"The reality is that one in five Canadians over the course of their lives can experience mental illness in one of its many manifestations, and what that ultimately means is that every single family in Canada has in some way been affected by mental illness," psychiatrist David Goldbloom told The Globe's Carolyn Abraham in a recent interview.
"There's nobody in our country who can stand up and say, 'Not my family, not my aunts or uncles or cousins or grandparents, children, siblings, spouse or self.'
"And yet the reluctance to talk about it, to acknowledge it openly, to treat it as a form of human suffering like any other illness, relates in part to how threatening this set of illnesses is to our sense of who we are."
Dr. Goldbloom was responding to a question about why people are still reluctant to talk about mental illness, especially in this era where the personal is increasingly more public. He went on to explain that "... if you break your leg, you're still you. If your mind is somehow broken by mental illness, you're not you in the eyes of yourself and you're often not you in the eyes of other people."
What do you think? Has your family been touched by mental illness? What has your experience been with the system, the workplace or society in general?
We're pleased Dr. Goldbloom found time in his busy schedule to join us for a live discussion. Your questions and Dr. Goldbloom's answers will appear below.
David Goldbloom is the vice-chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and the senior medical adviser of education and public affairs at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where he was also the inaugural physician-in-chief.
Dr. Goldbloom has worked in psychiatry for more than 23 years treating patients, teaching young doctors and schooling the public about mental illness and the stigma that it still carries.
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Carolyn Abraham: Hello I'm Carolyn Abraham, medical reporter with The Globe and Mail and one of the contributing writers to the series on mental health the paper is now running. Joining us this evening to answer readers' questions is Dr. David Goldbloom, a well-known educator and psychiatrist with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Thank you for being with us this evening Dr. Goldbloom.
The first question comes from Trudy Boyle in Calgary: I am interested in your thoughts on how parents and grandparents, for that matter, can best 'innoculate' their children for good mental health. In this era of 'safety' we have all manner of practices that we hope will keep our children safe from disease and accidents. Our vulnerability to mental illness of one kind or another seems to be increasing, yet, we rarely speak about prevention. This conversation in The Globe may be a beginning. Obviously we have no recipe to protect us from illness, old age or dying but there are always things we can do to improve our quality of life while we are alive? I would love to see 'best practices' discussed, not as a guarantee nor as an obsession for some 'ideal way', but as a way to up our chances to be mentally and physically healthy. thank-you Trudy
Dr. Goldbloom: If we think about prevention in the arena of physical health, there are several components:
1. Knowing your family history to know areas of elevated risk (remember that risk is not the same as destiny); if you have a strong family history of depression, then being familiar with the illness and its presentation is important. And so is being able to talk about it in a matter-of-fact way, rather than treating it as a secret taboo.