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Speak your mind – and erase a stigma

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Mental illness is a pervasive presence in almost all of our lives ...Read the full article

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  1. Pamphleteer . from Canada writes: I don't think Tourette's a mental illness. It's a physical condition. Tourette's causes involuntary physical 'ticks.' Mental illness refers to diseases of the mind that affect thought and behaviour patterns.
  2. 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
  3. Laurie Petch from Regina, Canada writes: The last commentor'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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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!
  7. Rain Couver from Canada writes: Very important to bring awareness to this cause. Good work!
  8. Bert Russell Paradox, BC from Canada writes:
    This is an issue that has touched a majority of our families, it is a humanity disgrace, that we are reluctant to discuss it openly ... we talk about drugs destroying lives, alcohol, disfunctional families, destroyed marriages, on and on and yet the root beneath most of these problems if not the common denominator ... is mental illness. If only the public supported mental illness with same concern as Aids and Cancer research.
  9. Mary Magdalen from Canada writes: Thank you for this debate. However, I wish you had also included information about the trauma suffered by those of us, here in Canada, who have undergone torture in various jails throughout the world. The trauma experienced by the victims of rendition like Maher Arar, and by refugee status seekers, including those under order of deportation. The trauma affecting Aboriginals sent to residential schools. And I wish you had incorporated stories of the trauma suffered by Canadian soldiers involved in our mismanaged war against 'terrorists'.
  10. Michael Sharp from Victoria, Canada writes:

    I am a mental health and addictions clinician.

    I can not remain silent on this subject.

    It does, however, leave my underbelly exposed.

    I shall speak to this subject, and if ad hominem is the response, I will leave.

    Believe you me, I would rather get my kicks on a Dion thread.
    I hope the difference is respected.
  11. JMFT S from Coquitlam, Canada writes: Thank you for your publication's initiative in trying to address the issues around mental illness in our society. I recognize the courage that it takes to put your resources to such a daunting task so I use the term 'trying', advisedly because the road ahead continues to be difficult and uncertain.

    I'm aware of mental illness taking hold of relatives through 5 generations of my hardworking, successful, well educated, community-oriented, and upwardly mobile family. Literally, serious mental illness appears in every generation including that of my children's with one of my son's living with mental illness.

    It is a serious understatement to say that stigma 'out-competes' mental illness itself in terms of the complications and misery it causes the affected individual and his or her family.

    My brother committed suicide in 2003, at 50 years old, after suffering for years with mental illness. I don't think he wanted to die but he did want the illness to die since he had endured plenty. Our family did not know then and does not know now how to talk about mental illness. No surprise, really. There still is no standard lexicon for the things that need to be discussed if people are going to be helped. Yet, ironically, there is a common sense of confusion, anger, sadness, fear, and despair among the people who know people who struggle with mental illness.

    We need to develop a language to communicate about the facts and fictions about mental illness. Families, the friends, acquaintances, even strangers, need to learn to work together with the people affected by mental illness while they struggle to survive and afterwards when they've recovered and are living in their communities. We need to help each other reduce the ignorance caused by stigma in ourselves and in each other. We need to devise the social piece so that recovery for all is optimized and the next generation suffers less.

    Teresa Spurr
  12. Kirstin Rajala from Toronto, Canada writes: This article was needed. If I seem 'fine', don't forget that it's because I'm medicated. As someone who felt like, although suffering, still had the capacity to navigate their way through the mental health system in Ontario, I was let down from day one of seeking help. It's a pinball machine and you...just a ball bouncing around from medication to doctor to clinic to new medication. I'd like to share some of the most irritating comments made by those who are ignorant of depression... 1. 'You LOOK fine?!?' 2. 'Don't worry we all feel depressed sometimes, everyone does.' Which to me is akin to saying 'Don't worry, we all feel cancerous/arthritic/(insert disease here) sometimes, everyone does.' 3. 'I'm depressed too, someone in my family died. I need anti-depressants' While I concur that trauma may trigger depression in inidividuals there needs to be a recognition that feelings of sadness, grief, and sorrow are all a part of the natural range of human emotions and if something distressing happens to you, you SHOULD feel sadness, grief and sorrow. This is normal. Suffering from depression (the disease) is DIFFERENT than this. 4. 'What do you have to be sad about?!?' Maybe it's nothing, THATS THE POINT! After 4 years on a variety of meds I am trying for the second time to get off them (yes, with my doctors supervision and on a very strict and lengthy withdrawal schedule). Beyond my trusted family doctor I submit to this process alone. I research my withdrawal symptoms on the Internet just to remind myself that it's common to feel this way. And I also remind myself that even though I'm not in a hospital bed and I go to work everyday, I do suffer from a legitimate disease. If you don't think I'm suffering that's because you're not with me during the bad times, you only hear about the good days. Its not normal to wake up feeling suicidal, right?
  13. Harold A. Maio from Ft Myers FL, United States Outlying writes: You will receive many comments on your articles, most will adhere to the prejudices expressed in the articles. That is sociology.

    I do not adhere to your prejudices.

    I do not accept the concept, 'stigma,' I am too educated. It is merely a disguise for concrete acts of discrimination, that cannot be addressed until specifically named. It has two purposes, one, to direct negative attention toward a victim of prejudice, and two, to direct it away from a perpetrator of a prejudice. It is highly effective, as women taught us when they addressed the pretense of the 'stigma' of rape.

    I commend the Globe and Mail on its interest in addressing the disparities in mental health, it is an admirable quest. I cannot however commend its language.

    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
    8955 Forest St
    Ft Myers FL 33907
  14. blair anderson from barrie, Canada writes: Its about time a national newspaper finally publishes a report on this topic. Mental health is not taled about enough. My brother committed suicide just after his 17th birthday (almost 2 years ago now) My sister suffers from anxiety dissorder, my mom has PTSD - as a result of my brothers suicide, and I suffer from depression I think, as I have never been diagnosed, mostly due to the fear of what people would think, and I have to hide behind a mask everyday at work, and socially -
    I look forward to reading the whole seiries on this
  15. The Bubble from Canada writes: One of the last incidents that finally made me quit being a teacher involved a 14 year old girl who was ADHD and Obsessive Compulsive. She was a nice girl who was hanging around the wrong person and many teachers would say this girl was a right off. I felt so sorry for the kid and she became very comfortable in my class and her mother called and asked if the girl could come to my class when she was feeling bad and I agreed. One particular female teacher hated this girl and told me and used the word 'hate'. I tried to talk to this teacher but she was seriously angry about the kid. The VP asked me to sit in on a meeting with the girls mother and this teacher. The teacher in question came off very professionally in the meeting but as we walked away from the meeting the teacher again said 'I hate that fcuking kid'. Towards the end of the year this same teacher said she saw the girl with a camera and asked me if it was one from my class, the girl had taken a picture in this teachers class and the teacher was in a rage. When the girl came to my class, I saw the camera and asked if I could see it and quietly explained that classrooms maybe are not the best place to take pictures and that it was a nice camera. No sooner had I given the camera back to the girl than the VP came into the class in full flight and rage, grabbed the camera out of the kids pocket (against the law) and ordered the girl to 'march' down to the office. The look in the girls eye was a mix of pleading and fear but there was nothing I could do. I was a bit stunned as were the students and finally one student quietly asked me about a problem he was working on and we went back to work. Later the mother called and asked me if the VP had taken the camera and I lied. I need a letter of reference from this VP, who has since refused to give me one which has prevented me from becoming a teacher in Toronto. To go back to being a teacher and being part of this big lie is now something I couldn't do again.
  16. flea trugger from toronto, Canada writes: right off the bat i was saddened to read the first comment in this thread by Pamphleteer. i believe this statement is ill informed:

    'I don't think Tourette's a mental illness. It's a physical condition. Tourette's causes involuntary physical 'ticks.' Mental illness refers to diseases of the mind that affect thought and behaviour patterns.'

    with narrow thinking like this, we will surely continue to hold mental illness at arms' length. why would this writer not do a quick internet search on tourette's before casting his limited opinion? i treid one and here's a little of what i found out to confirm my suspicions that this syndrome results from abnormal brain functions. 'Research is ongoing, but it is believed that an abnormal metabolism of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are involved with the disorder.'

    the fact that this particular syndrome presents itself predominately as a physical condition and therefore is judged as such, shows me that we have much to learn and will sadly continue to show a reluctance to delve deeper into what might actually constitute brain/mental illness.

    hopefully these series of articles will challenge us to become more informed and less judgemental about how our minds work or don't work and in turn teach us to be more empathetic and compassionate with those suffering on the margins of society.

  17. The Bubble from Canada writes: This is an odd article, my anger towards the education system and supervisors and other teachers have never really been understood because everyone seems to view all the world from a legal point of view, not a human one. My anger comes from the heartbreak of watching how the school system is allowed to protect the reputations of administrators and teachers while not giving voice to the people these institutions are built for, personal and institutional abuse and the carnage on the kids who gouge their arms and come out with so many psychological problems that the ones who smoke dope seem to be the most normal. I was systematically smashed by these people so I couldn't tell my story. It's been two years for me but the College of Teachers has finally opened an investigation but the damage is done. I have nothing to lose now and the College still drags it's feet and is forcing me to go through every hoop they can find to avoid dealing with what happened to me. If we can get some sanity into this very important institution, then maybe there wouldn't be so many adults with mental disorders.
  18. Stand up for Social Justice The Canadian Way from Canada writes: The Bubble from Canada : If this story you telling is true, then that teacher should not be teaching period. Nor should the VP be anywhere near children either. This goes to show just how arrogant some people are to think that they are so important but are not. Our school system needs a huge overall and to get rid of those who are useless within the school structure.
  19. The Bubble from Canada writes: Actually Tourette's is a combined physical and mental disorder where the physical ticks are triggered by signals from the brain which cause surges of dompamine.
    Dan Akroyd had Tourette's as a child but overcame it. It helps understanding where some of his comedy comes from. Part of his character in The Blues Brothers and other movies is an early obsession he had with police when he was younger. He still carries a police badge with him.
    There is no reason to be angry about these discussions, save the anger for the people who won't change the system.
  20. The Bubble from Canada writes: The education works in reverse, I'm the one not teaching. There was more than one student who used my class as a sanctuary.
    Dean Whitehead at Queen's explained that there are two very big sins a teacher can commit: Ratting out other teachers and having sex with students. I believe by ratting out the administration or other teachers is viewed by the teaching community as the bigger sin.
    I once worked with a man who had come off a year in suspension because a student claimed he had inappropriately touched her. Many students believed he did it and hated the guy, I didn't know any of them, I was new. Myself, him and two other teachers were having lunch one day when this same guy who had just come off a year for sexually inappropriate behavior that the union beat started telling us of two of his former students 'could have been porn stars if they'd wanted to be'. I nearly choked on my pizza and quickly changed the subject. Things are not as they seem in there, the kids are in serious trouble because of the denials, lying and silence forced on everyone.
  21. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Harold A. Maio's--maybe the terminology used by the reporter isn't politically correct. But I can assure you the message hit home, regardless. I'm not saying one shouldn't pay attention to language; just that at this stage, what matters most is that people feel free to speak. Thank you, Edward Greenspon, Erin Anderssen and other Globe staff, for bringing this topic to the fore: it is much needed. Though I live a normal life now, I suffered from delibitating anxiety for years. Some of the scars still smart sometimes--the shame of it all, the loneliness, the feelings that 'I'm a freak' and an immense failure. I've come to accept that I'll have to live with these feelings periodically for the rest of my life. But I don't feel trapped anymore, primarily because a psychiatrist said 'no drugs' and instead, helped me talk my way to health. It took more than ten years and a lot of patience, but it worked. So talking is good, very good. We can worry about language another time.
  22. Glen Newby from Canada, Canada writes: The series beginning today, and Edward's wonderful introduction in this morning’s paper, resonates particularly for me in my role as CEO of a children’s mental health centre, which serves over 1500 children and youth, and their families, each year, who are experiencing the pain and stigma associated with mental illness. I am also President of Children’s Mental Health Ontario ( and know that over 500,000 children and youth in Ontario are not getting the help they need because of the stigma associated with mental illness. This shame experienced by children and their parents, and most often the blame others and parents place on themselves, is a major block to getting help. Reducing the blame and shame will pave the way for increased resources for the excellent treatment options currently available, which have been proven effective.
    With over thirty five years experience in children’s mental health in this province, I am continually impressed with the G & M’s comprehensive, high level approach to the issues that matter most, and mental health is certainly one of them.
  23. Moe J from Montreal, Canada writes: Great coverage!
    I have heard that many of us can pass through a mental illness without even knowing that, especially depression which can go unnoticed.
    I have a different situation and hope someone can give input by responding to my email.
    My brother is a 'mentally challenged kid'. When he was just a baby, his brain lacked oxygen for minutes because of some sickness and it affected his life. He could not catch up with his friends and could not pass first grade elementary. The doctor report says he had delay in his metal and physiological development (that is, his brain and bone age was around 7 when he was 11 y old).
    Now, he is 25. He do some simple math. He is very sociable and always phone his 'friends' (who will never phone him back), but it appear that he has extrovert type of personality (unlike me).
    He is moody though, cannot persist doing anything. And now smoke regularly.
    The fact that he is in a country other than Canada (my original country) has prevented him from getting the right medicare or social help.
    Whenever I call him he told me he is sick of people and feels bored doing nothing (he stays at home and watch cartoons, till now; he also like to see pretty women and cannot hide his attraction toward them. He is a simple person that if he had money, any amount, he can spend it carelessly and life giving others presents).
    I really do not know if there are kind of social or behavioral aid to his case, in order to drive him to have some kind of work or fill his life in a way that would prevent him from developing any illness (including mental ones). He is physically strong and do not suffer from or take any medication.
    I really do not have an idea what his case might be or if I can do anything to help them.
    If anyone had similar experience or can advice, please write me at
  24. The Bubble from Canada writes: Harold Maio is too educated. Tell us something worthwhile oh sage of the American system.
  25. 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.
  26. Ricky for a Centrist Canada from Canada writes:

    1. Come out to Alberta. We can always use more good teachers here.

    2. I really fear these discussions turning into some kind of broad-brush smear against educators. My wife teaches here, and certainly there are bad apples in the education system, as there are in government, the military, medicine, and so forth.

    The system is not only hampered by bad apples, but often by the financial and administrative structures that limit the abilities of people who care.

    Your cases of students being mistreated are tragic and wrong. They need to be exposed, challenged, and changed. They are also the exception and not the rule. Most teachers bend over backwards and go the extra mile to try and help those kids that need it. At least here in Alberta, I believe.

    Having said that, we too as a society have far to go to combat our overall negligence, underfunding, and attitudes towards mental illness, just as the rest of Canada.
  27. The Bubble from Canada writes: My youngest brother is schizophrenic. He lives alone in the mountains of BC. He is an extremely provocative painter and combines west coast native form with religion and probably drugs to produce paintings that I've shown to very few people. He has sold all his originals on the streets of Vancouver and has nothing to show for it. I have some thumbnail electronic files that I've been trying to blow up to poster size to try and help him make money. He calls every night and sometimes I can't answer the phone. It's an impossible situation. He sometimes takes medication and sometimes not. He used to tell me of a company in California that comes to him in his sleep to steal all his thoughts. His stories of dealing with the system are simply frustrating. We have a long way to go.
  28. The Work Farce from Canada writes: Great idea. The sooner the rich and powerful admit the many delusions they live by, the sooner we start to heal the insanity that drives our culture.
  29. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: I would prefer the word 'scapegoat' to 'stigma.' When a family member is diagnosed with schizophrenia, she is not the only one who is sick. The entire family is sick. The one who gets the schizophrenia is a kind of scapegoat, taking on all the illness of the family.
  30. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: Bubble: I can relate to what you say about getting phone calls daily. At one point, my schizophrenic sister was calling me long-distance about five times a day. I answered every time.
  31. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: I agree with what the Work Farce is saying. Schizophrenia can also be caused by environmental factors.
  32. The Bubble from Canada writes: In my case I was looking to care for the 'worst' of the students. I was in good schools and there are good teachers but I wanted to take on the students labeled behavior problems. I found these students to be inspiring to me, they are raw human beings who are driven by their impulses. I found the solution to be less than psychiatric, I never lost my temper, played a lot of sports and games, didn't judge them, counseled them about drugs and was able to get a lot of respect from them. On the other side, the administrators were simply interested in having bodies in my class to justify their positions. They were like vultures who hung around the area high schools picking off the weak. My supervisor once commented that I was doing a great job. I told her if I was, there would be no students in the class. She replied that if there were none, we would be out of jobs. Then she fired me. No union, professional organization, administrator or teacher would help me. This supervisor of mine then had her friend take my job and in the first week she had it, one of the students broke her arm and they closed the program and some of the students didn't go back to school. In discussions with a shrink working with the board he had to agree with me that the school system produces more mental illness in students than it could prevent. We are judged on how we treat the weakest members of society. I've seen this treatment and as a result I have lost all respect for this country, these are not words, this is my reality.
  33. Pamphleteer . from Canada writes: The reason why I said tourette's is not a mental illness is because it manifests itself purely in physical symptoms. While tics are caused by a malfunction in the brain, there are no emotional or behavoural symptoms as in schizophrenia, depression or bipolor disorder, for instance. Tourette's doesn't cause people to think or feel differently -- it only causes them to act out differently physically.

    My comment was not intended to downplay the significance of Tourette's -- it is obviously a serious condition. But I don't think it is right to classify tourette's with diseases like depression.
  34. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Pamphleteer, 'mental illness' as discussed in this forum covers a host of diseases. Some are more severe than others; some absolutely require medication, others don't; some are life sentences, others not; and so on and so forth. Whether it is 'right' to classify Tourette's with diseases like depression, I don't know, I'm no expert. It would be my guess, though, that there is a high level of depression among people with Tourette's, if only because society would make them feel like they're 'freaks', or 'different', and because they would experience discrimination and rejection and exclusion and shame and low self-esteem, all those things people with mental illness experience on a daily basis. Am I wrong in assuming this?
  35. The Bubble from Canada writes: Having moved from rural Ontario to Toronto recently, I see people everywhere with obvious signs of distress. The extremely overweight girl on the subway cradling cheeseburgers and milkshakes around her like a blanket, the guy who lies on the corner of Bloor and Bay, every day, beside a garbage can, comatose with his hat held out. A kid from Windsor asking for help to buy a pair of work boots and has been sleeping on the street for two days and almost cried when I gave him an opened bottle of water and a couple of cigarettes. Everyone passes them by. When I relate these stories to my friends in Eastern Ontario they can't believe I like living here. It's better for me to use my skills on the street than to be involved in an organization more worried about getting money from the government than the job at hand. They are better off with someone who will simply listen and talk to them.
  36. Stand up for Social Justice The Canadian Way from Canada writes: The Bubble from Canada: Your story rings true and the issue is the hierarchical system that does not allow for those, the true leaders to emerge. As the teachers themselves are unionized, I wonder if the very nature of the structure does not play a role. I mean as a worker what do you stand up for? Is better wages, benefits and so on, reallygoing to change the root causes? Sounds to me as if you have a case of workplace bullying but then workplace bullying is not consider a labour standard. It is not even it the Health and Safety code. Get your story out, educate, inform. Compassion is not very prevalent in our society, it si oney that rules the game
  37. Lynn-Marie Ramjass from Ajax, Canada writes: I want to thank Mr. Edward Greenspon, the staff at the Globe and Mail and all of you brave enough to post your comments and experiences on line. It is high time that the media portrays the facts regarding mental illness and keep posting articles and information until the general public is educated and the stigma removed regarding those of us living with mental illness. Be certain to include the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill who battled their own clincial depressions and yet, both led their nations to victory during their prespective nations darkest times. Be certain to include all of the many authors, poets, musicians, composers, actors, politicians, so many of my mentors, who helped encourage and inspire me to not fears aside and not allow my bipolar disorder to define me. It was their stories and that of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist from John Hopkins university whose book 'An Unquiet Mind' totally transformed my life. Dr. Jamison also has bipolar depression since the age of seventeen. She inspired me to go back to university and I have never personally met the woman. Her book 'Touched with Fire' introduces her readers to many of the persons listed above. It would astound the general public just as to how many famous persons suffered from various forms of mental illness and brought such beauty, strength, and grace to a world focused almost entirely on cruelty, destruction and pain. I want to thank the Globe and Mail personally from the bottom of my heart for these many articles. Various forms of mental illness have existed in my family as research has proven for over one hundred years. I shed the shackles of shame that bound me many, many years ago. I have lived with bipolar depression for nineteen years. It has been a long, lonely and arduous journey. Thus far, thanks to proper treatment and the medications that work for me, I lead a normal life and have accomplished much. I have been hospital free for eleven years and doing well.
  38. E. Brant from Canada writes: How are we erasing stigma when young men with powerful and wealthy fathers are able to rape young women with impunity, and come under the umbrella of mental illness?

    Some things are just plain criminal.
  39. Heather Lee from Toronto, Canada writes: I earlier wrote that I am in the process of a Vagal Nerve Stimulation Study for Mental Illness that is treatment resistant. Actually, They have also been doing this same type of study on Tourette's Symdrome with quite a success rate. Very interesting to note that it all starts with the brain and moves out into the body. The US has been doing this study. Perhaps you might like to research it for your own interest.
  40. Paul Collins from Canada writes: You concentrate on sadness then you will be sad.
  41. vincent costello from Saskatoon, Canada writes: ...a book out there that helped me understand the illness I was dealing with is called 'Understanding Depression.' can not remember the author's name. Book cover is yellow with a big sunflower on the cover.
  42. The Work Farce from Canada writes: If Canada were that nice, friendly compassionate democracy we thought it was and wanted it to be, mental illness would be decreasing. But since we live in a scapegoatocracy motivated by fear, greed and scarcity, 'mental illness' has become a huge growth industry, a political expediency and a convenient way of outcasting those whom we find inconvenient. The delusionary hypocrisy by which we live is not in synch with reality. In that sense our society is schizophrenic. All we need to do is change our way of thinking, our moral code, our standard of ethics and our economic structures so that our way of life synchronizes with reality. But, of course, burning witches and other heretics is more convenient and better for business. It's a little bit funny that not only is mental illness part of the cost of doing business but it has become great for business.
  43. David any from Sad, Canada writes: Sometimes I am amazed I can function in society. I have been so depressed I can't concentrate, think straight... yet somehow I make it through. It always ends for me. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know that the route to getting better is to trust others humanity. I put myself in trust to my doctor who has served me for 30 years of this crap. I go through years of normality and then for no reason POW! I have even been depressed when I have had everything ,money ,houses, Bank accounts, Love of My Life ,Beautiful Kids...
    Fortuately small doses of anti Depressants help me. Gosh I sure hate to read about how bad they can be....but they help many of us so...thats my story.
    Great article!
  44. 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.
  45. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: John Chuckman, you've articulated for me some of the very things I know about schizophrenia through a friend of mine (I'll call him Bob) who became ill with the disease when we were in university: he committed suicide more than 15 years ago. And because you've said it so clearly, it helps me articulate some thoughts I've had since yesterday, which is that if there is one criticism I have to make about this Globe series on mental illness, it is that it tries to tackle too many topics at once. As I mentioned in another post, what we call 'mental illness' covers a hosts of diseases, many of which have little or nothing in common. Not only do they present differently, but their impact on the lives of those who suffer from them, as well as on their families, friends, co-workers, etc., are radically different. If I may use Bob's example, for instance, his disease destroyed him completely: it destroyed his personality, his ambitions (he was such a smart guy!), his goals and eventually, his life. It also destroyed our relationship, as I became afraid of him. My personal experience with mental illness, however, anxiety and depression, has not destroyed me in any way, shape or form. It's been a nuisance in my life, definitely. But in the end, it has helped me become more human, to use a Jean Vanier expression. For me, it's not just a question anymore of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm out of the tunnel and living life as it comes: you still won't catch me on a plane, though :-) The main point I want to make is that it's true, there are some areas of mental illness where our knowledge is still very primitive and the outlook, bleak. But it's not true of all mental illness. And for some of us, the first step on the road to healthier living simply starts with the old adage 'know thyself'...
  46. Nigel Beale from Ottawa, Canada writes: Congratulations Ed. You and your organization should be commended.
  47. Norm Albert from Canada writes: Not sure when or how it began or even of a clear diagnoses. Ten years ago after suffering a serious of anxiety attacks I started treatment. Full out talk theoropy, medication and everything else they could throw at me under my short term disability program. There was a lot of trial and error. I was confused by most of it. Some days were diamonds others were coal. In any case I did all that I could to relable the true nature of the desease. Most of those closest to me saw a dramatic change in me from a once very much involved guy to some one who would much 'rather not'. Was it the illness or the stigma. 6 of one half dozen of the other I would sumize. My now ex wife addressed as a major inconvience. My shrink desided I was Narcicistic and hated authority. I thought it was PTSD. I didn't much care for that feeling of being useless though. Unemployable, unattached and totally demoralised I trudged on. I went to being committed to being should be committed. When my wife of 22 years left she took most of our friends with her as I had no defense for the stories of neglect and abuse she told. Most of which were true but not intentional. It is difficult to explain to someone on the outside that being totally consumed by depression and anxiety is not something you would not wish on your worst enemy. As of today(last three years) I live alone and in almost total isolation off my mind altering medication in acceptance of my life sentence for what ever wrongs I've done. Outside communication is with family members only. I never sought or accepted simpathy, but a little understanding would have gone along way. Thanks and good luck with the article. I hope if nothing else it helps open doors to a better understanding of this plague.
  48. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: I think much of the suffering of the mentally ill belongs fairly at the feet of psychiatry. A cold dead science of classification, psychiatry seems to do all that it can to buffer the wealthy while moving the disadvantaged into an underclass of hostels, depersonalized mental hospitals and resident clinics where students of psychiatry can 'learn'. Psychiatry is rarely up-to-date in Canada, judges women harshly and rarely examines family systems to understand or treat families beyond the target patient listed on the OHIP claim card. The modern patient is treated to a dead-pan review of symtoms and prescription renewals but rarely any communication after the patient has been slotted with a social/class history assessment. The science bent and social class of the psychiatrist seems repelled by most seriously mentally ill, which is the kind of exposure the deranged, the abandoned, the abused and the terribly terribly lonely need to get away from, not visit regularly! While government spends up to $15,000 a year (not counting hospital stays) for unplanned, never discussed, unmapped, disorganized and hardly efficacious psychiatric sessions for individuals on a weekly, biweekly or even thrice-weekly basis, outomes are never credibly measured by the patient, psychiatrist and an arm's length third party assessor who should be a psychologist. Although psychologists alone have 11 years of training 'on the ground' and are the only profession trained to design mental health programs, Ontario psychiatrists have done everything they can to oust them from psychiatric and general hospitals, lest the superior value of psychologists be spotted and valued. Southern US states have long trained psychologists to write prescriptions, so that toxic interactions with psychiatry can be bypassed altogether. Good housing, social supports in the community and compassionate efficacious treatment are needed, not turf wars and toxic treatments. Let's finally put these patients' interests first.
  49. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Norm Albert, don't give up. It took ten years from the time I had my first full-blown anxiety attack to the time I found the psychiatrist who worked for me. Ten years during which I saw four or five different therapists/psychologists, took lots of trips to the hospital, etc. I experienced very much the same ignorance you did. When I had a major anxiety attack during a final university exam, for instance, one psychiatrist in training tried to make me believe the reason I had that attack was so the university would grant me a VW (voluntary withdrawal) on my transcript (I was an A student). And when I was describing my symptoms to another psychologist, he forced on me the notion the shaking and the hyperventalating was an involuntary re-enaction of some event I had witnessed years earlier. And so on and so forth. As I said, it took ten years before I found someone who really knew how to treat anxiety--as I said earlier, without any medication. We worked more than 10 years together, with wonderful results. So keep on knocking on doors until someone hears you. I've heard good things about behavioural therapy for the treatment of anxiety and depression. There's an excellent book on the topic, by the way. 'The Feeling Good Handbook', by David D. Burns. The title sounds corny, I know. But I think it provides some excellent tips; it offers hope, too. It's not as in-depth as I would like it to be, but it's an excellent starting point. All the best on the road to recovery, Norm.
  50. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: Our society is suffering from a spiritual malaise. We are spirit first and body second, in my view, which I doubt I would be able to support in this post, or perhaps afterwards. But it is occupying my spirit these days. I say we are spiritual beings (and that would go for any religious tradition in the world). Our physical well-being is not what we are after, and we know it. But our society directs us soley towards material things. And we judge our success by how well we are doing materially. We know we are being dishonest with ourselves. I think that all has something to do with the number of cases of mental illness in our society today.
  51. les wall from Vancouver, Canada writes: I have suffered from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder since I was about five years old. I did not find a doctor who diagnosed my OCD until I was in my fifties - having lived a life of constant hell until then. Neither my parent nor my wife and family knew what I was going through - people if they gave me any `support', it was 'pull up your bootstraps, man!''

    When a Specialist finally diagnosed that I had OCD, it was as if a light went on, as up to that point I believed I was the only person suffering from what I was suffering. Just knowing that what I was suffering from had a name - was the beginning of my long struggle to battle the obsessive compulsive nightmare...
  52. Sophie H from Canada writes: My brother had a psychiatric condition he was hiding. He was cured in 1987 when homosexuality was declassified as an illness (DSM-III-R).

    I don't mean to trivialize the debilitating dysfunctions suffered by some people in raising that, nor demean doctors who can help some people. I just wanted to point out that psychiatry and psychology are young sciences, prone to error, can't always be trusted. But to be fair, they are tasked with helping without knowing how a lot of the time, and even sometimes whether there is really illness to be 'cured'. I guess at the end of the day we all just do what we can, and hope for understanding when we come up short of perfect.

    Thanks, everyone, for your stories and thoughts.
  53. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: Sophie H: That was a powerful and lucid post you made! But everyone's story is different. My brother (story similar to your brother's) was cured in 1997. My brother is close to 60 today. I think Jean Vanier would smile his approval of what you posted.
  54. D. B. from Greater Sask., Canada writes: Has anyone out there ever wondered why, when we sleep, we rarely have what we might call 'deliriously happy' dreams? When I was 15 back in 1967, I dreamt I was sitting on a mountainside surrounded by glorious flowers in full technicolour (I later saw that dream in 'Brother Sun, Sister Moon'). I've had a few semi-comforting dreams since then, but most are pretty unsettling. I speak for myself, but I bet it my experience is very common. Why aren't we happy?
  55. vinnie cos11 from Saskatoon, Canada writes: I just recently spent a few days in a local hospital, for attempting to take an overdose of pills. I was put in a large room that seemed to me almost a pallitive care unit. I was surprised to find out the hospial had no psyc ward. Why did I attempt suicide? I was in alot of pain and was frustrated that the medications I was taking were not working. I had been obbsesive about suicide and in alot of mental pain periodically for a number of years now. I can't tell you how much mental pain I have edured over the years without attempting suicide. I'm pretty certain poverty and being so close to the edge finacially only make depression worse. I wish people with depressive illness were taking more serious and there was better ways of providing them the funds to make it through each month. I have told my social worker as much as I know about my illness and I appreciate the listening and understanding, but when you only recieve $475 a month to keep your head above water, the system needs some adjustment. My rent by the way is supposed to be $430 for a room in a shared condo. I'm left to scrounge and ask for money here and there to keep myself eating and this is coming from a fellow who is a non-smoker and non-drinker - I'm thankful for a generous roomate. The purse strings need to be open in a rationale way to help those suffering chronically from depression, to give these individuals the time to get better so that they can hopefully be put back into the stream of life to swim along with the other fish as best they can. Also, I have come across many doctors who tell me I'm fine and only think it will pass. I once had a doctor tell me to get off my medication completely without even trying to understand the context of how I got on the medication in the first place - avoid certain doctor's in Northern AB if you can. I believe in God and practice a program based on spirituality, but even this can't rid me of the depression. It's literally a daily struggle.
  56. Mylene Rosauro from Toronto, Canada writes: I suffer from bipolar disorder. It took many years for my diagnosis, but prior to that diagnosis I have hurt many friends, family and coworkers with my sudden mood changes. Everyone thought it was just me and my aggressive personality (although I can be sweet at times).
    It finally took a relationship ending for me to realize something was wrong and I sought help. Since then I have never looked back, some people have made comments that only weak people seek help, but believe me it takes a lot more strength to ask for help than to pretend everything is fine.
    I have since then repaired many relationships that have been broken due to my illness. I definitely found out who were my 'real' friends are during my dark days when I thought nothing would ever get better.
    And better it did get, but it takes a lot of work and support from friends and family. I have been on Celexa for 7 years now and prior to that I was tried on 3 different antidepressants which didn't work, at that time I thought I would never get better. But my patience and persistence paid off and I have to thank 'ME' for it (and my loving partner, family and friends!)
    There is a light at the end of the tunnel...
    'The happiness of my life depends on the quality of my thoughts.'
  57. Kevin Allan from Vancouver, Canada writes: I suffered from OCD. I couldn't work for over two years. I had to use my own money to pay for treatment because my provincial health care doesn't cover it. It is a double whamo. Recovering form OCD is like learning to walk again. If you have mental illness, you are invisible.
  58. 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 Centeral East Local Health Intergration network. Unfountley the voices of those are not being heard and a whole mental health ward is being transferred to Rouge Valley Centary Hospital in scraborough. This has caused an uproar in the community. There are has been public meetings and rallies where 1000’s people have showen 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?
  59. 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 Centeral East Local Health Intergration network. Unfountley the voices of those are not being heard and a whole mental health ward is being transferred to Rouge Valley Centary Hospital in scraborough. This has caused an uproar in the community. There are has been public meetings and rallies where 1000’s people have showen 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?
  60. Corrie Smid from Canada writes: I feel that women going through puberty, children's births, menopause and hysterectomy's need more research and help when they have a mental illness and the hormones are changing which as far as I'm concerned make the mental illness only worse. I started to suffer from bi-polar II disorder when I was 12 years old. Start of puberty. Hypomania & depression occurred. I had my children when I was 25, 28 and 30. I went into very deep depressions and wanted to commit suicide. I did take an overdose of aspirins on one occasion and was very very close to committing suicide on other occasions. Finally after my last child was born the psychiatrist told me I suffered from bi-polar disorder. He put me on lithium and I had 12 very good years. Then I had a complete hysterectomy. I was very afraid that I would go into depression after but my gynecologist assured me I wouldn't. Boy was she wrong. My moodswings were all over the place. The psychiatrist tried many different drugs on me. I was in the hospital 20 times. I have never been the same. I have very low energy for a woman of my age. I have to nap every afternoon. I can't attend afternoon family gatherings, etc. I am still on my lithium (25 years) and quite a few other drugs. This is another topic. Psychiatrists, therapists, etc. are a great help to people with mental illness. Sometimes it would be nice to have support from a willing person that has bi-polar illness to discuss issues by e-mail etc. with a person with bi-polar that is still struggling with issues. Corrie Smid
  61. Elaine In BC from rural Vancouver Island, Canada writes: Corrie Smid: Recently one of the other contributors (I think it was Ellen M.) provided this web address for those of us with mental illness who need peer support. I haven't tried it yet, but you may find it helpful:

    Best of luck to you.
  62. Kurtis Smith from Canada writes: I fell at work and had my skull smashed, an artery in my head was severed resulting in an very large epidural hematoma, which crushed and tore my brain, on the GCS I was a 5 or a 6. Whoever I was, was destroyed in that accident. I am the living dead. I have no feelings for my family, no motivation, cluster migraines that make me want to rip out my teeth and eye, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. I am a ticking time bomb. But because I can talk and do well on an IQ test WCB thew me in the garbage. There is no help for me, I can't even sue WCB laws and tricks have ensured that. My life is over. You really think there will be help for your 'mental illness'? Who the heck is going to pay for it?
  63. Corrie Smid from Burlington, Canada writes: I wonder if one day I will wake up and be free of this mental illness: bi-polar disorder II? There is still denial. Being normal like everyone else would be so good but what is normal? I don't want to have the many limitations that I have. There is a feeling that I am being judged by the people that know I have this illness. Most of these fears are probably in my head. It is frightening to tell some people about my mental illness. This is another topic. I had an experience when I was in the hospital for depression. It occurred with a psychologist. He came walking past me in the hospital corridor by the patient's rooms. He said to me in my office at such & such a time tomorrow. He didn't explain himself. I didn't know if he meant just me or other people. The next day he walked past me again and said in my office now. It was just me and him and he locked the door. We both sat down. Right away he said to me 'What would your husband and kids have done if they found you dead in your van?' (I had taken off in the family van with some pills). It was very legimate what he said but it could have been said in a different way. 'I told him he was very blunt'. Then he told me about one of his laws and he used his name with that law. He spoke to me some more in a very condescending way. I got very angry and upset and told him the way he spoke to me was unacceptable. He unlocked the door and I left. I was very angry and upset and one of the nurses had to calm me down. The nurse said I would see him again and 'I said no way'. One of the other patients said he got to you too didn't he. This patient got so frustrated he put his fist through the wall and the pschycologist locked him up for a while. I avoided that pyschologist after that. I was afraid to be locked up. If I said anything about that treatment it would be his word against mine. Who would they believe a psychologist or a mental patient? Corrie Smid
  64. Belle Esprit from Toronto, Canada writes: I've suffered from depression all my life. No matter what my accomplishments, I always felt stupid. When I was commissioned to paint a portrait or hired by a newspaper to write an article, or when someone bought my jewelry or sculptures, I always felt like an untalented fake who just lucked into success, every time. I was a frequent over-achiever who felt like a life-long failure. Then one day, in my 40's, my physician diagnosed me with ADD & dyslexia. It was as if a skylight opened up above me & I saw the sun for the first time. It was a pivotal moment in my life. I saw I wasn't an idiot just because I spelled my name wrong every time when writing it. I didn't have 'too many irons in the fire.' I was just uber-creative & could perform many forms of creative work masterfully. But as I showed my work in galleries & wrote a newspaper column & had three books published, I still suffered from depression & couldn't feel joy in my achievements. I still felt I could do better. I went through 7 psychiatrists over the years who simply sat, stone-faced & listened while I cried, raged, rambled & complained about how desperate I was to rid myself of the 'blues.' I was prescribed Effexor but I never got help until I met my current psychologist. He took me back to my first frustrations, when I was told 'to be seen & not heard.' He asked me about times my mother punished me by giving me the 'silent treatment' for days, sometimes weeks, for simple human mistakes she felt I'd made as a child. He cared about how I felt in my darkest hours & helped me see I wasn't bad just because I couldn't win my parents' unconditional love. He helped me see I was good & smart & gifted & valuable no matter what others thought or said. I AM a good person. I'd give the food off my plate to anyone who needed it. I love things & have compassion & can nurture. Those are traits 'good people' possess. With my therapist's help I'll beat this depression one day. I know it.
  65. K. Shepherd from Toronto, Canada writes: When I became extremely ill in 2004-05, I couldn't manage my affairs alone & over the course of many months, I lost everything & ended up homeless. It began, as it almost always does with homeless people, with some form of acute mental illness. Every man & woman on the street today who doesn’t have a place to live is suffering from mental illness. Too bad there is so much bigotry towards them. If there wasn’t, homelessness would be eradicated. In my case, in the beginning, my depression was so severe I lay in bed all day, terrified to go out, answer the phone or the door. I wore earplugs so that if I heard people walking past my house, I wouldn't think they were coming to take something away from me or hurt me. I eventually had my phone, cable, heat, gas & water turned off & eventually ended up on the street anyway. Nobody knows 'how' to be homeless. You just sort of 'play it by ear' in your own personal way, depending on what sort of mental illness you suffer from. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That first night, I sat stunned, in a bus shelter & cried for seven hours until sun-up. Anger followed, where I resented everyone & felt abandoned & ostracized by society. I hated everyone for my horror but, as I was still ill, I just sat & stewed, unable to think of what else to do. All my rational, decision-making skills had gone. Soon, I begged everyone I could for help. I was simply tolerated, passed along, refused & ignored. I couldn’t believe human beings could treat a fellow human like that. Finally, I just accepted my fate. I had no home & no family or friends wanted a sniveling “nutcase” in theirs. I have a nice apartment now. My therapist says because I’m “a survivor” & possessed of pride, I refused to stay homeless. Many of those on our streets are not as lucky as I. They are human beings. They deserve respect, compassion & help. As the saying goes, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We ARE our brothers’ keepers.
  66. K. Shepherd from Toronto, Canada writes: I've read the mental health forum every day since it began. I can't thank the Globe & Mail enough for making me feel empowered by giving me a 'voice' in this venue.

    Not every person suffering from mental illness is a 'total whack job.' Many of us are quite lucid and can carry on pleasant, intelligent conversations. If this national newspaper can give us the respect and dignity we deserve, perhaps the rest of society will become educated about this 'disability' and treat us the same as they'd treat a cancer patient or someone with angina. We are owed at least that.

    Thank you again.
  67. Jeannette Wu from Ottawa, Canada writes: Hi. I am a homemaker. I am the mother of three children, with one being a survivor of twins who were born extremely pre-term. I have suffered post-partum depression for 12 years and was only diagnosed this past summer (2007). Only someone who has worn shoes the same as mine can understand and grasp the hell I have walked through these past 13 years now. I understand the stigma of mental health and I fight against it. I am angry that most of the best services for those of us who need help are available only to employees. The waiting lists for decent services are incredible. Fortunatly for me, my church was able to assist in the counselling expenses ($45.00/session). The counselling service I was referred to by my husband's employer was literally a joke. She didn't challenge me. She never addressed the primary issues which were going on. I had the distinct impression she was there just to recieve a pay cheque, which may not be true. What I do know though, is that her quality of skill in helping me was less than second rate. Thank you for taking on the challenge of exposing the world of mental health to the rest of Canada. It is long overdue, having this illness come 'out of the closet' per se. Infact, this is the term I use in regard to my illness. When people ask what happened to me, I will say, I had a 'nervous breakdown'. I'll recieve many strange looks, and I'll state that I have decided to come out of the closet. More often than not now, I'll hear a comment about a relative of the person to whom I am speaking to, who suffered from mental illness too. It does seem people want to talk about this, they just don't seem to understand. When I became ill last summer, I was considering suicide and it was my faith alone which kept me alive. Here in Ottawa, in a city of 1/4 or so million people, I felt so alone, afraid and I had no idea what to do or where to go for quality help. I ended up seeking my church. Thank you for such excellent work.
  68. The Skipper from Canada writes: Speak your mind and Erase the Stigma - that is a 'cruel joke.' I have a friend who is labelled 'crazy.' Yes crazy, you know the woody woodpecker type ! He has a university education and has many mechanical skills - but can he find a job ??? The answer is 'no,' unless he lies about being crazy (the journalists like to label it mentally ill.) So he is always lying to get work, but he finally gave up and tells the truth - Hi, here is my resume and I think I am qualified for the job here in labour hungry Alberta, but I do have an illness (I am mentally ill). Does he get the job - nope ! Oh yes they have all kinds of excuses but the bottom line, employers such as the Alberta government don't hire the mentally ill. And the list goes on - so he goes out and works for cash or if he gets a cheque I cash it for him - does he pay taxes - no, does he vote - no, does he participate in the census - no, does he have a license - no, does he drive (?????) has he signed a donor card for his helathy organs (he doesn't drink or smoke) no again, does he donate blood - no, does he do charity work - no - what does he do for society - not a thing because Alberta's society doesn't want him so he has just disappeared off the map. Bottom line readers - don't get labelled as mentally ill !
  69. donald clancy from Vancouver, Canada writes: I had no success with post-psychiatric ward treatment after a suicide attempt and a 5 week hospital stay. I could not join a local coast health suicide support program because I was, get this, on meds and seeing a psychiatrist. My GP was ready to refer me to a day program at burnaby general hospital that was 9-3 M-F or one class a week. My psychiatrist was ignorant and reffered me to a group of self mutilating but not destructive people that was not run for suicide attemptors. Help came at the hands of an aquaintance from Narcotics Anonymous (one of the few in that group that actually opened up about mental health rather than shun it. She was aware of a Center for Concurrent Disorders (a dual diagnosis help unit). This place is unique in Vancouver in offering classes and counselling. The people in there reponded to requests I would make for Seeking Safety (post traumatic stress disorder) classes in other places. Which can be a great class when it's running, and it runs sporadicly because, it's in a 2nd site. I also got some help from a 1 1/4 hour class at vancouver general hospital. My belaboured point. I've gotten alot of positive help from the system. Pretty much all of it was at my demanding and waiting 2 to 6 months to get into these programs. The idea of a person or doctor knowing about this stuff seems to be dream. In several of the reports it was reported that Canada is sadly lacking in organization. This is a national, provincial and local problem. Hope for informed friends. We are at our hour of greatest vulnerabilty and rather than the system coming to help us this is whne we must muster our strength to help ourselves. God help you if you can't
  70. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: When is government going to include highly skilled clinical psychologists and social workers into health insurance plans to begin offering sophisticated talk therapies to a population desperate for appropriate treatment? When is government going to create a culture of goal setting, regular reviews along patient and clinician assessments every few months, to keep treatments on track or provide for early referrals in stalled treatments? So many people have died or had their lives ruined for want of high-quality non-medical psychotherapy or counselling. Surely it would be far less expensive to provide basic access to this treatment than to continue the disorganized ineffective, soul-destroying hodge-podge of poorly matched services and resulting social costs and misery that occurs now. And it would lead to valuable research comparisons of outcomes which we cannot make now. Governments probably need to make some provisions for the large populations of persons who are permanently alienated from the current medicine-based system, for education and group support in the community 'safely' away from allopathy and its often horrific iatrogenic effects.
  71. The Skipper from Canada writes: Government is quite happy to have a large segment of the population that is 'labelled' mentally ill, disappear from the radar of society. Out of sight is out of mind. Then the press looks for a charity story and oh my - lets write about the mentally ill and how government ignores this 21st Century affliction. The press writes alot of boohoo stuff and then the journalists retire to wherever to look for the next boohoo story.
    Bottom line is that society in general could care less about the mentally ill and their disease state. Now if it were Cancer, that would be another story. I had a friend say to me the other day that Cancer was such a nice disease to have, in that, people treated you so nice !
  72. Mindfully Partisan from Ottawa, Canada writes: I was reading the education guidelines of a course of study I took a while back at a local college. The course was willing to accomodate students with special needs such as physical or learning disabilities. It also allowed for postponement of exams and completion dates of course requirements in the event of catastrophic illness or accident. The guidelines clearly outlined, however, that a student could be expelled from the course and banned from the program if they displayed any symptoms of a mental illness. This is all permitted and condoned as perfectly normal in our government-funded, Charter-regulated post-secondary public education system.
  73. The Skipper from Canada writes: What a joke this debate in the Globe & Mail is ! How many mentally ill people would the Globe & Mail knowingly hire. How many politicians admit to having mental illness.
  74. Keating Gun from Canada writes: As so many of the tragic cases we read about involve persons who were in treatment, I question the medical profession's 'no-fault' zeitgeist which proposes that the 'stigma' of mental illness prevents people from seeking 'help'. I suspect it is the quality of help that is really at issue. It alone has alienated the vast number of those who need efficacious help, not stigma, in my view. Likewise, it is not the disorders themselves that cause sufferers so much grief but the lack of connectedness and productivity in their lives that results from disabling illnesses met with ineffective treatments. The answer lies more with bringing the proper professionals, such as skilled psychologists and social workers, to the work rather than blindly investing money and continuing to dump troublesome relatives on the doorstep of medicare. This approach is wasteful and very harmful. Client-centred treatments that facilitate the highest levels of social and economic functioning in recipients, will provide the greatest help to those needing it, even if it is inconvenient to the current cadre of mental health practises, relatives and earners. The system needs to exist for patient benefit alone. I suspect removing all aspects of paternalistic medicine and medical settings, where possible, would help greatly to provide the best chance of achieving high social and economic function.
  75. Marlene W from Hamilton, Canada writes: Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for this beautiful and thoughtful series.

    I only wish the Hamilton Spectator would carry just one of these articles. But mental health care here appears a dubious industry
  76. Tracy Bracy from Toronto, Canada writes: There are very serious consequences to streamlining mental health care.
    1. fat bald auxilary police officers
    2. becoming officially mentally ill because you overeducated yourself
    3. people ignoring the huge block of poo sticking out of the court house wall
    4. actually placing things like ect or surgery or magnets on decision aids
    The best recommendation for people with diagnosed mental illnesses would be to get a doctor that does not speak their language and who looks like a sexually starved rapist
  78. Louise Bromley from Canada writes: When I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar II, my response was RELIEF! 'You mean, there is a name for how I feel,' I thought. I did not waste time, but learned everything I could about mood disorders. Six terrific years have passed since that first discovery. I say terrific because these have been the best years of my life since I can remember... how's that?

    Emotional sobriety is a priceless gift! I am now able to set goals, make decisions, take responsibility for myself, persevere in spite of setbacks, enjoy others' company, sleep at night, and feel life is worth waking up for. I am working towards the completion of a Masters Degree. Though I haven't been 'cured', my illness is being managed. It no longer holds me hostage. How grateful I am!

    I wanted to give back some of what I had received in the way of support and so recently trained to as a Mental Health Worker. The only difference between me and those I serve, is I am able to live independently. You see, my medications work for me. I also benefit from a supportive network of loving family, friends, doctors, therapist, professors, support group, sponsor, and church community.

    When I look at the list of famous people throughout the ages who are remembered for their accomplishments and not for their mental illness, I am inspired. Just like them, my illness does not define who I am or what I do.

    My encouragement to all those who struggle/suffer with a mental illness or suspect that they might... get help, ask questions, knock on doors, and seek solutions. Don't give up. Surround yourself with a support network of people. Don't accept the lie that there is no hope for you. You are special and you are loved.
  79. K B from to, Canada writes: I seriously hope that the "internet addiction" article is a joke. Medical people can only blame the victim when the person responsible is only the perpitrator. Everything in life flows down the easiest path. There is nothing wrong, sick or unnatural with that.
  80. K B from toronto, Canada writes: Pardon my words, but a real mental disorder is like a p*ss or a f*t. It is ignored and considered sometimes justifiable for homicide. All other disturbances are treated compassionately and with great care and sumpathy. This is true especially for medical persons.
  81. 88' man from Ottawa, Canada writes: Last March I was diagnosed with bipolarity (type II). I was in my second year at University and everything just seemed to fall apart. Since my first year I had been cycling between depressive and manic episodes with panic attacks. I remember having to walk out of classes because I was so manic and throwing up in the bathroom. I had no knowledge on the issues of mental health and thought I was going crazy - losing my mind. I tried to talk too friends and my girlfriend at the time about it, but they didn't understand.

    For days I'd lie in bed and do nothing. Stare at the ceiling and try let the depression overrun itself so the mania could displace it. At the time I didn't know it was that... they were just highs and lows. Good... bad. Black and white. I started too isolate myself more, not too the point that of a hermit, but enough that it affected a few of my relationships. Then I finally went to my doctor and she referred to my a psychologist, bingo. Bipolarity was the case. At the time I had no idea what it was, but I have a full understanding now and learning to cope has been a struggle, but also a learning experience at the same time.

    Today, I am in my third year - doing OK. Some days are easy, some are hard, some are harder. I have great friends and a family that supports me. Medication that works... sometimes. But I understand it now... sometimes I still feel afraid, mostly of the depression. I've become reliant on alcohol at times too get me too sleep or too try and ease the anxiety. I've lost friends, I've lost girlfriends. But I'm still alive and every morning is another day and another chance at doing something to help someone else out.

    It's a struggle. But such is life.

    "No, it won't all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good."

    - John Mayer.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    - Ty

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