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He switched on the light - then fell into darkness

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Bill Wilkerson led a campaign to transform the way corporate Canada saw mental illness in the workplace. Then he unexpectedly slipped into crisis himself. ...Read the full article

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  1. Harold A. Maio from FYT Myers, United States Outlying writes: Illness strikes in the work place, as it strikes everywhere. Illness is part of life.

    Mental illnesses, like physical illnesses play no favorites, the are equal opportunity illnesses, affecting the rich, the poor, the bright, the less so, men, women, children. For most of our history, here in the US, and there in Canada, we have caricatured "mental illness," and fooled ourselves into thinking only the caricature was being hurt. We pretended the caricature, isolated it, ignored it, all the while building a health system to respond to physical illnesses second to none in the world.

    Of late we are recognizing our folly, and beginning to pay some attention to mental illnesses. We are acknowledging them at every level of society, from those most successful to the least successful, and making small step to repair the damage we incurred by insisting upon the caricature. How much energy we are willing to put in to repairing, remodeling our approaches remains to be seen, but we are at last making progress.
  2. R Davidson from Toronto, Canada writes: Having worked in the field for twenty years and having been treated myself for 'mental illness', it seems obvious that three problems require priority attention. First the education and employment of more mental health workers, including psychiatrists and nurses. Secondly, the opening of affordable housing, especially to those who presently are being discharged from hospitals onto the streets. Thirdly, there must be improved co-ordination of services not only between government and community agencies but within government.
    More specifically, the arbitrary separation between the Provincial Departments of social services and health is both unecessary and unhelpful. Genuine social services are needed at the hospital door. Forcing the mentally unwell to navigate the directions that one department gives to get service at the other is a cruelty. This is challenging even for healthy persons.
    Could government combine the two into a more efficient Department of Health and Social Services?
    Producing long-term viable caring communities!
    What a concept! (Election issue - anyone?)
    This might at least help us point out easier routes to our troubled friends.
  3. R Davidson from Toronto, Canada writes: About 12 years ago I was permitted to give an informational workshop on mental health at my own place of employment. Even there at a Christian mission which deals with street people on a daily basis, the subject is still rarely discussed openly. I've never been invited to do a follow-up.
  4. Richard Matusiak from Whitby, Canada writes: Corporations have a long way to go in understanding Mental Illness and their workers. I worked for a large Insurance company for 26 years and was terminated without cause due to work quality not up to standards. At the time I was under Doctors supervision for Depression and was doing everything I could to deal with my illness. The Company stated that my termination had nothing to due with my Disability, but after getting a lawyer involved, I was given the opportunity to apply for LTD which I did eventually receive.
    I never refused to work but at times I did have limitations due to my depression. My point is that Corporations can fire you for having a mental illness since they have more time and money on their side to fight you in the legal system. They will never admit it, but after being a loyal employee for 26 years and being open about my condition, I felt betrayed by the band-aid efforts the company made to accommodate me.
    The termination and the time and money spent on legal dealings did not help my depression and has made trusting large companies hard to do.
    The least the company could of done is offer LTD to see if I qualify and gi ve me the opportunity to deal with my illness with some hope of going back to work for a company I once knew and respected.
    There has to be a better way to help people with Mental illnesses deal with companies who only care about the bottom line. Whether it is by new laws, a third party mediator or the unlikely hope of companies recognizing mental illness and working with those individuals, something has to be done. It is too late for my situation, but I would not want anyone else go through what my family and myself had to endure.

    I always thought that being honest and open and trying your best would be enough for a large corporation to work with you through an illness you never asked for, but as I found out, I was wrong. The stigma that goes with Mental illness has to stop, and that starts at the top.
  5. Ariel Redhunter from Trenton, Canada writes:
    I am long retired and one pill a day now gives me a normal life. I was lucky to have a great boss while I worked. He told me to paste a smile on my face when I came in the door and keep it there until I left. It turned out to be great therapy, almost as good as an SSRI.
  6. Chris C from Toronto, Canada writes: I'm going through eight years of postsecondary education to get the career I want. I'm nearing the end of my schooling and starting to think about where I'll work, but all I keep thinking about is the fact that my occasional bouts of anxiety and depression might sabotage my chances of success. Society is taking steps in the right direction by opening a discourse about mental health. Talking about it is a good start, but there's still a long way to go. I just hope there are some employers out there willing to leave room for human vulnerability. Nobody's perfect, but it seems that when your imperfection is in your head, people are a lot less understanding.
  7. c. f. from Canada writes: Here is the bad news. The hospital mentioned in this article, the first curious psychiatric/addiction hospital that sent Mr. Wilkerson on his quest, is one of the least understanding employers when it comes to mental health issues amongst their own staff. While the CEO speaks about being kind to workers, and treating them well to this very day, it doesn't happen at the front lines. I worked for them and was struggling with depression and could hardly function, and like others have mentioned in their comments simply got a poor evalution. Inside my head I wanted to shout...don't you see you are mental health workers, I am depressed you are lucky I get here everyday and do my job! I can barely get dressed in the morning. And everytime someone was off on ''stress'' leave, the management was fussing about the ''bottom line''. Yet you didnt' hear that fussing when the person was off due to a fractured hip. If these employers don't get it - how can a big business get it? Sad.

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