The best thing I ever did was to leave the academic texts behind and turn to memoirs written by people who live with mental illness. I don't know what brought me to this place -- maybe some vain hope that somewhere, someone else was experiencing what I was going through. And thankfully that's exactly what I found.
Robin Williams didn't die from suicide, he died from depression. Zelda Williams eloquently wrote, "... I'll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay..." She summed up the words of loved ones left behind beautifully. Rehtaeh didn't decide one night to kill herself -- she died a slow, painful death from a disease of the soul that kills close to 4,000 Canadians a year. Teenagers are talking about suicide and we need to make sure theirs are not the only voices in the conversation. Sadly, the very voices needed the most are the ones missing. The voices of teachers, parents, psychologists, doctors, police officers, mental health workers, and community leaders. We need to talk about suicide.
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci points out in a report that Ontario does not have a mental health system as there is no coordinated, comprehensive approach to treating mental health. Rather, there is a patchwork collection of hospitals community treatment organizations and practitioners with often inadequate funding. Toronto (and the Province) he says would benefit from a well coordinated system.
At the age of four, I would wake in the middle of the night; my legs trembling; the bile in my stomach churning up into my throat; my arms paralyzed by my side; a small scream escaping my young lips as I begged God to take me to heaven; as I prayed that the all-consuming fear would go away so that I could catch my breath. How does one explain this to anyone when it has been entrenched within since before time began? Doctors told my mother that I was simply "high strung" and that I would "grow out of it." I didn't. Somehow, while I work to accept the reality of my diagnoses, I must also convey to those who are part of my life, that although my illness has appeared to them as a series of unfortunate events, it has dropped me to my knees and sent me careening into a fiery hell of anguish only understood by those who have seen the divide between reality and insanity.
Former interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Bob Rae is calling for a national strategy on suicide. While Rae is undoubtedly moved by sadness, he has failed to do his homework. What we do not need is another committee wasting scarce resources to study what is already known. We do need better access for people so that they can get the treatment that they need.
I was not the least bit surprised when I read that Ellen Richardson was banned entry into the U.S. because she suffered with depression and had a history of attempted suicide. That was unconscionable, but I do have a suggestion that may help prevent this for others. The police explained that many, if not all, contacts with them end up in their database. Regrettably, it is too late to help Ellen Richardson but others who may be in a similar situation and who may be travelling to the U.S. should check with their own police departments to find out what may have been entered.
With traditional first aid, those who are trained would give CPR to someone in cardiac arrest until the paramedics arrived or staunch bleeding or do mouth to mouth. The ill individual would be helped and then handed over to the professionals. Does MHFA accomplish the same? Do those they counsel end with professional help? The answer from the evaluations that have been done is no.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has released its new guidelines for involving families in the mental health system. Since family caregivers for people with psychotic disorders often supply the majority of mental health support, these efforts to create a more family friendly mental health system represent a huge step forward.
The CIA was not spying on me. Nor were FBI agents looking to bring me down. And I was neither the President, Jesus Christ, nor Cleopatra. These, I had heard, are the content of delusions that characterize schizophrenia. Given that logic, I did not consider myself to have schizophrenia. I think that these shallow nuances of delusion kept me in my illness and away from probing psychiatrists.
Our discussion of learning disabilities is a mental health issue. I was born with severe learning disabilities. By my twenties I had tried to commit suicide more than once. What saved my life was research that taught me there was a neurological cause to my confusion: parts of my brain were underperforming
People with schizophrenia don't have a Master's degree in Neuroscience. I'm simply too intelligent to have schizophrenia, right? Then why do rats eat my brain, why do voices yell at me, and why am I being stalked by a homicidal man with a sniper gun (I've got proof)? I assume it is normal. I don't have any friends and I have withdrawn from my family so no one but Them (doctors, nurses -- everyone in league with the enemy) diagnose me, treat me. So here are your pills. You would think that after all of this, I would surely realize that I had schizophrenia. I didn't, though.
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.
Anytime a celebrity or somebody in the spotlight, like Mindy McCready, takes his or her own life we tend to only talk about the issues facing that specific person. Maybe its easier to talk of somebody everybody knows of. I've talked about why I was grateful I'm still living because, as I've learned, I have a lot to live for. I saw that first hand after my two suicide attempts.
We will always have our differences but for the first time in a long time I truly felt like those who have the ability to create change in the mental health system will do so. And now more then ever the powers that be will involve the true stakeholders: the consumer advocates. We are all going to work together.
Mental health is currently on the forefront of two TV shows that I'm keeping an eye on. Half of my friends believe highlighting the struggles of those with mental illness in a fictional manner only furthers the stigma. The other half believes Hollywood has the ability to use its magic to accurately depict the day-to-day life of those with mental illness.
These bull-crap beliefs become entrenched at an early age and are handed down from generation to generation. But we need to question. Here are a few of the most pervasive myth understandings to leave behind as you head into a new year. Leave these mental albatrosses buried in 2012 where they belong.
Events like this would never happen if accessing mental health services was as easy as getting guns. Canadians should not feel sanctimonious about this tragedy. The problem is not only guns. What we do share with our grieving cousins south of the border is a lack of access to appropriate mental health services.