Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Despite the spotlight of attention given to mental illness, particularly in the wake of Comedian Robin Williams suicide last August, the stigma remains.

As a society, we are all about caring and understanding. As individuals we are sympathetic, empathetic and supportive.  For Government and those that want to be government, battling mental illness has become a cause célèbre.

Sometimes, our brains, like our kidneys or hearts get really sick. Depression is a brain illness. It is all about chemicals, neurotransmitter and synapses.  

Sometimes, despite pills, counseling, meditation, exercise and a supportive family, the illness makes you feel nothing, not sadness - but an all-consuming emptiness. There is no scale to measure, or words,  to describe the torment. Only those who have felt, or witnessed the ravages of this illness can understand the depths of despair it can create.

The stigma and the reality of the incapacity go hand-in-hand. The raw, gnawing pain, the vicious circle of loneliness, deep sadness, loss of focus, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions conspire to envelop your soul - your very being - and your ability to function.

 However, what happens when the rubber hits the road, if you do not have family, work  or community support? 

What happens when the darkness swallows you whole, suffocates you and that big black dog pounces on your chest leaving you all but paralyzed? 

 NIMBY takes hold. Companies can not afford the liability of staff that can not function, focus and perform. The caring and understanding only goes as far as protecting the brand.  Who can disagree? 

This is where government is falling down, the economic and medicalsupports needed to ensure people can recover from this illness are just not there.

How many times have we heard that someone we know took their own lives and the response is utter shock, dismay, an inability to see the signs,  or a refutation of that person's character as a coward who took the easy way out. 90% of the people who die by suicide have an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death.
Survival is our most basic instinct,  perhaps eclipsed by our desire to protect our family.  How can anyone suggest that protecting your family from unfocused anger, deep despair, the slow steady erosion of reality is weak or cowardly?  Who would not to want to be there for more gold medals, to see your children  graduate, become young men, tease them when they bring home their first girlfriends, and hold your  grandchildren like you held them, coddled on your chest when they were tiny.  

The stigma associated with mental illness in society is very real.  It impacts the lives of people who live with mental illness and their families. Most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help.

The paradox is the cycle of the illness when facing the stigma and discrimination from society, families, friends and employers. This stigma can only worsen one’s mental health problems, delaying - or impeding - access to the help and treatment that so vital to recovery. 

If we are going to be honest about helping people who suffer from mental illness, society must remove the impediments to recovery.


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