This week I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Mental Health Association’s #b4stage4 conference in Victoria BC. During these two days I was inspired by the knowledge and personal stories shared by powerful politicians, an award winning musician, health care officials, nurses, psychotherapists, and students alike. Hearing their stories was a vivid reminder that mental health issues do not discriminate; each and every one of us has been, or has the potential to be impacted by mental illness or addiction.
The premise of the b4stage4 campaign: We don’t wait until Stage 4 to intervene for cancer, so why do we wait to treat mental illness and addiction?
Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to seeking help and/or early intervention for mental illness is stigma. Did you know that 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and yet only 49% of Canadians say they would socialize with a friend who has mental illness?!
This is unacceptable.
If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t educate people, and if we don’t say that sometimes ‘it’s ok not to be ok’, then how can we possibly expect people to seek the help they need?
We need to GET LOUD. We need to BE BOLD. And we need to TAKE ACTION.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a vested interest in psychology and considered myself to be an advocate for mental health and ending stigma; however, as I sat there in a room full of 250 people and watched powerful and successful individuals courageously share their most personal struggles, I couldn’t help but feel like a hypocrite.
Because here I was at a National Mental Health conference with people from all over the world, advocating for change and ending stigma (things I passionately support)… and yet a large majority of the people in my life had no idea that for well over a decade, I’ve been fighting my own battle with mental illness.
How can I justifiably advocate for people to openly discuss their personal experiences with mental illness and addiction when I haven’t done so myself?
This is me ‘getting loud’, ‘being bold’, and ‘taking action’.
BC friends!! Please take an extra 30 seconds out of your day, join the #b4stage4 movement, and sign the BC CMHA manifesto at the link below- let’s change the way we think about mental health and addictions! http://www.b4stage4.ca/
Read her personal story "This is My Story. Part I"