As a society, we are comfortable with what we know and see. Mental illness is not often seen and too few know about it. Those who are mentally ill and seeking treatment are not only dealing with the signs and symptoms of the disease attacking their mind, but also the rejection from the teams of mental health professionals, themselves drowning beneath the paralyzing weight of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, this leaves families alone, scared, overworked, and dejected by a lack of commitment and compassion from the department of Canadian health care that is most knowledgeable about their respective illnesses.
More and more patients are demanding answers to the root cause(s) of their symptoms, not wanting merely a suppressive "band-aid" approach. There are multiple factors that impact our health on a daily basis, and this couldn't be any truer when discussing mental health. Traditionally, many conditions labeled under the umbrella of "mental illness" were summed up solely as genetic or biochemical imbalances.
Nobody wants to be Ebenezer. But during the holidays, when all are merry, and my eyes are watering with the unexplained tears of depression -- which has not left me, but has only fooled those around me -- the oft-repeated, "What's wrong now? You seemed fine yesterday," only serves to make the demons in my head cackle a little louder.
Freelance writer, Patricia Jane Teskey, commented on my last blog post that this advisory council was first suggested in 2011. She wrote to the former Health Minister, Deb Matthews, and asked if the committee would "include family caregivers of people with serious psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? And if not, when will that gaping problem be corrected?"
I will tell you that I know you've tried what feels like everything to create a tolerable existence, but it hasn't worked thus far. I also know that you have hoarded your past expired medications in your toy hamper waiting for this day when you finally get "the nerve" to go through with ending it all. Please don't let today be your last, I want you to experience what it's like to smile for real again and you'll be taking that opportunity away.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a film crew to follow you day in and day out, documenting your daily rituals all in an effort to create a successful film? I have a chronic condition called Dermatillomania, which has left me scarred and disfigured on the outside, alienated and "different" on the inside.
The current crisis in Toronto's city hall might well serve as a reminder that as a society, we have a long way to go in understanding the impact of mental health when lives go awry on the public stage. We also have yet to achieve consensus as to what might constitute a compassionate, pragmatic response in such cases.
At long last, people are talking about postpartum depression. Dismissed for years as no more than a touch of the baby blues (or else unheard of entirely), PPD has become an open subject. But despite this progress, postpartum depression remains misunderstood in one very critical regard: namely, that it's something that only happens to, and thus only adversely affects, mothers.
Someone who suffers with any form of a diagnosed mental health condition such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder or depression, are usually not able to be as open with their family, friends or workplace. There are no predictions to how someone will feel when they wake up in the morning. Many times people are patted on the back and told they are just having a bad day, or to pretty much suck it up.
Leslie Bennett is an intelligent, open-minded and highly-accomplished businesswoman who has fought the good fight with bipolar I -- and is now thriving. At one point, because of Bennett's manic episode, she had convinced herself that the people coming to visit her were not her family, but clones of them.
If we want families to get the help and support they need, we need to make it faster and easier for them to find that help. While we can't speed up the time it takes to properly address the issues facing a family, we can speed up the process of finding out how to begin with new models. That's where technology comes in.