - openly and freely - into health and wholeness.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Penelopelloyd from Canada writes: My policy recommendations:

1. Decrease the time that mentally ill people wait in emergency. Not only more beds, but less paperwork. A mentally ill person cannot wait 12-20 hours in an emergency room. Treat them as if they have an emergency wound!

2. More hospital beds and staff;

3. A coordinated database system shared by the police and hospitals. The police need to be working with the health professionals to assist the mentally ill;

4. Training for all police officers on mental illness;

5. New legislation that gives families, doctors and health care workers more power to treat people they think need it. The responsibility for admitting a mentally ill citizen should not rest solely on families. Our mental health laws should expand the grounds for hospitalizing people with mental health problems, particularly with manic depression. If someone is in a manic episode, he could be spending thousands of dollars and destroying his life, but his friends are not able to help him because of the Mental Health Act. Please expand the grounds for hospitalization. We need to re-examine the Provincial Mental Health Act, specifically "involuntary admission" section 22.

6. Bridging nurses, social workers and support for mentally ill people when they are discharged from the hospital;

7. Assistance for families during times of crisis;

8. Clear communication between doctors and families; and

9. Mandatory meetings with families and social workers prior to release. I can see that all mentally ill people will end up on the street under our present health care system, unless they have strong families with endless resources. Change is past due!

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Zararobinson from Vancouver writes: As someone who has been treated for depression and anxiety and who has been on anti-depressant medication for the last 2 years, mental health is an important subject for me.

I applaud The Globe and Mail for devoting time and space in its newspaper to this issue. I'm lucky because I have family, friends and an employer who are understanding and compassionate. They have supported me through very difficult times.

When you hit rock bottom, lying on the floor of a hotel room, in the fetal position, unable to make any decision, raked with anxiety, crying, during your most important work engagement of the year, you realize things can't get much worse (at least for me). And that's the point...you have to individually come to the conclusion ... 'I NEED HELP!'.

Doctors visits, time off from work, medication, and many other life changes have made daily living more bearable for me and those around me. I realize I'm fortunate to have this support system. I realize I'm fortunate to have said 'I need help' aloud to myself and to those around me. I realize that it's important to say these things publicly so people understand it's all right to admit you have a problem.

Just because people can't see a 'broken brain' like a broken bone doesn't mean you aren't sick and need help. How many lives have to be negatively affected by someone with depression? Why does society have to stigmatize this problem? Why can't we, as a society, be open enough to help those with mental health problems - mild to severe - so all of us, collectively, can enjoy life?

This isn't a problem just for the individual with a mental health crisis; everyone s/he interacts with is affected by the illness. We don't live in vacuum.

Congratulations to 'Canada's National Newspaper' for bringing the issue of mental health out of the closest. More organizations should be brave enough to follow your lead.

Posted Tuesday, June 24

Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg Canada writes: The problem with stigma is that it starts with many of the service providers. How can we begin to alter public perception when so many people know professionals who share their views of people with mental illness. Despite all efforts to alter this fact, stigma continues to be the largest hurdle for people with mental illness. It keeps those who function with illness hidden so that public perception is based mostly on those who are most visible - those who are ill and somehow end up on the streets and in the news. This does not foster public support for mental health services in the community it one fosters the demand to return people to being warehoused in institutions.

Posted Monday, June 23

Melissa Thomas from ontario Canada writes: from the time I was a teenager to now I have been struggling with in my mind. most of the time I acted how other people needed me to act. It is almost like I can detach myself from reality and not feel human. I have always felt that way. During my teenage years....I would take pills to numb the emotional pain I felt inside. Often, I feel I have a good voice and a bad voice, the bad voice telling me to die and kill myself, (is always there) the two fight inside myself. Is that normal to have a constant conflict in side. As you can see I am still struggling to get answers. I am struggling for someone to take the time and help me. I don't have a therapist now, due to cutbacks. I don't have a psychiatrist to manage my medication. The only reason, I know this is happening is I have been told that sometimes my thinking isn't reality. Which I doubt, because I believe it is true. I sometimes believe people are making judgments about me. I hate going into crowed places because I think everybody is looking at me. and there thinking what a loser I am. I have taken CBT classes. It doesn't help to get rid of those bad thoughts. At the moment I have many diagnoses and on 4 or 5 different medications. To date, I am dealing with, GAD, major depression, social and panic disorder, OCD, ED, now possibility Bipolar, which one who knows!!!!! I can switch on and off. I often feel like I am a prisoner within my own mind. and I am paralyzed within. Now to make friends and family understand what I think it seems like they can't relate. to what is going on. (I know my doctors are trying the best to help me) but I am suffering and struggling as I speak I wish my mind would just shut down. I wish there would be more focus on mental health. sometimes I feel so alone, it dealing with everything....because society doesn't want to go there. I understand so well why people with mental illness kill themselves. they just can't take it anymore.

Posted Monday, June 23

amelie asselin from Toronto Canada writes: Hello, I've struggled with depression since my youth. A few days ago, I started a website called Pure Reflections, in order to share my poetry, art, stories etc. and hopefully others will add on theirs as well. My friend Paula inspired me... She's written over 5-thousand poems since age 13. Unfortunately any poem I wrote before the age of 19 has vanished in my wild days. This is the link to my intro. http://purereflections1.wordpress.com/intro-welcome-am/ Thank you -Amelie A.

Posted Monday, June 23

Katherine Arthur from Toronto Canada writes: I have Bi-polar 1 disease, rapid cycling, with several co-morbities, meaning other simultaneous psychiatric disorders that may accompany bi-polar. My psychiatrist informed me that I have the most serious form of this treatable, but incurable disease. In retrospect, it is obvious that I had the disease all of my life. Regrettably, I was not diagnosed until my mid-years. Since then, I endured many years of largely unsuccessful treatment. All these factors further worsen prospects of lasting relief. At the present time though, I am now enjoying a period of remission. Before the full-blown illness I led a very fruitful and busy life, working, volunteering, publishing, speaking at Conferences, teaching at a University, socializing and raising a family. I became ill when I was mid-way through a Doctorate in Theology, at U of Toronto. Despite my early successes and high level of collegial involvement I have been consistently ignored by the school community and its Professors. This academic year I received one email from one advisor as my recompense for my $800+ tuition paid. I received no other contact whatever. They are well aware of my disease. Society is afraid of madness. The stigma of psychiatric illness is about the phantoms of old. It is about the wide-spread cultural denial of death, and the terror that attempted suicide or suicidal death represents. It is about unconscious social prejudices concerning perceived weakness when a patient seems unable to overcome the illness. "It's all in your head." This is true in a paradoxical way. The shame of Bipolar 1 disease is born out of ignorance that this particular psychiatric disease has numerous biological causes and somatic complications.

Posted Monday, June 23

Harold A. Maio from Ft Myers FL United States Outlying writes: We need to EDUCATE the public concerning mental illness ... If -We- need to educate the public, what are the people we educate to educate the public doing?

Posted Monday, June 23

Lynn-Marie Ramjass from Ajax Canada writes: Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkgaard wisely said: 'Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.' Many years later I read a maxim by Oscar Wilde' The final mystery is oneself.' It is a mystery why I have been afflicted with this troubling disease (bipolar disorder) and not the other members of my family.

When I first became aware that I was ill, I felt what seemed an inner battle for both my soul and my mind. I felt, tasted and breathed a fear every minute of every hour of every day. It was a fear I had never known before. I felt such shame in accepting the fact that I was troubled in mind. I did not know where to go with that pain, the succession of wounds that I had sustained over a life time, and therefore I internalized it.

Mine was a generation where we did not discuss personal problems. I had the feeling that if others knew that I was different, they would love and respect me less. I could not talk about it. I would not talk about it. The only thing I knew for certain was that none of my family or friends, my husband or my children, as much as they loved and supported me, could possibly know nor understand what I was going through. They did not know how to help me and their immediate response seemed to be 'she's broken, fix her' None of them could feel my pain, share my shame, or touch my fear. Not unless they themselves had had the experience they could not possibly know how it feels.

The mentally ill are the walking wounded. We are like comrades in arms having been on the battle fields of our minds, our hearts often also broken, clinging to life, the burning hope that somebody, somewhere could believe in us, so that someday, somehow, we could find the courage to believe in ourselves. I learned to let go of my pain and completely trust in the Creator who has sustained and protected me all of these years. I have learned to let my suffering mold me into someone who no longer fears the future and is less inhibited by the past.

Posted Monday, June 23

Michelle Mainwaring from Lakeshore, Ontario Canada writes: I would love to share my thoughts and personal story on this matter. This is such an important issue and so grossly misunderstood. Just recently stories of a young, beautiful girl who committed suicide and a notable local lawyer who spent 7 weeks in the hospital from mental illness and the schizophrenic son of a well known doctor who killed his father shortly after a visit to the hospital have been the topic of conversation. It seems to be more prevalent than ever.

To have an intimate look at Bipolar disorder alone can be frightening and I am a witness to the depths of the 'dark place' in which it can delve. I had the challenge of playing a Stephen King character once. Her name was Annie Wilkes from 'Misery' and she was frightening, my partner playing Paul Sheldon in real life was and is bipolar (classified type 2 bipolar disorder). As the run of the show progressed and the shows stresses caught up with him and his cocktail of prescribed psych meds (which is crucial to coping with this crippling illness) was being adjusted I was able to see the 'dark place' up close and personal. It was very scary and I wasn't sure if I could maintain the friendship. It was very disturbing to watch him change into this strange, self loathing person who I couldn't recognize.

I'm grateful that I educated myself enough to be able to accept the illness and its symptoms. He has since just finished an original work entitled 'Type 2 - A Tragic Comedy' a one hour, minimalist play. It has such an important message and is so brutally honest that people will be able to relate and identify with each and every scene. I truly believe that if more people were educated about the many layers and severity of mental illness the general public, the employers and government would be more apt to want to resolve the growing problem of mental illness in the workplace and in everyday life.

Posted Monday, June 23

Jennifer Sandler from Markham Canada writes: As a holistic nutritionist with mental illness in the family, I would urge (beg?) anyone suffering from mental illness to include Naturopathic Medicine in their search for stability. Drugs can only do so much (sometimes nothing, with harsh side affects), whereas many people have benefited from thereaputic doses of naturally occuring substances like vitamins and herbs. As well, many mental disturbances are a result of undiagosed allergies and blood sugar imbalances. Drs. Abram Hoffer and Carl C. Pfeiffer are renowned in their work in this field, called 'Orthomoleculur Medicine', and for the many who have been left with no hope, please look into this.

Posted Monday, June 23

Mike Gamache from Montreal writes: When all this started for me in the early '90s, the odds were 1:10 for depression. The articles ring true for me, because I told no one, and just continued working. I still have memories of walking down a corridor, feeling the side effects that were new to me, and seeing the walls turn 90 degrees. Just trying to keep my balance or concentrate in the first week of medication was a challenge. While I think of myself as a person with an illness, and not AS an illness, forgetting one dose of medication is all the reminder I need of how fragile I can be. In the face of this, I finished graduate school, conducted a professional career in research, and built a home for my family. My goals in life changed, and I ultimately had to change jobs. After over ten years, I am finally building a new career.

The healthcare system can be a nightmare to navigate, however, all one needs is the careful attention of a competent diagnostician to receive the right medication, as the Ottawa resident in your story did. What would change the workplace is a workplace meeting by psychiatrists to frankly discuss how co-workers and superiors may support employees. What would change the medical system is admission of more MDs to the specialty of psychiatry. There will be fewer and fewer to go around.

Although it is not my situation, I am concerned for single-parent families who must have more support from our society if mental illness occurs, because children need care. The up-side is, with medication, counselling, group counselling, family support and great determination in any combination that is available and works for you, it is possible to overcome the challenge of such an illness. Helplessness is not hopelessness. I have found that if you persistently reach out, you can find the resources you need to get better, public or private. But diagnosis is essential. That's why I think this specialty should increase enrolment now, to be ready for 2020. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Posted Monday, June 23

Tracy Bracy from Ottawa Canada writes: They never did and never will. No institution will accomodate a mental or cognitive problem. Patients need to find drug therapy and have it monitored by a doctor. They must have control over their illness. They need to stay away from hospitals and use the law properly against threats from the community. Mentally ill people are THE most despised people of all. They survive only because there is somekind of benefit to medical people. They have only one right and that is for medical treatment. They have no other rights.

Posted Monday, June 23

Kim Philby from Ottawa Canada writes: It's something of a generalization to say that mental illness is stigmatized but physical illness is not. Certainly we fear the mentally ill who are violent, or even those street people who, while not violent, rage and curse at invisible entities while ambling down the sidewalk. But, aren't those with AIDS shunned by many in society? Do we not turn away from people disfigured by illness? Do we not feel uncomfortable if we have to engage with a quadraplegic? Some who don't understand the nature of cancer are afraid of 'catching it.'

Although I prefer to keep my condition private, I'm not sure that I would be stigmatized if I told my fellow employees and others that I suffer from dysthymia (a form of depression). It seems that, unless you show overt signs of illness, whether physical or mental, it is not that difficult to remain an accepted member of society. Indeed, given the prevalence of diagnoses of various forms of depression, I wonder how abnormal it really is. This may be why some people, like me, are conflicted about taking medication; years ago I stopped taking SSRI's because, although they helped, I felt like I'd lost my identity to some degree - I was no longer who I was really supposed to be, even if the real me meant dealing with depression. (I'm currently back on medication - Effexor. It, too, is helping, but I'm not sure I'll continue to take it.)

When an illness like depression is so widespread in society, does it become more difficult to stigmatize it? We can probably never rid society of the stigma attached to certain manifestations of mental and physical illnesses; trying to do so may be fighting against deep-seated instincts of self-preservation. Perhaps we need to focus efforts on ensuring that those who are ill and can't function - the psychotic, the violent - are provided the necessary social safety net and medical care. For them, perhaps we need to re-think the idea of institutional care on a larger scale.

Posted Monday, June 23

TM from Lakefield Canada writes: T.M. , Toronto retiree, writes about the suicide rate in Japan still climbing (reported in a June 21 Medical News Today article by Catharine Paddock, PhD. She says new figures from Japanese authorities show the country's suicide rate still climbing with the fastest rise being among elderly Japanese-- a growing population sector that is also experiencing rising poverty. Nearly 100 Japanese killed themselves every day in 2007 (33,000 people in the year), a rise of 3 per cent on 2006 and the tenth year in a row the figure has exceeded 30,000. Depression was singled out as the main reason in about 20 per cent of cases, followed by physical illness and debt. The suicide rate of those aged over 60s in Japan rose 9 per cent from 2006 to 2007, to a record high of 36.6 per cent of all victims. Some reports have suggested that one contributor to the high suicide rate among pensioners is the breakdown of support that was once there from extended families; it has led to greater isolation and poverty among older Japanese. The Japanese government launched a 220m dollar campaign last year to cut the suicide rate by 2016. Dr. Paddock's piece says that 'critics of the government's campaign say they are targetting the wrong thing and should be doing more to remove the stigma of mental illness, and depression in particular.' She writes 'many elderly Japanese are not likely to talk to their GPs about mental illness' because they are of a mindset that believes one should not be open about mental problems.' Dr. Paddock writes that 'according to the World Health Organization, Japan's suicide rate is about 51 per 100,000 people, with men committing suicide at over twice the rate of women.' This, she says, 'is more than twice the rate in the United States (22 per 100,000), and three times that of the United Kingdom (15 per 100,000), but less than some Eastern European countries such as Lithuania (92 per 100,000) and Ukraine (62 per 100,000).'

Posted Monday, June 23

Paula Hudson-Lunn from Canada writes: Where I worked, anyone who went on 'stress leave' was stigmatized. When/if they returned to work they were treated differently, often left out of social and team projects. Before even being accepted for stress leave, employees had to jump through so many hoops to prove their condition and there was always a rumour that these people were faking it to get a paid 'vacation'. You didn't dare admit your own suffering. Supervisors feigned concern while asking when you would get this under control and show up. When I succumbed to a depression in my early 50's my supervisor started to keep notes on me, finally asking me, not only for a doctor's note, but his explanation of my condition. Instead of sick leave to recover and return to that employer, I quit my job - no package, no pension - and found my own way back to health. I left a $50K corporate position to make $12/hour working at a travellers hostel. Many employers are not just unsympathetic to the mental health of their employees, but are major contributors to employee breakdowns. Your articles on the subject help. Thanks

Posted Monday, June 23

Nelson Alexander from Ottawa Canada writes: My greatest wish is that people will stop treating mental illness as taboo and realize that it is all around us, a part of our daily lives. I hope the discussions that CAMH and The Globe have started will continue. I'm 23 years old and will be starting my PhD in September. All my life I've struggled with symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD and ADHD, and while my battles aren't always apparent to those around me, they take a huge toll on me. The happiness many people take for granted is something I constantly struggle to obtain. I dearly wish that there had been greater awareness of mental health issues while I was growing up. Early childhood treatment likely would have made my subsequent life much easier.

Posted Monday, June 23

D.E. Suta from Hamilton Canada writes: I have suffered from depression since I was a child but wasn't diagnosed until I was 40. And now after 9 years of therapy and anti-depressant drugs I am out of that horrible darkness that was swallowing my soul. I lost so much time. I would like to tell parents to find help for their children. If your child's behavior is symptomatic of mental disease, get them help. They will not 'snap out of it', it's not 'just a phase'. Mental illness is as serious as cancer and can be just as deadly for the sufferer. Letting your child suffer mental illness untreated is abusive and can lead to decades of suffering.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful employer. I have been able to be upfront about my illness and they have been extremely supportive. I believe the supportive environment has helped me to recover and stay healthy and, ultimately, be a productive worker. My suggestions to employers would be to treat mental illness as you would any physical illness, with honesty, forthrightness, and, above all, compassion. Remember, your employee can't just 'snap out of it'...any more that a worker with a broken leg can heal overnight. Thankyou for letting me use your forum.

Posted Monday, June 23

J Saffron from Canada writes: I am considered a classic bipolar. I went without treatment for many years, mostly because I refused to acknowledge that I had a problem; afterall, I received top grades, had many friends, held down several jobs and had many creative outlets. I was just seen by my friends to be 'flighty' and full of energy. I was careful to hide my depressive episodes from everyone, and I never mentioned the auditory hallucinations that plagued me when I was manic. I was a master illusion artist--no one clued in that I was on the brink of losing control completely, that I was an anxious wreck, that I was under constant attack from 'inner voices' and that I constantly thought about suicide, drawing up plans on a weekly basis.

Following a series of traumatic events, I was no longer able to maintain the illusion. I chose to go to a local ER and explain the suicidal ideation, the 'voices', the panic, the unbelievable manic highs that I was experiencing. I was spending money like water, sleeping less than 3 hours a night, running for miles and miles in the river valley, losing weight to the point of emaciation, drinking copious amounts of wine in an effort to 'slow down'...I was out of control. I was eventually seen by a psychiatrist who prescribed a few medications for me and arranged for follow-up the next week with a mental health professional. I was relieved. I immediately began the medication regime. Three days later, I woke up in another ER in restraints. The cocktail seemingly had an adverse effect and I overdosed, slashed my wrists and was found by my father. I have no recollection of the overdose. I am, however, thankful that it happened because it was evidently the alarm bell I wasn't able to consciously ring myself. I was placed in a psychiatric hospital for a couple of weeks and was put in an outpatient program. I finally recieved the treatment I needed. That was three years ago. I am now medication-free and in control of my life.

Posted Monday, June 23

Foamy the Squirrel from Canada writes: Thank you for a great series. This is so needed and should benefit so many. I have mental health issues that I keep hidden at work and with family. I think I have depression, coupled with a long-term eating disorder. I have tried a couple times to seek help, but our system has so many barriers: fees, physician attitudes, availability of services.

A couple years ago, afraid of my growing focus on suicide, I went to a physician to ask for an antidepressant that would not make me gain weight. She was dismissive, judgmental and lectured at length on how she wouldn't prescribe without knowing what my thyroid levels were...um, crisis here. Aren't they taught to stabilize first and then probe for other contributing causes? No questions, no compassion, no listening. I left without help, and found it so humiliating that I've not been able to try again.

On the outside, I seem pretty normal. Inside I'm a mess. I maintain an executive job, but have big tuition costs so can't afford the fees for a psychologist. I know so many people at work that need help. We never reach out though. One guy is on the edge of a meltdown, but he has intense anger symptoms so no one speaks up. I think that's such a sad reflection on our society. His suffering is obvious, but everyone looks in the other direction.

We need: 1) funded access to psychologists 2) faster, better access to psychiatrists 3) greatly increased availability of treatment programs 4) sensitivity training for GPs - GPs are the pathway to other levels of care and should be better trained for this 5) GPs with the time and funding to ask about emotional health at every appointment 5) a far stronger corporate awareness of and capacity (insurance, trained HR people) to deal with mental health 6) societal acceptance of mental wellness in all its forms 7) accountable government willing to REALLY cut wasteful spending (rather than just talk about it) in order to support what matters

Posted Monday, June 23

R.M. from Regina Canada writes: I am sharing a website that I came across a few years ago that is designed and run by those with mental illness. Perhaps there is a Canadian equivalent but I am not aware of it. We need to continue to build online communities with 'rooms' for all both to discuss/network and learn about the 'worlds' others live in and share with us and others. I would be willing to collaborate if others were like minded. http://theicarusproject.net/

Posted Monday, June 23

Carol Anderson from Sudbury Canada writes: I read the article with interest, especially since there was a positive outcome. Unfortunately, my experiences with mental illness and attempting to get treatment for a family member have been frustrating. Proving that someone is a danger to themselves or to others is very difficult. A formerly jovial, athletic, working man turns into an angry, paranoid, delusional, unemployable person who alienates himself from everyone and everything. He can lose everything- relationships, job, possesions,....and that is OK, that is his right in our system. It is so sad to watch and be unable to do anything. He does not even have a reasonable chance for recovery or to decide on therapy or medication because the paranoia interferes with his judgement. When he can be convinced to go for therapy/see a psychiatrist, there is little help there. Appointments are scheduled perhaps once a month, perhaps every two weeks. Not enough time to build a relationship, not enough time to actually breakthrough his defenses. So, as a family, we struggle to maintain contact and struggle to not lose him.

Posted Monday, June 23

c.f. from unspec. Canada writes: Thank you Globe and Mail for tackling this issue. As many others have commented, this is a BIG topic that will take time for most people to absorb and bring into everyday awareness. The mentally ill encountered on the streets, and in crisis situations (in emergency rooms), etc. act 'differently' to the norm and that frightens people. In fact it frightens many health care staff too. As a result, the stigma is felt at a gut level by both sides of the equation, and not necessarily a thought stigma. This is hard to overcome.

There is a shortage of mental health nurses now and looming in the future as the older group retire, there is a lack of psychiatrists already keenly felt in Ontario. Why would students choose mental health as their specialty when they are stigmatized as ''weird'' for doing so? when there are other more glamourous choices? We need to incentivize these specialities becuase we have a crisis in our society. Also, we need to address the issue that to be mentally ill automatically ensures poverty - need to relook at the disability programs.

The other piece is the integration of mental health and addictions. While society feels addictions is often a moral issue, mental health isn't. The joining of them together for treatment makes sense medically (many mentally ill use substances to ease symptoms) but tainst mental health with moral issues. This needs addressing.

Finally, while not in favour of warehousing ANY portion of society, there are those mentally ill for whom supervised, controlled living is essential for them and the safety of the public. We need to fund those settings and not eschew them because of the old ''insane asylum'' model. Families can only take care of a certain number of the mentally ill because the needs and reluctance to take meds etc., can be overwhelming. Dumping them in group homes in parkdale didn't work in the 70s/80s, it won't work now.

Posted Monday, June 23

Ria Mistak from Halifax Canada writes: Hey there...My name is Rita and I am 22 years old. I was diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorder when I was 15, although, I've been feeling the pangs of this disorder as early as 8 years old. At first, I felt bizarre, unlike my peers, always worried that something bad was going to happen. It became debilitating when I reached adolescence and found help. Immediately, I was given a prescription for Prozac and Clonazipam, a heavy dose for such a young, fragile mind. After weeks of fighting with myself and my psychiatrist, who seemed ever ready to keep pumping me full of pills, I gave into a high dose of Paxil, a newer antidepressant. This helped my anxiety but I soon spun into a world of fatigue, weight-gain, missed school, self-mutilation, promiscuous behaviour, alcoholism, drug addiction and major depression.

The drugs were not working, in fact, the label that perpetuated my anxiety and depression was defined by the fact that I was, or so I thought, crazy. I hated not being able to control my own thoughts and behaviours. Everything was out of control. I went from Paxil, to Celexa, to Effexor, to Cipralex and back to Celexa. Although my teen years are well behind me, I've had to deal with the trail that anxiety disorder comes with. I have suffered from bouts of agoraphobia, social anxiety, delusional thoughts, manic depression, and obsession compulsion. All of which have been eased by talking to a councillor, not taking medication.

I am angry at doctors for writing me off as 'another case of depression and anxiety' and writing me away with a prescription. There needs to be more help to people who are not able to afford therapy, not able to find the right referrals and are too scared to ask for help. In order to be able to ask for help, there needs to be more awareness and support from people perpetuating the term 'crazy'. I know I'm not crazy; there is no such thing.

Posted Monday, June 23

Tom Drummond from Ottawa Canada writes: I'm pleased to see the Globe and Mail focussing on such an important issue. I was on 'stress medication' (read anti-depressants) for almost 10 years. A year ago, I ended up in the Ottawa Hospital and after being an in-patient, was priveledged to attent the Acute Day Hospital Program for a six week-period. I'm pleased to say I haven't had to take so much as an aspirin since, and although I still struggle with my emotions at times, my newfound awareness carries me through.

Previous commenters are correct, Self Awareness and Cognitive Behavioural Change should be part of the school curriculum, beginning in early grades. Apparently there are some School Boards in The States and Canada that are doing this and every step like this forum in The Gobe is a step in the right direction.

Posted Monday, June 23

s p from Toronto Canada writes: For all the technological advancements we have witnessed, there is nothing that can challenge the power and complexity of the human brain. Within each of us is a three lb supercomputer dictating our every perception. To truly appreciate the brain is to marvel at the remarkable brilliance of its creator. With that being said, any science that aims to understand the function of the human brain is trying to tackle a subject beyond anything else in the known universe. It will be centuries before psychiatry is able to reliably and effectively deal with mental illness. Just like there were no antibiotics available during the Plague, this problem is is well beyond today's science.

Posted Monday, June 23

Judith Meyers from Stoney Creek Canada writes: During the last ten years Mental Illness has been the leading edge in our life. Our son has suffered with ADHD Bipolar and sever depression. In 2004 I lost a brother to suicide and have recently being diagnosed with Bipolr 11.

I can only wish that society could please understand the devistation of this terrible disease. I have heard quite frequently that someone that comes through cancer is considered a HERO...and yes they are however getting to the other side of Mental Illness is a journey and trying to conquer is a journey all on its own.

Posted Monday, June 23

Sandy McMurtry from London Canada writes: My only son age 19 took his life 10 years ago. My dad also took his life so did my dad's brother. My mom's mother, my grandmother took her life. A great-uncle, and a great-grandfather also took their lives.

Posted Monday, June 23

When will the cycle stop? I suffer from depression, but I have been very lucky to have an incredible psychiatrist or I to would have taken my life. Before my son died I was working. One day I went into work and just started crying. My son was eighteen then, and we were having a terrible time. We were so desperately trying to get him help as we knew he was ill. No one would llisten to us. Our son was a wonderful caring loving young man until the age of 17 1/2. It was like he changed overnight. He was very angry, smashed his hand right through walls, doors. One day he attacked his dad and I had to call 911. The Crown wanted to send him to jail. He could not live with us this was ordered by the court. Eventually he got a conditional discharge. He seemed to pull himself together with school. The court sent him for an assessment at Sunnybrook Hosp. to a Psychiatrist. They said he was ok. A week after the conditional discharge he hung himself at his house. He was revived, lived for 10 days, and we took him off life support. To make matters worse the lab made mistakes and they said they could not use his organs. There was nothing wrong with my Matthew. His organs could have been used. This still upsets me.

My mother was a Schizophrenic. Her mom had depression. My oldest nephew elder-abused my mom and is a very violent young man. We do not know what he is, but he is ill also. My youngest nephew would burn himself with cigarettes. He is 23. Their father almost killed himself with booze and drugs. My younger sister also has depression. My husband and I have been very lucky and have received extensive therapy over the past 11 yrs or we would not be here. At one time my hubby was suicidal and was admitted to hosp. Matts Mom

Posted Monday, June 23

lisa Netkin from toronto Canada writes: I'm just amazed that I found this series today. I just returned from the 'Mood Swings' Golf Tournament at Taboo Resort in Gravenhurst. This fundraiser is in it's 4th year for the Mood Disorders Association Of Ontario. Not only do I volunteer, but I have been struggling with bipolar disorder since my early teens yet not properly diagnosed until my late 30's ( I'm now 41). It is and always will be a struggle for myself and my family. This illness changes every time I think I have a grip, so the fight is won but the battle will always continue.

Without the support of family and the dedication of doctors I can truly say there would be no purpose for me. Patience is crucial! It's days like today when a group of people come out to support Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and watch Mike Weir hold his clinic for them that I know my battle will continue. Thanks Team!

Posted Monday, June 23

Paula Verlegh from Canada writes: Thanks for doing these series on Mental Health. Mental health should be an integral part of our health care. We need fast and easy access to mental health services. A few years ago my teenage daughter was depressed and had suicidal thoughts. Living with her dad (an alcoholic who may well be depressed himself) in a rural area; there simply was no timely access to the necessary services. Working together with her family physician we got her medication (with the possibility of negative side effects) because there was nothing else. I could not take time off work. I spend many a night on the phone with her, listening and helping her through another night. I don't know how I got through that time. She came through this episode, but I will always be on guard that it doesn't return. I believe that if my daughter had access to mental health services during that time, she would now be stronger and better equipped to deal with adversity.

Posted Monday, June 23

Lauri Nerman from Victoria Canada writes: Since 1988 I have struggled with depression that manifests itself in psychotic episodes, they have ranged from believing that everyone in the psychiatric hospital was there because of me, that my family was trying to kill me, the list goes on. Yet what is not really addressed so far is the linkage between addiction and mental health issues. It was not until 3 years ago when I suffered another acute depression that the psychiatrist connected the depression with my drug of choice which was marijuana.

My life now is probably the best it has ever been, but it was a struggle to get to the place that I am in now. One of the biggest issues was the lack of support for my family- I would be sent home from the hospital without any follow up or guidance. Imagine a cancer patient being told go home and we wont follow up at all. I am one of the lucky ones, I didn't succeed in killing myself, I did ECT treatments which left very minimal side effects and I have been symptom free for over three years and I have been clean for that amount of time.

I think the Conservative government while lauded for the mental health commission has done a real disservice to mental health patients by ignoring the component that Kirby initially addressed in his report: the connection between addiction and mental health issues. I applaud the courage of your participants and I hope that the public understands that having a mental illness should be no different than having a broken leg or something that is more visible and tangible. Ultimately stigmas are broken by the courageous acts of people who go public in a big way like The Globe and Mail as well as the day to day courage of letting the people around them know that they are suffering.

Posted Monday, June 23

Candace Allman from Toronto Canada writes: Thank you Globe and Mail for opening the door to begin to erode the stigma around mental illness. Did you know that post-stroke depression affects one in three people who have had a stroke, yet it is seldom talked about?

Approximately three months after a miraculous recovery from a debilitating stroke, I developed severe depression with psychosis. The blood clot on my brain altered my brain chemistry. I withdrew from family and friends, could not focus at work, imagined I had developed several other illnesses - including cancer and diabetes and could not function at home. I found it impossible to sleep and would anxiously pace up and down the stairs. I felt my life was hopeless, and when my husband became concerned that I was becoming suicidal, he had me admitted to the psychiatric ward at Sunnybrook hospital. For the first five weeks, I was on antidepressants and did not show any improvement. Luckily my psychiatrists recognized that electroconvulsive therapy would help me . After six treatments over the course of three weeks I completely recovered. That was three years ago, and I have not experienced any depression since.

It is time for post stroke depression to be talked about as a common result of stroke. Also, the stigma surrounding electroconvulsive therapy needs to be addressed. I am fortunate in having a very supportive work place, family and friends and excellent medical care. It is my prayer that all who suffer from mental illness will have access to the care and support they need, and that mental and physical health will one day soon be viewed as equal partners. I thank all of the people who have shared their stories. I applaud your courage. We can change nothing with our silence.

Posted Monday, June 23

Martha Morris from Toronto area Canada writes: Talking makes me uncomfortable. Of course, as the story goes, this wasn't always the case. As a child I bubbled over with the ecstasy of speaking and singing and shouting, much to the irritation of older brothers and the exasperation of parents. Every thought was deserving of an airing, dead air being anathema, at very best a waste. I commented on the sun on the water (didn't it look like it was coming from the bottom of the lake?) and questioned why spaghetti didn't get tangled in knots and announced that I was going to be a farmer when I grew up (and weren't these strawberries delicious?). Sleep didn't deter me altogether because I would wake in the middle of the night and tell God He had made a "damned fine moon". Sometime in the middle of being ten years old, I stopped. The words wouldn't come out, they refused. Running conversations continued in my head but they were determined to race on an endless track inside instead of flying into the air. It became clear that I didn't want anyone to catch what I was thinking. This shutdown marked the beginning of a long and lonely journey through a minefield. Hospitalization for anorexia, a psychiatrist who considered sexual interaction with an adolescent "treatment", medication and counselling for depression. Once struck, there ain't no cure, just ways of dealing. Coping with the chronic pain that crushes and then, when it eases, rushing to catch a breath and move ahead a little further towards feeling like it might be okay to be who I am, before the next blow is delivered. Reading the stories in Saturday's Globe was a knife through the heart. I don't want anyone else to feel the way I have and do; there is no comfort in knowing that others experience pain in living with the shame and struggle. Can something good come from cutting away the scars and exposing the raw hurt? I hope so. Hope is what brought me this far, forty years down the road. Maybe the time has come to talk.

Anonymous writes: I was not surprised to see that 86% percent of readers said that they knew of someone who had a mental health issue. In my own circle I know at least four individuals who have been afflicted with this, so I will certainly be following this very closely. I commend you on tackling a very difficult subject. The individuals who are dealing with this do not want others to know, including other family members. It makes it very hard to be a support person, when you are not able to get support for yourself. Suicide watch is a very lonely place when you can't tell anyone else about it.

Harry Zeit from Toronto Canada writes: I hope that, as this series goes on, the articles will become more clear and up-to-date on the current understanding of causes and effective treatments of mental illness. There is no illness that is specifically a mental illness and a brain disease; it's now well understood that all illnesses exist along a continuum but involve the body and mind. Also, most newer advances in 'mental illness' are pointing to early attachment and other trauma rather than to genes as primary causes of diseases like depression, anxiety, autism, schizophrenia and PTSD. We also know that the therapies which aim at rapid resolution like CBT and medications just don't really work wel, and invariably fail to address causal factors. Also, many of our emotional traumas underlie chronic illnesses that we consider physical, or lead to addiction, violence and broken lives. So far, I only see the articles I'm reading relieving the stigma of mood disorders, but at the same time, they are much more deeply stigmatizing the traumas that create these so-called Axis 1 disorders. Perhaps the Americans are moving much more quickly in the direction of adopting effective therapies because of their need to treat the epidemic of psychiatric disorders in Iraq War Veterans. At any rate, as a physician and a psychotherapist, I find it frustrating that these articles are not addressing the deeper issues that create physical & mental illness and discussing the treatments that really work. I fear that these articles will only lead to more money going in all the wrong places; that it will lead to millions of dollars chanelled into pharmaceuticals and cookbook formulas while the scope of suffering, the sense of futility for mental health patients and the terrible cost of mental illness, denial and human alieniation continues to dramatically increase.

Lynn-Marie Ramjass from Ajax Canada writes: I think the motto at the head of the issue says is best, FACE IT, FUND IT, FIX IT. We need to EDUCATE the public concerning mental illness and the many myths attached to it. We need a forum like this one, in which to let the patients have their say. We need to stop equating all persons with a mental illness in the same category as the likes of Paul Bernardo and other violent offenders. It hurts, angers and appals me that I must forever be equated with someone like him, purely because I have a mental disorder. I am tired of watching television and seeing those with mental illness forever portrayed as violent and someone to be feared. When in fact, most mentally ill patients are not violent whatsoever. There are so many different forms of mental illness, many of which can and are treatable. People need to know that even when we seek professional help, the health system does not provide enough doctors. We have a shortage of family doctors as it is. To see a psychiatrist or any other specialist takes months and you need a referal. Many people end up on the streets because they have no one to advocate for them, they lost trust in the system years ago and they just plain gave up. I know that my disorder cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. If some people want to call compassion a bleeding heart, than let them. If we shared a lot more love and understanding, if we do unto others as we would have them do unto us than we would not be having these social problems. We live in a society that often judges first and asks questions later. I think the one single thing I would like to tell anyone living with or knowing someone with a mental illness is this 'Be not afraid.' I would like the general public to know that it is courage personfied to face and overcome our fears. Having bipolar depression for nineteen years, I discovered a strength, courage, wisdom and compassion I never knew existed prior to developing this disease.

Aethne Hinchliffe from Ottawa Canada writes: Almost 10 years ago now, my father killed himself. It wasn't for a long time that I stopped feeling ashamed when telling people how he died - due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. (Perhaps even I was a little ashamed of him.) Now that I've accepted that he was ill and needed help, I can tell people how he died without feeling as though others are going to judge me or him.

This series in the Globe & Mail is a step in the right direction in helping to create awareness and erase the stigma. Thank you.

Hog More from Guelph,ON Canada writes: Hi Moderator, It is good to know that there are good citizens out there who care about sickness of the mind and related maladies. The cost of mental illness to the patient, his family, and to the society is very large. For example, the patient misses earned income during the course of progression of the illness. Even if he manages to secure a job, it will be a low paying mundane job. Let me briefly narrate the progress of my brother Clement who had been on medication for schizophrenia 25 years. Clement did well in school. He chose to do research in Chemistry in India.Clement struggled to live up to the expectations of the members of the elite class. He withdrew from friends and stayed in the room in the hostel for long periods. He became an easy target for the smart guys. There he was given Thorazine and Haloperidol because he voluntarily consulted a doctor with the complaint that a bird is singing in his head. Noise from other rooms nearly drove him to deeper levels of craziness. He missed many doses due to the drowsiness associated with the meds. He had not been shaving or bathing for a while. He wore shabby cloths. Then he stayed home listening to radio and dreaming about a better life. We had an issue and we realized that something must be done about Clement. Later, he was prescribed Zyprexa and Tegritol. This combination worked wonders on Clement. He started looking for jobs. He updated his skills with few evening classes. The meds made him tired for any big tasks. Even if he managed to earn $28,000 per year, over 12 years, it would add up to nearly $300,000. I blame the sickness for the lost wealth.So, what could you do about it? The psychotics do not have a good role model to emulate. They walk in darkness, absorbed in the background noises and dreams of the brain. Some psychotics try to find meaning to their life at the wrong places. I mean, in movies and music. They slowly lose the touch with reality as the sickness progress.

Susan Baxter from Canada writes: Hi. Thanks for bringing mental health into the open. Following the sudden death of my youngest child I became clinically depressed. With reluctance I began Effexor 2 years later. I remained on the medication for 2 years and slowly withdrew after my son told me I was neither happy or sad. I had a flat affect. After reading about exercise helping to decrease the symptoms of depression, I joined a gym and began a fitness routine while slowly withdrawing the medication. Six years have passed since that child died and I live medication free, accepting my loss and incorporating exercise into my daily routine. Despite my strong faith, I was living a hopeless life all the while trying to convince myself to 'snap out of it'. In the midst of my depression, in the Spring of 2005 my son was diagnosed with his first psychotic episode as he completed his 3rd year of an undergrad degree. He was abusing alcohol and marijuana in order to cover up his grief and other feelings of loss. Unable to cope with exams he called home at 4:30 in the morning. This call had followed a few weeks of weird e-mails and other phone conversations. I never clued in to his substance abuse or his distraught. As I set out for the 4 hour drive to bring him home, I knew he was in a crisis. He received an abrupt and uncourteous evaluation by the psychiatrist in our general hospital. He took only one pill of the prescription he was given because it made him so physically ill. Two weeks later at Whitby Psych. Hospital he received excellent care by the staff as an outpatient. He was told that he could never use marijuana as with some people it could lead to psychosis. Apparently the incidence of psychotic episodes has risen sharply in the past few years among the young. This window of opportunity in calling for help, was very small for my son. Three years later he is working on a masters' degree, living independently and facing his grief and other losses medication and marijuana free!

Harold A. Maio from Ft. Myers, Florida writes: 'People with mental illnesses --face a stigma-- that can prevent them from getting care' is poorly edited. Some of us do, some of us don't, some of us are far too educated to 'stigmatize,' and others of us are far too educated to accept the proffered prejudice, to paste it on ourselves or others, or on a page. Editors err to generalize. 'People with mental illnesses' is as definitive an address as 'people with physical illnesses,' about whom we do not generalize, we know both that people vary in vast degree and illnesses vary in vast degree. We are trained to stereotype one, not trained to stereotype the other. We largely conform to both trainings, as a survey of journalism shows. 'People with mental illnesses,' 'people with physical illnesses,' 'people without illnesses' win the Nobel and Pulitzer are elected to major offices, including heads of state, earn doctorates and judgeships, succeed- and fail- at every level of society. And 'people with mental illnesses,' 'people with physical illnesses,' 'people without illnesses' face prejudices in one form or another from other people. Sometimes in the press. Harold A. Maio, Advisory Board, American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Board Member - Partners in Crisis, Former Consulting Editor - Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Boston University Language Consultant UPENN Collaborative on Community Integration of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities

Andrew Toth from Oliver, B.C. writes: I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. Brought on by a marriage separation in 2003; I lost the ability to carry on my career, which was an AACI, a Professional Real Estate Appraiser. Prior to going in 'depression: I never knew it existed; in fact I had some pre-wired stereo typical ideas of it all, the types of mental illnesses; medication if any, etc. I went from a high energy business person to having sleep, resulting from fatigue, take up about 80 per cent of my days. I have lost the ability to sense outside temperature, because of my body sensing hypothalamus has somehow been disordered, I am more cold blooded then warm blooded, so to speak. My short term memory is, how shall I say, none existent. When very fatigued I need to lay down and when I walk into my apartment place the keys down; fall asleep for several hours for an needed afternoon nap; I will not remember where I place the keys. An hour later of searching I may find them. I could not listen to music of any kind for the first 10 months, after entry; into the world of severe depression. My spelling went from very good to very bad as I had forgotten how to spell words. I was not able to use a computer, which was a major tool in my business, for at least two years, post onset. I am on anti-depressant medication which I regard as a necessity to my minimal function. My typical day now is awake at between 10:30 am and 1 pm. I function doing what ever I can achieve, dishes, laundry until I require a nap of several hours. When I go to sleep in the evening I require sleeping medication, and have been on sleeping medication for the past 5 years. I deal with the fact that I cannot work. I also deal with the fact I have to manage stress. All stress, right down to shutting off the phone when I go to sleep. Depression, untreated take lives in the form of suicide; which I can understand, because the loneliness it creates is almost unbearable. I can only read say 15 pages of text, while laying down, then I need rest.

Victoria Arsenualt from Halifax writes: I think the hardest part about living with someone with a mental illness is talking to your friends or family about it, or sharing a difficult day, or a good one. Our son has schizophrenia, and other than our immediate family, and the fabulous team at the hospital, no one knows that he is ill. It isn't something people understand, or even sympathize with, so it's easier not talking about it. Mental illness makes people afraid, like anything that they don't understand. Our son is a wonderful man. He is quite, stays within our home most of the time as he has severe anxiety issues. People don't understand that a person with mental illness is more afraid than any of us will ever be. They have to battle things within themselves that we can only imagine. They are afraid, and they depend on those closest to them to help, and understand. If they are abandoned, they are lost. Our son use to play the guitar, taught himself, and played beautifully. Now it bothers him, his memory is not so great, so he doesn't play. If he can't be perfect, he won't do it. He gets agitated, but has a quiet, peaceful room that is easy on his mind. We love him, and I could fill a book about how I feel, and what we deal with, but I just wanted to add a comment on this great topic.

Sharon R from Canada writes: I was diagnosed with a mood disorder called 'cyclothymia' when I was 38. Most recently, I have found out that I am now Bipolar Two with underlying cyclothymia. Prior to my diagnosis, I self medicated with alcohol and various types of illegal substances to try and dull the pain and emptiness that I constantly fought inside. Needless to say my condition has affected every part of my life. The worst of all is knowing that I am different. When you meet me, you see this attractive, articulate, intelligent, posed, confident lady. Once people get to know me, it's a different story. People that I have deeply loved have turned away from me primarily because of the lack of understanding and the 'stigma' associated with mental illness. I am very pleased to see this editorial. I am hoping that people who read these articles will view mental illness from a different perspective and that those who suffer silently will not be afraid to speak out.

Jada Roche from Moncton writes: After years of struggles and misdiagnosis, after a post partum depression/psychosis that nearly killed me and my child, I got a bipolar diagnosis. And a doctor who said I wasn't 'sick enough' for her to see me. At every turn have been doctors either unwilling or incapable of seeing beyond the surface or easy answers. Imagine a manic person on Ritalin. It's truly a joy. Things could have been so much better if someone had every stopped to really listen, if someone on that maternity ward had paid attention to how I turned away from my child, if someone had seen past what they wanted to see. I wasted years of my life because no one would help me. Even still, I have to be grateful that I even have a doctor, even when I'm chastised like a child because I'm annoyed at her 40 minute delay for my appointment during my workday. We have no options-we have to take what we get and be happy for it. I would think we deserve a little better than that.

Doris Wrench Eisler from St. Albert, Alta. writes: It's great to see this subject demythologized and discussed like any other but while new and effective drugs are helping, we might keep in mind that that is not the only approach. Context is important. Not so long ago, for instance, women could be and were sometimes put away in asylums because of perceived 'sexual dysfunction', or having sexual proclivities seen as normal only in males. There is a famous case of this type on record involving a prominent American political family. Experiments in Korea seemed to show that actually, almost anyone (99% of the general population) can be driven 'crazy', have visual and aural hallucinations, become extremely depressed etc. People diagnosed with schizophrenia have said that the worst aspect of their affliction has been societal attitudes and the depression induced by it. It should be pointed out to all sufferers that there exists a far worse form of mental illness from the moral and societal point of view in people who seem to function quite adequately but are capable of rationalizing the most immoral (deadly) policies and behaviour. Factors such as self-empowerment seem to be all-important as fewer women are having problems these days, having attained a measure of real autonomy.

Charles Macphee from Toronto writes: It is nice to see a national newspaper tackling this major medical issue. I know all about the stigma that mental illness has since I am one of those diagnosed with depression. At times it is a struggle to get out of bed each morning. One thing that I have done is started a blog about my illness to tell one persons tale and trying to remove the shadows and can be found at http://dragons-sphere.spaces.live.com/default.aspx The one thing that a lot people in Ontario may not know is that the Ontario Disability Support Program cages those into a cycle of extreme poverty which does not help the recovery process

Michael Bryson from Toronto writes: I would have liked to have seen something included in this feature series about children under the age of 10. Specifically, something about learning disabilities and how the school system attempts to address them. There is a child in my life who was diagnosed with a learning disability last year, and we have had a heck of a time understanding 'the system.' There are supposedly many support systems and procedures in place. However, once one tries to access them -- there are waiting lists, excuses, and huge skepticism from the people on the front line of the solution. I mean: teachers! One can only imagine how much better off 'the mentally ill' would be, if the school system weren't so content on promoting a cookie cutter approach. (Yes, governments need to fund these supports better, but my experience has been that the attitude of the teacher can be the primary 'disabler.' If the teacher doesn't 'see' the problem, no supports will be put in place!) Perhaps the next series for the G&M? Special Education Reform?

John Smith from Canada writes: In my opinion one of the most important issues is that of the destigmatization of mental illness. As in everything else, what we learn at a young age stays with us for quite a while. I think that workshops in middle and high schools would be quite effective in helping children better understand mental illness, both in their families and in the larger world around them. Similar workshops could be arranged for companies and work places. Understanding is the key to acceptance.

John Chuckman from Canada writes: I do wish that we could wave a magic wand to eliminate the plague of mental illness, but I know perfectly well that we cannot. We have no good answers for most of the severe forms. All the various non-drug treatments are ineffective on the severe mental illnesses, which are all the result of glitches in the body's most complex organ, the brain. Actually, we still suffer a lot of mumbo-jumbo myths around various psychotherapies, the practices of the same people who forty years ago told families that schizophrenia was due to overbearing mothers, sending already-victim families into waves of ignorant guilt. Schizophrenia is in many ways more tragic than brain cancer. It destroys whole families. It is what sends all the most pitiful street people out onto the streets. But the medications we have for schizophrenia have major problems. First, many schizophrenics have intense paranoid fears. They actually fear efforts to help them. That is why many refuse to go to shelters. Second, the drugs themselves are partly ineffective and can be quite dangerous in some cases. In other cases, they turn some schizophrenics into pathetic foggy zombies. How do you control a paranoid person taking his/her medication? You cannot without imprisoning them in institutions as we did forty years ago, something which is unacceptable in a free society. Despite our pride and arrogance about our science, the truth is our abilities with mental illness remain fairly primitive. We just do not know enough. So I find it difficult to see any immediate light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

Matthew Spears from Vancouver Canada writes: It's wonderful that you're creating this series. Awareness helps.

The main problem I see that will be very difficult to change is our prediliction to immediately assume different behaviour is bad and needs to be punished. Before someone is diagnosed, they usually will alienate friends, be fired from a job, have their family distance from them, and even sometimes be on the wrong side of the law. There is an immediate assumption that negative behaviour should be punished. It is only afterwards that there is the thought that it could be a symptom or a subtle cry for help. I've seen this many times.

We need to learn to recognize cries for help without having the label of mental illness, because we rarely will be given it. It's called coming together as a community.

della baird from vancouver Canada writes: where does a person start. there are so many beginnings and too many endings. i, at first did not view my particular disorder as mental illness. i fooled no-one but myself. the names used before the current name(post traumatic stress disorder)were words i had heard my mother use to aquaintances about my behavior ie: high strung, flighty,etc. as a teenager in the 50's, 60's it was squirrely, spaced out, wired etc. these comments usually within earshot. the worst of all was knowing that somehow you were different, even within your own family. that's the part that hurts the most. my trauma stemmed from a father cursed with the same disorder. he was injured at vimy, married a 17 year old girl when he was 45. he was a wreck and alchoholic, his brutality to my mother was feasted on us. i still hear my mothers screams today. and those of two other family members. one is because of my actions. knowing i could not protect my mother added guilt along with my shaking, jumping at every little sound. at times even crying because the sound would not only hit my ears, it would reverberate thru my body. my feet can literally leave the floor at a clap of thunder. two bouts of rheumatic fever which affects the central nervous system as well as other physical disabilities just added to the mix. i was shy. i was (mixed up),i was a mess. yet i always had hope. today i have none. i want it back. i am now 67 and still find it hard to function. i am a fun loving person until a sound, a scream, a fight, gives me flash backs. i immediatley react by running to the scene to help without a thought to the consequences or running around like a chicken with no head. everyday, almost is a struggle. i used to feel hurt ,now i mostly feel anger and ask why. we do not in this world know everyones story. is it not time to step out out of the cozy niches' and look at others lives? you may be surprised, and you just may also learn that we all have our own degree of normalcy. you just may be able to identify. try it.

i had no room to speak about the lack of mental health facilities. there are very good people who work in the system. there are as everywhere, those uncaring, there for the paycheque. people who land in jail because of their mental problems are not always given help. some police persons recognize there is a mental problem, the person is taken to hospital and they are usually out the next day or a while later. the system is overloaded. i have been in a pysche ward 3 times, of my own volition. treated very well. sad to say, others not. mainly because there is ,hard to believe, stigma, even in the system. the one place that should be a haven is often a worse hell for some. verbal and physical abuse happens quite frequently. i have seen a lot in my lifetime, probably too much. most people have families. some do not. if your family can identify, then know this. support is the most important tool you have. stop thinking of them as DIFFERENT. just love them and show it. it usually rubs off.

Jennifer Jilks from Muskoka Canada writes: This is an excellent series. It will really help to raise the awareness of mental health issues previously swept under the carpet. I fought depression, having dealt with the death of my mother, moving, changing jobs, homes, and caring for an ailing father (brain tumour). Caregivers at at huge risk for depression and most of us (80%) are women with other family responsibilities. The health care industry and health practitioners do not accommodate for those of us with mental health issues. They write a Rx and do not advocate for psychotherapeutic treatments.

Bosses do not understand the impact of mental health issues. They anger as they view your illness as interfering with job productivity. They fear mental health issues, demonstrate ignorance and show little understanding. Education is the only answer, as we share our stories and reflect on our situations.

harry warner from salt spring island Canada writes: If we see someone lying at the side if the road with a broken limb we rush them to medical care. Yet when we see someone with a 'broken mind' we tend to avoid them; judge them or just plain ignore them. Until our society can speak of mental illness with the same candour with which we now speak of cancer (not too long ago referred to in hushed tones as 'The Big C') our mentally ill will be marginalized. Thank you for your series of articles on this issue.

G. A. from Brampton Canada writes: I suffer from mental illness, but not schizophrenia. I have suffered for 14 years, 12 of those years, causing problems in my day-to-day, week-to-week functioning. People will have different ideas on what your problem is, but only the sufferer truly knows what his or her problem is. They just may not be able to put it into words. People will also have different ideas on how to solve your problem. The sufferer can consider these, but must keep following his or her own 'gut', in what she thinks will get her out. God Bless.

al goguen from Victoria Canada writes: When my brother and his wife began to notice that their oldest daughter was acting differently from the other three daughters, they had her examined by their family DR. and after several tests, it was shown that she was a schizophrenic. They were devastated like any other parents, but they wanted the best for their daughter. Of course the first reason was to keep her at home and try to change her or cope with her. The parents had a business and had to work. So their Dr. suggested to place her in a group home. In San Diego where they lived has that service. We don`t in Canada. She has been in a group home for over 20 years, and she is very happy to be with her new family of women who have the same problems as she has: helping each other. They can interact with each other. They care for each other. They live in a certain way a normal life. She is always invited with her family at home for certain holidays, but at the end of the day, she looks forward to go back to her real home. I wish we had that system here in Canada. Instead many schizophrenic are left on their own roaming the street. We see them here in Victoria. They have no home for them, and the VIHA and the others responsible to help our sick people keep a closed eyes. There is a stupid human right law which says that you cannot remove a sick person from the street and put him in rehab if he or she doesn`t want to go. But aren't we the guardians of our our sick people. When they can`t think for themsleves and do not undertand what is best for them, why is it wrong to offer a hand. But if we hear that a bady had been abandoned in a garbage can we all rush to retrieve this child and fine him a home which is exacly what we should do. But some schizophrenics, some drug addicts, some alcoholics, are like small infants; they can`t thing for themselves; they can even remember their own name. What is so wrong for us to help them. Put them in a group home, a detox center and help them, giving them a normal life.

Melanie McCallum from Ottawa, Canada writes: Our son was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder just before his 5th birthday. He is a kind, intelligent, and funny little boy who can go into an aggressive rage when he feels overwhelmed with worry that he cannot express. For a long time people said that he had 'behaviours'. Rarely did anyone outside of our house see our little boy literally sick to his stomach with worry about anything you could possibly think of right down to what he should wear to school the next day. All they saw was a five year old who could flip over a table full of paperwork and boxes in the daycare office when they told him that he could not 'time himself out' in the hallway when he felt overwhelmed with anxiety - a coping mechanism he regularly engaged in at home that the 'system' has efficiently trained out of him. We are slowly trying to re-teach him to step out when he feels that he can't hack it anymore even though his school and daycare has made it clear that he is not allowed to do this for 'safety reasons'. It seems odd that they would prefer him to have an outburst and potentially injure his classmates than sit in the hallway alone for 5 minutes until he is ready to come back and face the challenges of the classroom. As he gets older (he is 6) he gets better and better at using words like I am scared or I don't know what to do. He has been on medication for his anxiety for a while now and we have finally found a med (Celexa) that helps with the anxiety and still allows him to be himself, emotions and all. He has made friends with the children who used to be afraid to go near him and he enjoys spending time playing and learning at school and daycare. All of this he has achieved on his own with little to no support and understanding from the systems he has to function in daily. We came very close to losing daycare when we learned that he has no 'right' to be cared for in a safe and loving environment, only a 'privilege' to fit into the box. The system needs to change...now.

Laurie Petch from Regina, Canada writes: The last commenter's remarks show the importance of developing school-based mental health services. This is an innovation that is badly needed in Canada as elsewhere in the developed world.

Yvonne Parti from Toronto, Canada writes: I lost my mother to madness over 50 years ago: it was a very painful and dark period for Mother and her children. Today, treatment is better, but the progress made isn't nearly enough. There is more understanding and more useful medication - outcomes are generally more successful - but still there is no cure and recovery is partial at best. Much more money and effort needs to go into researching the causes and potential cures for mental illness.

Heather Lee from Toronto, Canada writes: I have been depressed since my teens. I was lucky enough to find a medication that helped me for 15 years but then it stopped working for me. I have been off work for over 2 years now and I have been through so many different medications and combinations. It is exhausting when it takes so long to try and find something that works. I have even been through Electro Convulsive Therapy or ECT and it did not work for me either. Matter of fact, it took away a lot of my memory and I find that there are many times when I start a sentance and can't find the words to finish it. That is very frustrating!! I have been doing a lot of research online, looking for help to my problems.I came across a surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation. I am in the study and I hope to have the operation done this summer or fall if all goes well. I have also been looking for a Psychiatric Service Dog but the only place that seems to have them is in the US. I only know of one woman in Guelph that trainss these dogs and she only does it for Guelph and area. There is a great demand for these service dogs and I would help me get out of the house every day. As it stands now, I am mostly in my bed every day. I would love to have my old self back and be able to create a non-profit organization with some help from others interested in the same. Build this organization to teach dogs to help us with this illness. I wish the best for others in my situation and I hope some day I will be able to go back to work and be a part of society again. Thanks

M. MacDonald from Halifax, Canada writes: I just want to thank the Globe and Mail for running this feature on mental illness. My wife is a mental health nurse and a good friend of mine suffers from bipolar disorder. It sickens me the way society treats many of those with mental illness and the lack of services for victims of mental illness is deplorable. Unfortunately, it seems often times those who suffer from mental illness do not have the same ability to advocate for themselves or organize major fundraising initiatives, like cancer sufferers (I don't know of any Canadian bank that has sponsored a nationwide run for mental illness, for instance, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong). This type of advocacy and awareness-raising is very important. Thank you!

Rose Simpson from Ottawa Canada writes: My life swirls with mental health and addiction issues. Both of my parents were alcoholics and I suffered the fallout in my youth. My father died when I was eight months old in a car rollover; a six pack of beer was found beside him in the front seat. My mother suffered serious depression, so much so she had to be institutionalized to undergo shock treatments -- which still seems utterly barbaric to me. For years, as a teenager, I served as my mother's therapist over boozy evenings, as she offloaded her problems and anger on to me. I listened to her tirades, wiped her tears and put her to bed many nights. I now realize that she stole my innocence; I became the parent, she the child. I also realize she passed the terrible torch of mental illness on to me and my children. For years I have suffered from general anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. My condition has made finding full time employment impossible and has in effect ruined my career. Fortunately, I can eek out a living as a freelance writer, working from home. But I realize that my isolation contributes significantly to my condition. As a sandwich generation mom, I got it from both ends. First caring for my mother in my youth, and now struggling to help two of my own children who have suffered with their own drug and alcohol problems. I've warned them that substance abuse runs in the family and they are cognizant of that fact. Still, I am pained to see history repeating itself. But through investigation, I found hope. I have come to realize the importance of talking about your problems. I joined a therapy group, which taught me the unique tools of cognitive behavior therapy, tools I have been able to use to tame my panic attacks and live and participate in the real world again. By speaking its name, and facing fears, I believe we can make the impact of mental illness a little smaller in our lives. And by sharing our stories, we can help each other.

James T from Toronto Canada writes: It's been a long time that I read a feature article from beginning to end. Thank you for your series. Coincidentally, this week, I told my employer that I've been battling depression to explain recent absences. I think promoting awareness in the workplace is so important. I've been fortunate enough to have great bosses who understood and were flexible to allow me to get better. I really look forward to Monday's instalment. The reluctance for people to talk about it is incredible - I find even my own psyche blocking out memories and thoughts and feelings. My partner commited suicide 6 years ago - It took me about two years to mourn the loss and just when I thought I was better, I had my first anxiety attack since I was a kid. That was the beginning of a slippery slope which left me debilitated on and off for the next few years. Within that time, I've sought medical and psychological treatment and with time and effort, I'm dealing with my depression. The frustrating thing is while I'm used to controlling every aspect of my life, I am completely powerless to predict how I will feel. I feel depressed that I'm depressed. It's a horrible feeling to think that life has no meaning and to question whether happiness will once again be a part of my life. Yes, I can function and make jokes and laugh... but I really can't remember the last time I was happy. And I wonder whether 'normal' people even question this. I have a very close friend who is also affected. And whenever I tell someone about my problem, I'm amazed at how they already know someone with the same issues. I'm thrilled that the Globe is doing this series and I know it will make a difference for a lot of people.

janna m from Toronto Canada writes: One of my family members had a serious psychotic episode just over a year ago. I looked for help but every road led back to CAMH. The family doctor faxed referrals for an assessment to CAMH. After numerous phone calls to CAMH their response was there was at least a 9 mth wait list. All services in the city had waiting lists or were expensive. Over a year had passed without any response from CAMH. Last mth I faxed a letter to CAMH saying they had this great advertising campaign 'transforming lives' but after waiting for more than a year my family member hadn't been acknowledged never mind had her life transformed. That day CAMH finally made contact to set up an appointment. Its frustrating what a person in crisis with no money, someone to advocate or connection to resources has to go through to get help.

Mary-Jane Kingsley from Toronto Canada writes: I read the article in this mornings paper about mental health in particular, anxiety. As much as I appreciate that this article was written and the topic about CBT was discussed and of course, the importance of CBT for those of us who have GAD, there is so much more that people should know about this disorder. One thing that I think is important to mention is that just because a person may have GAD, that doesn't necessarily mean that they also have depression. This is a misconception that I would really like to clear up. Yes, a person can have both and often it can be the case but certainly not always. This leads to the issue of the appropriate therapy and treatment. It is my opinion that it is very important to recognize if the patient has GAD as the primary problem or depression as the primary problem. I say this because in my opinion it is very important to get the correct medication especially if the GAD or panic is primary. Some people have anxiety and then become depressed because they have anxiety and possibly can't leave their homes. If the anxiety is treated, then often the depression will go away. I feel that CBT is an extremely important treatment for those with anxiety disorder but often it is necessary to combine CBT with medication to having as full a life as possible. CBT will help many people and that is all they will need to get by, but others will definitely need the added help of medication if their anxiety/panic is very sever. A long term benzo is often a good choice rather than an antidepressant for those who just have anxiety/panic disorder. Some doctors don't agree with this and prescribe an SSRI. In my opinion, if your primary issue is anxiety then a long acting benzo is the appropriate medication. There are countless numbers of people who can't leave their homes because of their debilitating fear. They are the hidden suffers. How do we reach them? How can we get them the help they deserve?

L Pady from Toronto Canada writes: The single change in policy that would make an enormous difference to the welfare of many Canadians who struggle with mental illness, is to have Psychologists fees covered by OHIP (or other provincial insurance plans). The high fees prohibit the majority of people from accessing vital therapy. Once someone with mental illness is ready to confront their issues, they need to be able to get the very best possible help. Often, a psychologist can provide just that, but only a very few can afford this service, and turn instead to those with far less training, and continue to struggle as a result.

Congratulations on your fine series. As a survivor of a serious depression many years ago, and an ongoing anxiety disorder, I applaud you for helping to bring this issue to the forefront, and lessen the stigma attached to it. Some day perhaps, we won't need to hide behind a 'designed life'.

Gizella Oehm from Toronto, Canada writes: One of my close friends suffers from 'social anxiety disorder', and has suffered from this, I think, since she was 6 years old. For years I've been helping to support her as I could, and watching her struggle with the sense of humiliation she feels at the condition of her life, which continues to deteroriate. She now sees no way out. While I was excited to read the article by Carolyn Abraham, 'A very designed life', and will show it to her, I know what her response will be: distrust of the medical establishment (ie CAMH), and distrust of the professionals who would need to work with her. Since she feels socially anxioius, she is horrified at the thought that people will find out about her, where she lives (subsidized housing), that she receives the federal disability pension, etc. She feels that once people find this out about her, they will treat her differently. She feels that the public institutions deal with people like her (or any of the poor) with contempt and indifference, just going through the motions. She cannot subsist on the meagre amount of money provided by the disability pension (maximum about $900/mo if you live in Toronto. Think about that: it is almost impossible to get even a basement apartment in Toronto for under $700. This amount of money has not changed in over 20 years). She cannot work right now until she gets a handle on this problem. She is filled with rage and resentment. So, at the end of the day, as I've rather helplessly listened to these litany of concerns, I am honestly at my wits end as to what to do. And so is she. This so sad, because she is such an intelligent, charming, funny woman, who has the potential to be so much more than she is.

G G from Calgary Canada writes: Many of the commentators suggest that mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness. However they are not the same thing at all. Having a cancer or high blood pressure does not prevent you from freely participating in your own treatment however such is not always the case with mental illness. Often the patient is not the best person to assess their own needs. The very nature of a mental illness often prevents the patient from knowing what is best for them. I am not saying that locking people away or treating them in a demoralizing is the answer but the case of the bi-polar man illustrates my point. He was 'homesick' and decided to leave the Ottawa hospital that was providing him the necessary care that he needed. Non compliance on the part of the mentally ill is a big issue perhaps as big an issue as society's attitude toward the mentally ill. Both need to be addressed.

Susi Lessing from Mississauga Canada writes: I praise The Globe and Mail for bringing to the attention of the general public the plight of so many mentally ill people. Society has come a long way, but the stigma of psychological struggles persists; even friends seem to judge, distance themselves or just misunderstand. They feel that these struggles can be overcome by willpower or self-control, long baths ore exercise, without comprehending really.

My mother lived in terrible anguish, depression and despair due to what was then called manic-depression. Electroshocks, insulin shocks, hospitalization and institutionalization did not soothe her despair. My brother and I grew up with this loving, guilt-ridden person who suffered terribly for 50 years.

My brother later had to deal with his own rages and depression and I have had two major clinical depression bouts myself. I have learned to accept my anxiety, which interferes in my ability to be more effective; I have learned to recognize that the moments of deep despair will subside and the sun will shine again at some point ...

I am thankful to Canada for recognizing mental health as an integral part of the health system, yet feel there is a lot to do.

First and foremost, the long waiting time that exists for people to receive help for their agony needs to be improved with more and better services. Another equally urgent concern is the quality of the doctors who offer service. I have met many uninterested, self-absorbed individuals who don't really connect or listen to these suffering patients.

These health officials are very dangerous since they have a big effect on the sick who are desperate and vulnerable. They need to have support and be controlled as well.

Once again, thank you Canada and thank you Globe and Mail for your effort in making mental health understood and the mentally ill accepted.

Yvonne Parti from Toronto, Canada writes: I lost my mother to madness over 50 years ago: it was a very painful and dark period for Mother and her children. Today, treatment is better, but the progress made isn't nearly enough. There is more understanding and more useful medication - outcomes are generally more successful - but still there is no cure and recovery is partial at best. Much more money and effort needs to go into researching the causes and potential cures for mental illness.

Heather Lee from Toronto, Canada writes: I have been depressed since my teens. I was lucky enough to find a medication that helped me for 15 years but then it stopped working for me. I have been off work for over 2 years now and I have been through so many different medications and combinations. It is exhausting when it takes so long to try and find something that works. I have even been through Electro Convulsive Therapy or ECT and it did not work for me either. Matter of fact, it took away a lot of my memory and I find that there are many times when I start a sentance and can't find the words to finish it. That is very frustrating!! I have been doing a lot of research online, looking for help to my problems.I came across a surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation. I am in the study and I hope to have the operation done this summer or fall if all goes well. I have also been looking for a Psychiatric Service Dog but the only place that seems to have them is in the US. I only know of one woman in Guelph that trainss these dogs and she only does it for Guelph and area. There is a great demand for these service dogs and I would help me get out of the house every day. As it stands now, I am mostly in my bed every day. I would love to have my old self back and be able to create a non-profit organization with some help from others interested in the same. Build this organization to teach dogs to help us with this illness. I wish the best for others in my situation and I hope some day I will be able to go back to work and be a part of society again. Thanks

M. MacDonald from Halifax, Canada writes: I just want to thank the Globe and Mail for running this feature on mental illness. My wife is a mental health nurse and a good friend of mine suffers from bipolar disorder. It sickens me the way society treats many of those with mental illness and the lack of services for victims of mental illness is deplorable. Unfortunately, it seems often times those who suffer from mental illness do not have the same ability to advocate for themselves or organize major fundraising initiatives, like cancer sufferers (I don't know of any Canadian bank that has sponsored a nationwide run for mental illness, for instance, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong). This type of advocacy and awareness-raising is very important. Thank you!

Rose Simpson from Ottawa Canada writes: My life swirls with mental health and addiction issues. Both of my parents were alcoholics and I suffered the fallout in my youth. My father died when I was eight months old in a car rollover; a six pack of beer was found beside him in the front seat. My mother suffered serious depression, so much so she had to be institutionalized to undergo shock treatments -- which still seems utterly barbaric to me. For years, as a teenager, I served as my mother's therapist over boozy evenings, as she offloaded her problems and anger on to me. I listened to her tirades, wiped her tears and put her to bed many nights. I now realize that she stole my innocence; I became the parent, she the child. I also realize she passed the terrible torch of mental illness on to me and my children. For years I have suffered from general anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. My condition has made finding full time employment impossible and has in effect ruined my career. Fortunately, I can eek out a living as a freelance writer, working from home. But I realize that my isolation contributes significantly to my condition. As a sandwich generation mom, I got it from both ends. First caring for my mother in my youth, and now struggling to help two of my own children who have suffered with their own drug and alcohol problems. I've warned them that substance abuse runs in the family and they are cognizant of that fact. Still, I am pained to see history repeating itself. But through investigation, I found hope. I have come to realize the importance of talking about your problems. I joined a therapy group, which taught me the unique tools of cognitive behavior therapy, tools I have been able to use to tame my panic attacks and live and participate in the real world again. By speaking its name, and facing fears, I believe we can make the impact of mental illness a little smaller in our lives. And by sharing our stories, we can help each other.

James T from Toronto Canada writes: It's been a long time that I read a feature article from beginning to end. Thank you for your series. Coincidentally, this week, I told my employer that I've been battling depression to explain recent absences. I think promoting awareness in the workplace is so important. I've been fortunate enough to have great bosses who understood and were flexible to allow me to get better. I really look forward to Monday's instalment. The reluctance for people to talk about it is incredible - I find even my own psyche blocking out memories and thoughts and feelings. My partner commited suicide 6 years ago - It took me about two years to mourn the loss and just when I thought I was better, I had my first anxiety attack since I was a kid. That was the beginning of a slippery slope which left me debilitated on and off for the next few years. Within that time, I've sought medical and psychological treatment and with time and effort, I'm dealing with my depression. The frustrating thing is while I'm used to controlling every aspect of my life, I am completely powerless to predict how I will feel. I feel depressed that I'm depressed. It's a horrible feeling to think that life has no meaning and to question whether happiness will once again be a part of my life. Yes, I can function and make jokes and laugh... but I really can't remember the last time I was happy. And I wonder whether 'normal' people even question this. I have a very close friend who is also affected. And whenever I tell someone about my problem, I'm amazed at how they already know someone with the same issues. I'm thrilled that the Globe is doing this series and I know it will make a difference for a lot of people.

janna m from Toronto Canada writes: One of my family members had a serious psychotic episode just over a year ago. I looked for help but every road led back to CAMH. The family doctor faxed referrals for an assessment to CAMH. After numerous phone calls to CAMH their response was there was at least a 9 mth wait list. All services in the city had waiting lists or were expensive. Over a year had passed without any response from CAMH. Last mth I faxed a letter to CAMH saying they had this great advertising campaign 'transforming lives' but after waiting for more than a year my family member hadn't been acknowledged never mind had her life transformed. That day CAMH finally made contact to set up an appointment. Its frustrating what a person in crisis with no money, someone to advocate or connection to resources has to go through to get help.

Mary-Jane Kingsley from Toronto Canada writes: I read the article in this mornings paper about mental health in particular, anxiety. As much as I appreciate that this article was written and the topic about CBT was discussed and of course, the importance of CBT for those of us who have GAD, there is so much more that people should know about this disorder. One thing that I think is important to mention is that just because a person may have GAD, that doesn't necessarily mean that they also have depression. This is a misconception that I would really like to clear up. Yes, a person can have both and often it can be the case but certainly not always. This leads to the issue of the appropriate therapy and treatment. It is my opinion that it is very important to recognize if the patient has GAD as the primary problem or depression as the primary problem. I say this because in my opinion it is very important to get the correct medication especially if the GAD or panic is primary. Some people have anxiety and then become depressed because they have anxiety and possibly can't leave their homes. If the anxiety is treated, then often the depression will go away. I feel that CBT is an extremely important treatment for those with anxiety disorder but often it is necessary to combine CBT with medication to having as full a life as possible. CBT will help many people and that is all they will need to get by, but others will definitely need the added help of medication if their anxiety/panic is very sever. A long term benzo is often a good choice rather than an antidepressant for those who just have anxiety/panic disorder. Some doctors don't agree with this and prescribe an SSRI. In my opinion, if your primary issue is anxiety then a long acting benzo is the appropriate medication. There are countless numbers of people who can't leave their homes because of their debilitating fear. They are the hidden suffers. How do we reach them? How can we get them the help they deserve?

L Pady from Toronto Canada writes: The single change in policy that would make an enormous difference to the welfare of many Canadians who struggle with mental illness, is to have Psychologists fees covered by OHIP (or other provincial insurance plans). The high fees prohibit the majority of people from accessing vital therapy. Once someone with mental illness is ready to confront their issues, they need to be able to get the very best possible help. Often, a psychologist can provide just that, but only a very few can afford this service, and turn instead to those with far less training, and continue to struggle as a result.

Congratulations on your fine series. As a survivor of a serious depression many years ago, and an ongoing anxiety disorder, I applaud you for helping to bring this issue to the forefront, and lessen the stigma attached to it. Some day perhaps, we won't need to hide behind a 'designed life'.

Gizella Oehm from Toronto, Canada writes: One of my close friends suffers from 'social anxiety disorder', and has suffered from this, I think, since she was 6 years old. For years I've been helping to support her as I could, and watching her struggle with the sense of humiliation she feels at the condition of her life, which continues to deteroriate. She now sees no way out. While I was excited to read the article by Carolyn Abraham, 'A very designed life', and will show it to her, I know what her response will be: distrust of the medical establishment (ie CAMH), and distrust of the professionals who would need to work with her. Since she feels socially anxioius, she is horrified at the thought that people will find out about her, where she lives (subsidized housing), that she receives the federal disability pension, etc. She feels that once people find this out about her, they will treat her differently. She feels that the public institutions deal with people like her (or any of the poor) with contempt and indifference, just going through the motions. She cannot subsist on the meagre amount of money provided by the disability pension (maximum about $900/mo if you live in Toronto. Think about that: it is almost impossible to get even a basement apartment in Toronto for under $700. This amount of money has not changed in over 20 years). She cannot work right now until she gets a handle on this problem. She is filled with rage and resentment. So, at the end of the day, as I've rather helplessly listened to these litany of concerns, I am honestly at my wits end as to what to do. And so is she. This so sad, because she is such an intelligent, charming, funny woman, who has the potential to be so much more than she is.

G G from Calgary Canada writes: Many of the commentators suggest that mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness. However they are not the same thing at all. Having a cancer or high blood pressure does not prevent you from freely participating in your own treatment however such is not always the case with mental illness. Often the patient is not the best person to assess their own needs. The very nature of a mental illness often prevents the patient from knowing what is best for them. I am not saying that locking people away or treating them in a demoralizing is the answer but the case of the bi-polar man illustrates my point. He was 'homesick' and decided to leave the Ottawa hospital that was providing him the necessary care that he needed. Non compliance on the part of the mentally ill is a big issue perhaps as big an issue as society's attitude toward the mentally ill. Both need to be addressed.

Susi Lessing from Mississauga Canada writes: I praise The Globe and Mail for bringing to the attention of the general public the plight of so many mentally ill people. Society has come a long way, but the stigma of psychological struggles persists; even friends seem to judge, distance themselves or just misunderstand. They feel that these struggles can be overcome by willpower or self-control, long baths ore exercise, without comprehending really.

My mother lived in terrible anguish, depression and despair due to what was then called manic-depression. Electroshocks, insulin shocks, hospitalization and institutionalization did not soothe her despair. My brother and I grew up with this loving, guilt-ridden person who suffered terribly for 50 years.

My brother later had to deal with his own rages and depression and I have had two major clinical depression bouts myself. I have learned to accept my anxiety, which interferes in my ability to be more effective; I have learned to recognize that the moments of deep despair will subside and the sun will shine again at some point ...

I am thankful to Canada for recognizing mental health as an integral part of the health system, yet feel there is a lot to do.

First and foremost, the long waiting time that exists for people to receive help for their agony needs to be improved with more and better services. Another equally urgent concern is the quality of the doctors who offer service. I have met many uninterested, self-absorbed individuals who don't really connect or listen to these suffering patients.

These health officials are very dangerous since they have a big effect on the sick who are desperate and vulnerable. They need to have support and be controlled as well.

Once again, thank you Canada and thank you Globe and Mail for your effort in making mental health understood and the mentally ill accepted.

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Face it. Fund it. Fix it.

In Breakdown, The Globe and Mail documents the enormous, unaddressed cost of mental illness to Canadian individuals, families and society. The series closes with a search for solutions.

 

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People with mental illnesses face a stigma that can prevent them from getting care. It also stops the public from seeing the problem. Has mental illness affected your life or that of a loved one? Share your experiences with globeandmail.com readers and let us know what single change in society or policy would help the most.

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