The Faces of Mental Illness

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“Some of the most comforting words in the universe are ‘me too.’ That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle, that you’re not alone, and that others have been down the same road.” – Unknown

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week so I thought it would be appropriate to share the personal stories of these five remarkable people and to let those who are suffering in silence to know that they are not alone.

Karandeep Gill whose battle with mental illness began when she was 15 years old. It wasn’t until she was 24 that she was correctly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type following seven hospitalizations in the past ten years. After her last hospitalization for severe paranoia and visual hallucinations, she followed an intensive inpatient and outpatient recovery program which helped in her recovery. Karandeep shares her recovery journey through talks and her mental health awareness Instagram account (@livinginpeacee_), letting others like her know that they are not alone in this battle.

I read an interview with Caroline Fe-Yeng Kwok in which she disclosed that in the Asian culture mental illness is seen as a something shameful and taboo. It is not discussed or spoken of. Shortly after arriving in Canada, Caroline was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and multiple early hospitalizations resulted in her being socially excluded from her local community who felt that she would be an invalid for the rest of her life. How sad is that? She is currently a mental health advocate and published author of two books, Free to Fly: A Story of Manic Depression and Journeys of Renewed Hope. She is also a service provider and a mentor to other new Canadians living with mental illness.

Keith Lyon began experiencing psychosis and paranoia in his 20s and for 10 years he was in and out of psychiatric units. The stigma of him having to get medication and the feeling that people didn’t understand him became barriers to his recovery. However, with the support of family and close friends, his faith, work and community support, he is faring well. He has no qualms about sharing his experiences with schizophrenia in an effort to offer others hope and he’s pleased to donate the proceeds from his four children’s books to the psychiatric unit which helped him.

Lydia Migneault was living with mental illness from a very young age, battling suicidal thoughts. For several years she went through highs and lows, hospitalizations for suicide attempts and work stoppages, recovery and relapse until she was finally diagnosed with anxiety, borderline personality disorder as well as an eating disorder. After her diagnosis in 2017, she began to speak openly about her mental illness which helped her to make sense of the episodes she went through. Therapy and family support contributed to the healthy and balanced life she currently enjoys. She is involved in various projects which talk about mental health and is giving back to the next generation. Through blogging, she fights against the taboos and prejudices which she and many others like her have had to deal with. The video is in French.

Nick Petrella was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety in 2010. He was filled with shame For the next five years he was seen by a dozen different mental health professionals until he finally found a therapist who was able to help him and he slowly began his road to his recovery. Thanks to the support of his of his wife, his therapist, his friend at CMHA, his two young daughters and three dogs, Nick is driven to raise awareness to reduce stigma and prove that recovery is possible every day.

Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of or kept under the quiet. It needs to be talked about and awareness needs to be raised about the stigma which prevents those who need help from seeking it. We need to educate ourselves and others and to support our loved ones, friends, co-workers, etc who are suffering in silence for fear of being ostracized, rejected and misunderstood. The only way to fight prejudice, discrimination and stigma is education. Education is key. Find out the facts about mental illness and how you can help. Help stop the stigma.

“Don’t give in to stigma. A diagnosis does not determine who you are or what you can do!” – Good Therapy.org

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