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I'm a Canadian Who Suffers From Mental Ilness - And I'm far From Alone

07/06/2015 05:34 EDT | Updated 07/06/2016 05:59 EDT
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I recall sitting on the ground at the back of a church in a crouched position. Tears flowed down my face as I whimpered. It was one of those days again -- a day that I did not want to see or talk to anyone; a day that I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again.

I barely knew what had happened during church service that morning. In fact, my body was there physically, but my mind was in another place -- a dark, eerie place. And to make matters worse, I felt alone in a room full of people (literally).

A church brother noticed I was missing in action after service and decided to text me. I don't remember everything clearly, but our conversation was something like this:

Brother: Hey. Where are you?

Me: Outside

Brother: WHERE?

Me: Don't worry. I'm fine.

Brother: WHERE??!!

Me: I just don't want to see anyone right now. I'll come back (to church) soon.

Brother: Everyone is asking where you are...

Me: Tell them not to worry. I'm fine. Anyways, I'll talk to you later. My phone is dying.

Brother: JUST COME BACK INSIDE!

*Turned off my phone*

I'm sure you've realized by now that something was seriously wrong with me (and you're right!). I've secretly struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since the age of 12, and developed an anxiety disorder two years ago.

And similarly to the church incident when I hid behind the church, I used to hide in my closet when I was a child during my moments of depression. It was nice and dark in there, and no one bothered me. But sometimes my little sister -- who shared a room with me -- would randomly slide the closet door open and join me. And I would yell, "Get out!" or, "Leave me alone!" Although reacting in such a way came across as rude and arrogant, such a reaction is normal (though not right) for people who suffer from a mental illness.

Furthermore, according to Mayo Clinic, some signs and symptoms of mental illness include feeling sad or down; confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate; excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt; extreme mood changes of highs and lows; withdrawal from friends and activities; significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping; detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations. Other symptoms may include the inability to cope with daily problems or stress; trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people; alcohol or drug abuse; major changes in eating habits; sex drive changes; excessive anger, hostility or violence; suicidal thinking. I personally experienced 95 per cent of the symptoms I listed above.

Moreover, I never told my parents about what I went through as a child and have yet to tell them. But as a 12-year-old girl in sixth grade, I was unaware that the negative feelings I experienced in my life were caused by depression. I thought it was normal to feel the way I did, because the depression occurred regularly.

I also don't remember learning about mental illness while in elementary school; but it is definitely a topic that needs to be taught to youth. In fact, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), "It is estimated that 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder." And "approximately 5 per cent of male youth and 12 per cent of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode."

But unfortunately, only one out of five children in Canada who need mental health services actually receives them, according to CAMH.

Luckily, depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety (and other mental illnesses) are treatable via therapy (such as cognitive therapy) and/or an anti-depressant medication. I attended cognitive therapy for approximately eight months, and then I was discharged. My goal was to learn how to overcome anxious, suicidal thoughts without the use of medication -- not that there is anything wrong with using it.

Depression is also closely linked to suicide, and 15 per cent of people with chronic depression commit suicide, according to Mood Disorders Society of Canada. CAMH states nearly 4,000 Canadians die each year from suicide. And according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, "the onset of most mental illnesses occurs during adolescence and young adulthood," and effects a person's behaviour as well as their ability to think rationally. In fact, one out of five Canadians experiences a mental illness in a given year, according to CAMH. Some mental health conditions in Canada include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

What's more, the experience I described with me sitting behind the church is one of many I have had over the years. But this experience alone clearly depicts the awful effects of mental illness, which affects us all.

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