Before any social progress can be made, mental illness has to be acknowledged as a real and powerful determinant of health which affects all social classes, but plays a greater role not only in the lives of those who are displaced, but in some cases also contributes to their displacement and state of living. It is those living on the streets who are the most affected by the stigma associated with mental illness. Yet the stigma is alive and well for those of us who are fortunate enough to continue working or have a strong support system advocating for us while we too struggle to climb the walls of our own personal hell.
How should psychiatrists' roles be defined in order to provide as much specialist care to as many high-needs individuals as possible in the most cost-effective way? Because psychiatrists appear to be organized in a far less than systematic fashion within Ontario's mental health system, there is a fairly steady level of unmet need no matter how many psychiatrists practice in a region.
In Ontario, the fee schedule does not have limits on duration or frequency of visits. Changing that may be one way of opening up room for psychiatrists to see more patients. Another idea, adopted in Australia, the U.K and the U.S., includes shifting the psychiatrist's role to that of a consultant on a multidisciplinary team. In such a model, psychiatrists provide the initial diagnosis, oversee any pharmaceutical treatment, and work with a team of social workers and psychologists to provide psychotherapy, support and to monitor progress.
More than once as a young person (and even in adulthood) I've encountered professionals who believe my sexual orientation is the cause of my depression. I've also encountered professionals old enough to be my grandparents who suggest my sexual orientation is a mental illness in itself. It is why I remain skeptical to this day of seeking treatment; especially with a professional I've never met before.
I was crashed on the couch, looking at the bottle of wine sitting on the sideboard. Thinking. It had been a rough day. I had felt the darkness coming on earlier and the thought of going into the abyss, again, was just too much. I couldn't face it again. I anticipated the oncoming exhaustion, the downward spiral and did not want to go there. The wine was looking good. And so was the thought of morphine. One hit and I would be in another place. It was a brief moment, but I knew as the thought of medicating myself flew through my head, that I was in trouble.
I got into Nick Drake's music the way most people did. A friend gave me a tape and said "you've got to check this guy out." The friend was the other guitarist in my band at school and it was the late 80s in North-West London. Nick's music grabbed me instantly. It was timeless, beautiful and melancholy.
Recently, Ottawa introduced Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, and announced it was going to cut temporary health and mental health care to certain categories of refugees. The result was an outcry of support for people who have left everything they own to flee persecution, rape, torture and violence in their home country. Eliminating important supports and services from refugees is nothing short of inhumane. We're speaking out because the issue speaks to the heart of our purpose. We Care.
Recently, Ottawa announced it was going to cut a program that provides temporary health coverage and medication to refugees. Canadian research has demonstrated that refugees are more likely to experience emotional problems and high stress levels, as well as greater mental health risks and rates of mental illness, than non-refugee newcomers.
My suicide attempts were five years apart and each time I felt emotional pain that was too deep to describe. To me, ending my life was the only way to solve my problems which I've learned is not the case. There's a classic saying that goes, "Live everyday as if it's your last." While mental illness and suicide are very challenging topics, we need to treat those around us as if today is their last day too -- with love and respect.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto launched an awareness campaign today in the hopes of bringing attention to the stigma those with mental illness face to help defeat it. The ads quote some of the most common things those of us with mental illness hear. These are the ones I encounter most frequently.