04/24/2015 12:58 EDT | Updated 06/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Treatment for Mental Illness Is as Necessary, and Normal, as Chemo

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I have had it! I know that it's going to take years before the devastation of mental illness is as well-known and as acknowledged as the damages and life-altering pain that cancer causes its victims. I often use cancer as an example when making a point about the lack of support when speaking of mental illness because the very fact that cancer campaigns are many, funding is frequent, and nobody denies its existence nor attributes stigma to the disease is the direct antithesis of that ascribed to any mental illness.

I realize that education in the field of mental illness health care is still new and as such, not in the forefront of illnesses that should and must be taken seriously. However, the often blatant denial that there is stigma attached to mental illness further fuels my anger. I have written post after post expounding upon the devastating effects mental illness has on its victims and their families; its lack of representation in the media; and the lack of treatment, and/or extreme difficulty one has in finding suitable psychological help.

My own mental illnesses, dealing with Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, luckily are still being currently evaluated by proper medical psychological teams. Despite difficulty in finding the right medications to right my upside down world, my ability to walk on my hands thanks to the professionals who are holding on to my legs until I can drop out of this exhausting handstand, and stand up on my own two feet, gives me hope and strength. Each day that my illness is further treated is one more day towards the rest of a life where the calluses on the palms of my hands will finally heal and my view of the world will not encompass the dirt blowing up and into my mouth and nostrils, as my arms burn in pain from this handstand from hell.

Although my search for a psychiatrist in Winnipeg, Manitoba was a long process, the interim has found a note on my fridge where the number to the Mobile Crisis Health Unit has been prominently displayed. It is estimated that 10,000 people report to emergency rooms in Winnipeg each year, where wait times are long and spent in situations that can cause further stress and anxiety to its mentally ill patients. The crisis response unit has been put into place as a resort for those who require immediate mental care, and/or those who would not be able to sit in an emergency room for several hours. The Crisis Response Centre is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is estimated that one in four Manitobans will suffer from a mental health issue in their lifetime, and the Crisis Response Centre is equipped to offer a variety of services from psychiatric evaluations, hospitalization, resources, and follow up care.

Naively, I assumed all big cities and provinces offered such crisis centres and their services. After all, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Surpassed only by injuries, mental illness is the leading cause of youth hospitalization; however, the stigma of this statistic is not publicized nor openly discussed in classrooms or youth programs. Suffice it to say, that most people will be touched in some way by mental illness, if not themselves, then by a friend or family member.

These are important facts. These facts warrant significant governmental health funding along with priority hospitalization for those seeking treatment. Sadly, this is not the case. A friend of mine in Vancouver has been advocating for her grown daughter suffering debilitating Bipolar I Disorder. Months have passed and my friend has watched her daughter spiral downwards, her actions unpredictable and dangerous, forcing her family to stand watch by her side, and wait for a health care system that chooses to ignore the severity of this situation by stating that her plan of suicide is not clear enough. So in essence, before she could be admitted, she would have to have attempted suicide.

This is not the first time I have heard this about British Columbia's mental health care system. Another friend who suffers from depression so badly that she is unable to work, and lives in her mother's home under her mother's constant watch, will not be considered for panelling until she too attempts and fails at taking her life. This is ridiculous. If she broke a leg however, the leg would be casted. If she needed surgery to remove a tumor, she would not have to wait until her dying breath before medical intervention. However, mental illness is the lowest echelon of the ladder...Or is it? Does it even make it to the lowest echelon?

Bill C-300 which Parliament passed in 2013, although valiant in its efforts at frameworking suicide prevention, is simply another method for government to misplace the focus of increased funding towards mental illness treatment. It is a failed magic trick which has its exhausting, hopeful, unsuspecting victims looking for the coin to be pulled from the ear, when in fact nothing more can be seen than a hideous clown holding a gun in which a little flag reading the word "bang" is the main attraction. Until governments can provide funding for compassionate, dedicated, safe treatment for those suffering from mental illness, stigma will not be eradicated; rather it will continue to be the growing tumour of our generation.


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