Each one of us knows a child or a teen who is struggling with either depression, anxiety, an addiction or a behavioural disorder like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mental illness not only causes high levels of distress in children, but can also interfere in significant and real ways with their lives.
Whether help comes in the form of artillery fire, jet fighters, or helicopter gunships, no expense is spared to support and protect our troops when the bullets start flying. But is the federal government willing to continue to fork out $85 a day to keep each of our veterans with PTSD out of harm's way? Apparently not!
When it comes to Movember and men's health, the focus has typically been on prostate and testicular cancer. However, there is another common male medical condition that has been relatively overlooked: depression. Clinical depression is a costly and debilitating condition that affects approximately five per cent of the Canadian population in any given year, and 10 per cent of Canadians over the course of a lifetime.
Suicide is hard. It is hard to even say the word let alone imagine that someone close to you might think that is the only path forward is to take their own life. It's hard to relate, surreal on many levels. But take a minute to imagine. Imagine losing one of the people you love the most by suicide. Does your stomach drop, your heart race, tears come to your eyes or even fear race through your bones?
The diagnosis of PTSD requires that a person has "...experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others." The traumatic event must provoke intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Publicly-funded hospitals are not constituted "primarily for religious purposes." All Ontario hospitals, Catholic and others, exist to deliver medically necessary services, and all are funded by provinces for that purpose. All hospitals offer the aid and support of religious counsel to families that request it. All hospitals have quiet spaces for reflection and prayer.
On the night of Tuesday April 28, 2009 our son died by suicide. As the shock lifted we began the agonizing process of trying to comprehend our new reality. Our 23-year old son had lived with a robust disease that had been brewing for years. He was a strong, intelligent young man; however, even he could not see where his path was headed. Mental illness is a formidable foe. Our tragedy is his absence from our ordinary lives. We are now referred to as survivors. What exactly we are surviving is unclear. We are broken in so many places; trying to put the puzzle that was our life back together. Only now, the pieces do not match.
Our daughter Maddie tragically took her own life at the tender age of fourteen and forever changed the lives of our family and friends.... Maddie's Mom, our boys and friends have made it a personal mission to tell our story, bring greater awareness to youth mental illness and help create better access for those families currently affected by this troubling disease. With all this attention being paid to this illness, largely promoted through the likes of social media, are we fuelling the fire and putting the idea of suicide in our youths' heads?
Driving towards Madaya in a convoy that snaked along the Damascus highway for hundreds of metres, a huge knot formed in the pit of my stomach. Not knowing what we would find there, and remembering the harrowing images of emaciated children pleading with their eyes for some respite from this siege, it was hard not to be worried.
When living with a mental illness, you feel scared and alone. You might have the best support system around you but you still feel like there is no one. It feels like nobody understands what is going through your mind and you are living in this dark scary world. You end up pushing away your family and friends. You become selfish and you don't care how you treat other people and how your actions affect them.
I thought I could just "think positive" myself out of it, and when that didn't work I tried to make myself as perfect as I could. I was fooling myself. Publicly I wore a mask of the cheery girl I used to be, privately I was barely keeping my head above water. That's when suicide entered my mind. It was like my new obsession.
For me, figuring out and seeking treatment for my anxiety has been a healing and affirming process. But I often wonder: how would my childhood and teenage years have been different if I had a vocabulary for understanding my anxiety? If my parents, siblings or friends did? If I had early access to therapy or other kinds of treatment -- or even just a way to talk about my anxiety and resulting depression?
Having worked in suicide prevention, I know that making suicide and suicide ideation taboo plays a part in suicide statistics. Just like Mental Illness has been coming out of the closet in the last few years, suicides can be prevented when it is destigmatized and talked about. We have anti-bullying legislation talk about workplace harassment. But suicide or suicide ideation and mental illness are too often off the table.
Survivors of sexual violence may not be able to watch Parker's work for similar reasons, and that's fine. But don't sit it out on principle. In the year of Black Lives Matter, #HollywoodSoWhite and a certain presidential candidate, Parker's questionable past doesn't disqualify him from advancing urgent conversations about race and American history.
For months now we have been like detectives trying to make sense of the senseless. In the midst of our pain we are sorting out his life. Professionals have told us that we are mourning the loss of two sons -- the Daniel we cherished and the Daniel who lived with depression. He carried his hurt so well we were unable to help him. Our aching hearts do not understand as yet what our thoughtful minds are telling us. Daniel paid the ultimate price for his depression and now we are forced to live in a world without him.
The thing is, I have always been sad and worried. It's stuck on me like gray toned glitter -- it clouds everything I do and no matter what I do it's never fully gone. When I realized I was different from other kids, I didn't know what to do. I was always sad and worried. Worried that people would notice me for being different and make fun of me. Sad because even when I tried to fit it -- I always felt like I couldn't do it right.
We all hurt, we all struggle, we all suffer, so why should someone with a mental illness be shamed into a silent closet because they are "weak" or need "toughen up". Is the pain of a broken limb more credible than the pain of a broken upbringing? I was raised believing that physical pain is real and emotional pain is temporary and shouldn't last longer than the time it takes to "shake it off" and "focus on the positive". This wasn't my parents fault, nor was it my friends fault, or my teachers fault, or anyone's fault. It was simply the way things were.