A big part of understanding the importance of mental health is about understanding the stigma of mental illness. The following statistics can help you to visualize the prevalence of mental illness in Canada and the stigma often attached to it.
Help raise awareness by sharing these facts with others and get the conversation started.
Bernard became very ill at the age of 24 and felt cut of from the world because he was no longer able to work. He describes his recovery over a period of 15 years as a series of small steps beginning with the critical call for help. This call for help led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and treatment. Bernard is proud of how far he has come and explains that, before his diagnosis, he felt the word “citizen” did not apply to him. Now, he is an active citizen living in recovery. He works with the support group, Reprendre Pouvoir, is a blogger and a published author. Bernard believes recovery should be lived one day at a time.
Lenore had a successful career in the arts for 30 years and with 17 years of recovery under her belt, Lenore now works as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Government of Nova Scotia. During her twenties, she began experiencing chronic anxiety and started to use alcohol to control her moods. The anxiety became mixed with bouts of depression until Lenore realized she had a serious problem. At 36, Lenore became sober and has never looked back. She speaks openly about her experience, demonstrating strong advocacy for mental health and addictions recovery. Lenore uses her creativity to promote the goal of inspiring people to work together to create a more equal, compassionate, and just society. Lenore says, “It is never too late to change the world or oneself for the better – if we simply take action.”
Marli is a social worker and mental health advocate. As a young woman she experienced many symptoms that she says took her breath away, including anxiety, depression and bouts of psychosis. She describes her outward appearance as being high functioning despite her constant struggle with mental illness. Marli’s symptoms varied and it took many years to find the correct diagnosis and combination of treatments. Marli used to view recovery as a finish line; now she knows management is the key to her success. She uses public speaking to address stereotypes and stigma. She is a proud wife and mother who works to create awareness about the effect of mental illness on family members who she feels are often overlooked in the process of healing.
Arthur was born to a mother with mental illness before being diagnosed with depression and anxiety when he was 13. As a young boy he cared for his mother until he ended up in the custody of the Children’s Aid Society from the ages of 9-18. During his years as a Crown Ward, Arthur lived in 16 different group and foster homes. He was stigmatized a lot by his peers which often left him feeling very isolated. Arthur is a natural leader when it comes to his illness and mental health in general. He now uses his experiences to educate thousands, and has been able to attain a sense of pride knowing his voice has created change and reform in mental health practices.
Karen struggled with self harm until asking for help following her first suicide attempt at age 15. From the depths of depression to hypo-manic highs, Karen describes her behaviour as unpredictable. One day her mom said to her “life only gives you what you can handle, if anyone can fight this, it’s you.” She was formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16 and attributes medications and cognitive behavioural therapy to allowing her to reach stability. She now works with the Mood Disorders Association of BC as the youngest member of its Speakers Bureau. She is particularly keen to reach members of her own East Indian culture whom she feels have even greater hurdles to overcome in understanding mental illness and seeking treatment.
Disclaimer: The Bell Let's Talk initiative is focused on raising awareness and encouraging dialogue about mental health. Diagnosis of specific mental health issues should be determined by healthcare professionals. If you feel that you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness please consult a doctor or healthcare professional in your community.