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Austin and Shrida are two members of Plan International Canada's Youth Advisory Council. In recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day, they asked a few of their fellow council members about their experiences with menstrual health and stigma.
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Mental illness has always been highly stigmatized. Mental Health Month and other awareness programs attempt to bring mental illness out of the shadows, yet many of those who should be leading the fight to de-stigmatize mental illness, my fellow physicians, continue to foster stigma through their actions and words. Many patients have been irreparably harmed by physicians from every area of medicine who don't read, don't listen, and don't care about mental illness.
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It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Canada (Feb.1-7, 2017). It has taken me about 15 years to ADMIT that I had an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) as a child and teenager. If you know someone with an eating disorder, here are a few things to be aware of.
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For last year's Bell Let's Talk Day I listed some reasons why we should be more open about our mental health struggles. But what happens when we do open up and seek treatment?
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Over the years, I have noticed many instances where professionals felt that they were supposed to be above all of life's challenges and obstacles. Not just health care workers ignoring their own health; but leaders who feel stressed by circumstances beyond their control and who live in fear of being discovered so that they feel anxious and afraid.
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We continue to be bombarded with graphically depicted messages that either romanticize suicide in terms of simplistic Romeo and Juliet dreck, or unfairly portray those in the midst of a mental illness crisis as "mad." We start believing falsehoods that keep perpetuating negative stereotypes and stigma.
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Stigma has many causes, one of which is a genuine fear of contagion. Despite the fact that HIV is now a treatable condition, "educational" messages on HIV prevention are still based on fear, and almost universally exaggerate the risks of HIV infection and its consequences.
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As September marked National Suicide Prevention Month, it is important to raise awareness about suicide by helping educate others and eliminate current misconceptions.
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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.
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The trouble is, there is no recipe book for prescribing psychiatric medications. Every individual is unique, so with the guidance of their doctor, patients must find the treatment that's right for them. If a drug makes them feel worse, it's not the right drug, but that doesn't mean there are no other options. The right treatment must be found and sometimes that takes time, effort and creativity. Feeling like a zombie is never an acceptable outcome.
My migraines never reduced in frequency or intensity. I took over-the-counter and prescription drugs. It was not usual for me to take 8 muscle relaxants a day plus small amounts of prescription painkillers. My lifestyle was otherwise healthy. I did pilates 5 days a week, ate well and slept 8 hours a night. But 6 out of 7 days was a struggle. A struggle to be positive focused and upbeat at work many days when I just felt like banging my head down on my desk.
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As a mental health advocate, I was addicted to appearing to be recovered. I was afraid to admit that I am living with an eating disorder. Afraid that it meant the messages I was telling people about recovery being possible wasn't true. That living with an eating disorder, while being highlighted as recovered, meant I was a fraud.
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The in-patient doctor had quipped, "You're on too much medication." In the span of a few seconds, five words undid years of hard work. Those words powerfully undermined Lillian's confidence and stirred up her long-held fear that her illness was a weakness. Once again she was depressed, anxious, unable to sleep properly and withdrawn from family, friends and her community.
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I felt like I was daring myself to cross some arbitrary line in the sand, and once I did, there would be no turning back. Canadians' perceptions of who I was, and certainly their knowledge of my life story, would be forever altered. Even if only a few dozen people heard my story, it felt big to share personally and publicly.
In mental illness, we are constantly mixing apples and oranges. The causes are not the same and neither are the treatments. When we lump them together we create more confusion. And when there is lack of clarity, we tend to fill the gaps in knowledge with myths, superstitions, and mistaken attributions. That's when the quacks come out.
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I was born on May 21st 1993 with H.I.V. In my world this was the scariest thing imaginable. Not the actual virus. I was fortunate enough to learn I could physically live a long relatively healthy life. The stigma has kept me forever afraid. But my disclosure saved my life. That's not the case for everybody and I think it's important we all have a choice. Whatever choice that is, let yourself be happy. Let yourself feel no shame. I am not living with H.I.V, H.I.V is living with me.
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I've been suffering from a condition called Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU) for 15 years and I've always found something was missing: peer support. While the disease is quite rare, it does not mean support shouldn't exist for these rare people.
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There is still a common belief that being HIV-positive is a death sentence, when in reality most people now reach the age of retirement, living with what is a serious, long-term illness. These inaccurate beliefs result in stigma and discrimination with often devastating effects.
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Affecting one per cent of the population, CIU causes hives, swelling, pain and itching for absolutely no known reason. The scariest part of this condition is the unpredictability. When will I swell up so much I need to go to the hospital? Will this ever go away? How do I plan my life?
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A lot of people have the perception that shelter life today is for the junkie, the uneducated, the criminal or the battered wife seeking refuge from her abusive partner. In my experience, most of the people I have met in the shelter system are there for a variety of reasons. In the shelter I have met bank tellers, writers, students and even retirees.
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Menstruation is a natural occurrence in every woman's life, and yet, it is shrouded in some type of feminine mystery. Women will spend about 3,000 days of her life menstruating, and yet almost none talking about it. Girls are often taught from a young age that their cycle is their secret, not something to be openly discussed.
In my opinion, the media has a responsibility for helping to push social justice issues forward. While we should always be remembered for how we lived and not how we died we need to call a spade a spade. Let's take away the fear and stigma out of talking about suicide.
Talking about sexual and reproductive health with students is always a little bit awkward, even in the best of situations! Having these discussions within a culture that often considers anything related to reproductive health to be taboo can be particularly challenging -- and incredibly important. In rural Tanzania, such topics are rarely discussed. The national curriculum includes the topics of menstruation and reproductive health, but these topics are frequently rushed through, or skipped altogether, by uncomfortable teachers in underfunded, overcrowded schools.
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Anger is not a place I like to write from. I despise this state, the energy it takes. I understand the value of counting to 10, of being mindful and rational. I understand the politics and tact that l...
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The reality is that out of all Canadians living with HIV, more than one in four don't know they are living with it. And for those of us working with African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada, it doesn't surprise us to learn that Joseph is a Black man. People from African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS.
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Bell Let's Talk day is about hope. It gives you a chance to take off your mask and talk about your pain. It allows you to mourn the loss of who you were and to say, "It's okay I'm like this now." It cracks open the darkness for a minute and gives you hope by letting you realize there are people who've made it out to the other side.
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Now that I've experienced stability in mild doses as my medication is regularly tweaked to find the right balance, I question myself often. Is my thought to return to school to get my Masters something I really want? Or is it residual hypomania egging me on? I still wake at night and watch as the thoughts battle each other for my undivided attention.
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Closing this access gap means expanding health systems to include grassroots outreach and the community-level advocates who lead the charge. It is well documented that village-level and even home-based HIV testing greatly improve rates of testing. The same is true for HIV education, counselling, and treatment follow-up.
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If you are among the lucky population who does react well to medication, taking a pill may allow you to work through the problems you're facing in therapy and hopefully you won't have to be on medication for the rest of your life. But the reality is that for some of us suffering from chronic mental illness, therapy isn't enough.
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I started by telling you about my own experience in the world of abuse. I did this because those experiences are what helped me understand the importance of healing in light of a frightening situation. These women -- our sisters -- need our support and understanding to heal. But we cannot forget the men. At some point we are going to have to turn around and help heal this man. Many will think he is undeserving, but he too experienced trauma in his life which he has had to cope with. I'm not talking about forgiveness, I'm talking about compassion.
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It won't surprise you to hear that women are among the world's most vulnerable populations. But it might surprise you to learn that one of the most difficult parts about being a woman is also one of the most natural: menstruation. A girl's transition into womanhood is often marked by the beginning of her menstrual cycle, an occasion that is celebrated in many cultures as an important rite of passage. But in many parts of East Africa, it marks the beginning of a lifetime of discomfort, embarrassing health problems, and even harassment. It marks the beginning of schoolyard bullying, missed days of school, and the start of a lifetime viewed as a sexual object.
Bruce and Lynn drove to their youngest daughter Emily's school to tell her that her brother had died by suicide. They next drove to London to pick up their other daughter, Aimee from university. Their cries filled the car along the highway. Lynn climbed in the backseat to hold Emily in her arms. At first, Aimee did not believe the news but slowly came to understand.