It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week

Ottawa , Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada, including Bell Let’s Talk.

This year MIAW’s theme is Spreading Awareness, Reducing Stigma, and the four new Faces of Mental Illness will lead the campaign as they take part in events to educate Canadians about the realities of living with mental illness, and the effects that mental health has in the lives of all Canadians.

The 2016 Faces of Mental Illness are:

Samuel Breau: An engaged leader and advocate since a young age, Samuel’s journey towards recovery began during university. After moving from rural New Brunswick to Ottawa and facing the high expectations from school, scholarships and peers, Samuel became aware that he may be living with a mental illness, and subsequently sought treatment for a generalized anxiety disorder. Today, Samuel combines professional and personal experiences to deliver powerful messages that seek to reduce stigma and promote psychological health and wellness for all.

Andrea Paquette: After suffering greatly from her bipolar disorder, Andrea got help and decided to inspire others to share their personal stories by creating a website called http://bipolarbabes.com. With the launch of the website, she created supportive and impacting programs and founded the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia, which is now named the Stigma-Free Society. Andrea encourages others to change their attitudes towards mental illnesses by explaining that while people can have a mental illness, they are not defined by their condition.

Dexter Nyuurnibe: An African-Canadian mental health advocate who understands the importance of breaking the gender stereotypes that define masculinity in order to erase the stigma associated with mental illnesses. He’s shared his story many times, having presented a TEDx talk and at a joint session of the World Bank and W.H.O in Washington, D.C. He continues to speak up about his experiences of suffering from dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder and recovery.

Stéphanie Fontaine: Stephanie understands the struggles of coping with a mental disorder, having bipolar disorder. Her successful experience in corporate workplaces while fighting towards recovery makes for a hopeful story. She put aside her career as an actuary to join Revivre, a non-profit organization supporting self-management for people with anxiety and mood disorders in the province of Quebec. She reaches out to the public to make others aware not only that anybody can suffer from a mental illness, but also that anyone can recover from it.

To learn more about MIAW which runs from October 2 to 8 or the Faces of Mental Illness, please visit http://www.camimh.ca.

Pictured from left to right: Samuel Breau, Stéphanie Fontaine, Dexter Nyuurnibe, and Andrea Paquette