The Mental Illness Awareness Week blog, sharing stories of recovery, personal experiences, and mental health/mental illness news.

10/12/10

Mental illness runs strong in my family.


2010 Face of Mental Illness, David, share his thoughts about mental illness and his family.



Mental illness runs strong in my family. Many of my family members past and present have experienced all or some of schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. I find it quite interesting that many family members are reluctant to get help--such as psychosocial-rehabilitation counseling and medication additions and/or adjustments--but my family was quite adamant about getting me help, starting with hospitalization, then outpatient psychiatric treatment, and finally one day a week counselling at CMHA Winnipeg Region within the Rehabilitation and Recovery program with a highly skilled, hard working, dedicated, and empathetic community mental health care worker.

Now I am the family member who has schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety under control with sufficient appropriate medication, and effective stress management, organization, and time management skills. I am in the position of helping my family members not simply cope but to advocate for them to get the mental health care help that they need. It is hard though since--for reasons unexplained that I cannot yet figure out--they are reluctant to follow the path of recovery that I took even though they know it works. As such, it is quite frustrating for me to be somewhat powerless when trying to help my family, especially since one family member is experiencing what I experienced to such a degree that it is like déjà vu for me. It is like I am re-living the acute mental illness again with him rather than the chronic stage of mental illness effective management that I was at before he needed a calming communication outlet that I provide. My family helped me, now I must help them.

I think it is important for families to realize the challenges of helping or caring for family members with mental illnesses and in fact, watch out for "transference" since it is stressful for family members in this position of care for an individual with a mental illness. This is a reason why we need to strongly address barriers to mental health care system access. During Mental Illness Awareness Week, I will be participating within a two day forum entitled "Which Doors Lead to Where: How to Enhance Access to Mental Health Service: Barriers, Facilitators, and Opportunities for Canadians' Mental Health. It is important to consider community mental health care services such as the related mental illness support groups (4 Fort Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, has a multitude of mental health organizations and mental health peer support groups which can be very helpful as I found when talking during patient to patient group therapy while living at the three psychiatric wards that I was committed to by family). Additionally, there are other resources for the mentally ill family member and the other family members at CMHA Winnipeg Region which includes workshops such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mental Health First Aid, and Live Life to the Ultimate.

David Albert Newman, CGA, CIA, ACCA (UK), B. Comm. (Hons.) with Distinction
"Anything is possible if we let our mind wander away from standardization towards creativity."
φ = π – 2^2/φ^2 + e

9/9/10

Marie's vlog: How you can heal

Here is a regime Marie uses daily that has helped her maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Anyone with mental illness can move to wellness and recovery, but it takes work. Take a view on what has helped Marie!


9/7/10

Blinked and missed Blind River, so sprung into Spragge

Checking in with Ted "dr. j" Jablonski on his SAD no more 2010 Canadian Tour. Here's what Ted's been up to.

SNM Tour Day 38



It poured most of the night off and on. So what started out looking like a potentially very rainy day (again) turned from overcast, to cloudy to clear and SUNNY - it was a glorious and much needed! As much as the sky changed, so to did the landscape, transforming from rock and lakeshore to lush farmland and back again. From coniferous outcroppings to deciduous forests, from fishing camps to livestock farms and everything in between. The wind was breezy and gusty at times but overall we got in great mileage and it was a good solid day on the road. We wanted to get at least to Blind River but ended up going past to camp out in Spragge.

When I saw a flock of Canadian Geese honking overhead in a ragged V, I thought it was Fall again. When it warmed up and the sun was shining, summer was giving in that easy in Ontario and this is great, I could easily take a few more weeks of sun and heat - bring it on. We saw an unusual number of hawks today, one which flew along the highway with us for quite some time. There was at least one large eagle, a gigantic osprey nest on a railway pole, and some very large geese in a field (?snow geese - no white markings of a Canada Goose and creaked instead of honked.

Les got a early morning run in again today (Joe, she's been fooling you all these years - she loves getting up early and exercising!!) and Monique got in a cycle this afternoon. I think we've moved from camps to cottages and I had to bite my tongue not to stop and go look at lakeshore developements which were springing up all over the route we were travelling on, I know, I know - I've got enough properties, but it can't hurt to just have a look, can it??

Tour Day Sponsor is Alberta College of Family Physicians - thanks for the acknowledgement and support.

Random quote of the day
"There's no place like this"
on an Ontario travel brochure "Yours to discover" (OK, and we are!!)
can't argue this point as we're making our way across this immense province.

a bit of Canadiana with Ted's Tiny Trivia Teaser

The three Bruce brothers; Elliott, Thessalon and Desbarats started the first Copper Mine in Canada (aptly called Bruce Mines) which unfortunately adversely affected a significant number of workers, blinding them from copper poisoning mostly around the area now known as Blind River.

A little known fact - TRUE or FALSE

As our cell phones now have service again, we were finally able to talk to Gabrielle who is coming back from a special wedding just outside of Halifax made even "more special" by Hurricane Earl - a true candlelight cermemony, reception, after party etc etc. One everyone will certainly remember!

Follow Ted's tour travels on his SAD no more 2010 blog

9/2/10

Stigma

2010 Face of Mental Illness, Jennifer, responds to a reader comment on a recent Sudbury Star article about her experiences with mental illness. Read the original article here, the reader comment here and Jennifer's response below.



Maybe Harold A. Maio from Florida is right - that Stigma is a poor word choice attached to mental illness.

Maio responded to a Sudbury Star article about me, and iterated why the word was a poor choice to use. He wrote, " ... I do not associate stigmas, no matter who the authority attempting to persuade me. It is a choice I made following the women's movement, which refuted our pretense of the "stigma" of rape. "
Then he went on, "I am sure Ms Forsythe, trained in psychiatry, and president of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, is aware of the psychology of the term and those who impose it. She errs to be among them."

What does Stigma mean anyway? Well, let's examine the definition of Stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as one's reputation.

Hmmm... now I can agree with Maio's comment, and see that it has a very negative connotation. A connotation that we are trying to erase, right?

The synonyms for Stigma are equally negative and offensive: bar sinister, besmirchment, black mark, blame, blemish, brand, disfigurement, disgrace, dishonour, imputation, lost face, black mark, scar, spot stain......wow eh?

For myself, I can't see living with bipolar disorder as a mark of disgrace or infamy, nor a stain on my reputation. In the story, I had told the journalist, that at times, I consider bipolar disorder to actually be quite helpful.

So, what other word can we use instead of that one? How about Stereotype? Here's the definition of that word: 1. An idea, trait, convention, etc., that has grown stale through fixed usage. 2. A set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly.
And the synonyms for Stereotype include: pigeonhole, institutionalize, convention, formula, mold, pattern.

I really do believe Stereotype is a better word to use... because after all, the stereotypes of mental illness include words like crazy, insane, coo-coo, weird, loony, crackpot, out to lunch, schizo, wacky and so on....

And by the definitions of both words, Stereotype is perhaps more suitable because words and phrases associated with mental illness have grown stale, and are broad sweeping generalizations and tend to pigeonhole people who live with mental illness.

Through the MIAW campaign, it's stereotypical thinking that we're trying to eliminate, through shedding light on mental health issues, as well as showing Canadians through the Faces campaign, that there are success individuals living very productive and happy lives.


Chi miigwetch,

Jennifer Ashawasegai

8/31/10

Down days




When I last wrote, I had joined the gym. I've been going about four to five times per week over the past five weeks. I've been feeling much better with much more energy and have generally been excited about life without any signs of hypo-mania.

But for the last couple of days, I have been depressed. Not Edgar Allen Poe depressed - more like Eeyore depressed.

I know why that happened. I skipped a few workouts last week, and was late to get into my routine this week. I certainly realize how important getting regular exercise is to my body and my mind... and even though - I still missed a few workouts. However, I'm not going to be too hard on myself because I'll get back on schedule and things will smooth out once again.

I was back it this morning - and my workout sure was gruelling!!! I did it though. And I'm very happy I got myself through it. In the beginning of my workout, all that really kept me going was how I was going to feel after - an improved mood which would last throughout the day!

And yes, I do feel much better. I'm feeling somewhere in between Eeyore and Tigger....


--
Sincerely,
Jennifer Ashawasegai

8/27/10

Further Medical Counsel



Something tells me there is more to my story than I currently know.

By no means am I a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. Rather, it is a very brief account of symptoms that exist prompting me to seek further medical counsel to see if I have co-morbid schizophrenia and autism. I speculate that the autism (in this case I refer to high functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome Disorder along the autism spectrum) occurred first, followed by childhood trauma, then depression and anxiety, and finally the break from reality with schizophrenia from the lifelong trauma.

I take three drugs for schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, and two of those types (anti-psychotics and anti-depressants) are also used for treating autism symptoms. Although reliability and validity of online tests may be open to criticism, I feel that I should seek face to face medical counsel to discuss early childhood symptoms, (including hand biting from frustration of not achieving independent child play goals) and adult symptoms.
Two of my biggest symptoms are short attention span on subjects I am not interested in (even if important) and intense focus in other subjects where there is interest (even if unimportant).

Other symptoms include:
• rigidity to routine
• discomfort to forced novelty
• social aversion of social situations
• intense need for privacy (much more than the average person)
• required rigid organization (when untreated with medication and counselling)
• hyperactivity, obsessive compulsiveness, addictive personality
• extreme sensitivity to information overload that the average person would process as normal
• prolonged childhood night terrors
• attention span and concentration difficulties (possibly related to ADHD)

I also have a hint of a narcissistic personality at times. I am also highly independent, require lots of alone time (much more than the average person), and I have a fascination and fixation on geometric properties and algebraic functions (so much so, my mind draws geometric shapes and equations--in my mind and superimposed onto reality--when I am not focused upon other thoughts).

David Albert Newman, CGA, CIA, ACCA (UK), B. Comm. (Hons.) with Distinction
"Anything is possible if we let our mind wander away from standardization towards creativity."
φ = π - 2^2/φ^2 + e

Learn more about autism

8/26/10

Hoarder, Positive Self Talk and the Internal Monitoring System



I am a pack rat/hoarder.

Before I was treated for schizophrenia, I used to be somewhat of a pack rat/hoarder but I was very particular about being organized (everything MUST be in the right place and at correctly precise angles--such as right angle, diagonal, etc.). After being treated for schizophrenia with medication and rehabilitation counselling, I am a much more relaxed person. Only problem is that in daily life, I have become VERY disorganized and an extreme hoarder. I am slowly learning to stop doing so with help from my brother, Kevy Newman. I am learning to group similar items together and to put objects away when I am done with them. In a sense, I am learning early grade school skills again.

When I sometimes get overwhelmed about this and even depressed, I reach back into my mental health toolkit that I learned at CMHA Winnipeg Region to practice positive self talk. I use positive self talk daily since, for me, schizophrenia is a chronic condition (I hestitate to fully call it a mental illness since that denotes only negative imagery and it dismisses benefits such as extreme creativity and innovation).

I still get visions in my mind during the morning that are neutral image events that run like movies in my mind from the past day, but then somehow the visions silently speak to me in a negative manner. It is very hard to explain. It is as if there is an injection of something into my mind that makes neutral images negative. But the positive self talk helps, since I tell the neutral images with the negative message to be quiet (I say this aloud), and then I re-affirm myself about my positive life with positive self talk.

A lot of this would not be possible, if it were not for what I have coined the brain's "Internal Monitoring System" (IMS). I assert that this IMS keeps the individual connected to reality. For instance, I still have symptoms of thinking that songs on the television weather channel are specifically designed/played for me with reference to my girlfriend as chosen by her and played by her, for me, by her contacting the television weather channel and telling them what to play. I may have a connection but so too may many other individuals. As such, my IMS brings me back to reality to know that my delusion is untrue. Another current delusion was that my girlfriend is really my nurse. Now, she has very caring and comforting qualities, in addition to being very attractive and intelligent, but she is not a nurse in the purest form. Thus, my IMS had to be reactivated to remind me that is a delusion and to enable me to share the delusion with her.

I like to think of the IMS similar to the disk check/diagnostic system of the Central Processing Unit (CPU) for a computer. It can self-check for errors and correct the file, registry, and logic errors. I think similar circumstances occur for schizophrenia once recovered. But, before recovery, the IMS goes into remission/hibernation. That is why sometimes individuals with schizophrenia,
1) become disconnected from reality (in probably most, if not all, cases),
2) cannot tell right from wrong (not in all cases).

Therefore, a critical key to studying schizophrenia acute and chronic psychosis (and other mental health issue psychosis) is to understand what the IMS is, and what activates, deactivates, and reactivates it.

David Albert Newman, CGA, CIA, ACCA (UK), B. Comm. (Hons.) with Distinction
"Anything is possible if we let our mind wander away from standardization towards creativity."
φ = π - 2^2/φ^2 + e

8/19/10

Is hoarding a mental illness?


Photograph by Global, Global


The Vancouver Sun recently published an article, Doctors debate whether hoarding a real mental illness, examining how hoarding is similar, an yet, different to mental illnesses such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Do you think hoarding should be classified as a mental illness?

8/17/10

My visit to Hiawatha First Nation

One of the 2010 Faces of mental illness, Jennifer Ashawasegai, discusses her recent visit to Hiawatha First Nation where she spoke about her experiences living with bipolar disorder.



Hiawatha First Nation is a beautiful community on the north shore of Rice Lake.

I was invited by the Community Health Nurse, Martha Calback-Ladouceur to speak about my experiences living with bipolar disorder.

I was very nervous, since in addition to living with bipolar disorder, I also experience extreme social anxiety at times. The talk in late July was also the first time I spoke publicly to any group.

A handful of community members showed up for the 'lunch and learning' session. It was a very informal setting and held outdoors, which was a real plus for me, and helped alleviate some of my anxiety.

The group was curious and respectful, and one woman came out and told the group she also lived with bipolar disorder. She was diagnosed more than a year ago. Another community member talked about a niece and a nephew who have bipolar disorder.

We mostly focused on coping mechanisms. I learned quite some time ago how to live with my disorder, but sometimes I need a refresher, which is what I got out of the talk at Hiawatha First Nation, because we spoke about balance through food, sleep and exercise.

Those are the three important things I must always remember to do. That is to have proper sleep - and that's not always possible when I'm going through a hypo-mania, because I feel I need less sleep; a good diet - with not too much sugar because I can't handle the 'crash' from sugar; plus adequate exercise.

I've recently returned to the exercise part, and am feeling much better and feel like I am beginning to maintain a steady amount of energy. Exercise also helps to alleviate or stave off the dark beast that is depression.

I would like to say Chi-miigwetch (thank you) to the community of Hiawatha First Nation for inviting me, for the great food and for their respectful and honest discussion.

Now, it's off to the gym for me!!!! :)


By Jennifer Ashawasegai
Read Jennifer's blog

8/16/10

Strategies that lead to recovery



2010 Face of Mental Illness, Marie Asuncion, vlogs about her personal strategies for recovering from mental illness.

Watch Maire's Video

What are your strategies for working towards recovery and living successfully with mental illness?

8/9/10

Relaxation Techniques




When I first went to CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Winnipeg nearing the end of 2005 and into 2006, I had returned to work at a restaurant (as a cook and a dishwasher) that I had worked at during my University years. This was quite depressing since I was highly educated but paid barely above minimum wage, and I could not make ends meet without using extensive amounts of credit cards.

Fortunately, I was enabled by my CMHA Winnipeg Rehabiliation and Recovery worker to successfully obtain employment with the Province of Manitoba as an Internal Auditor which soon led to a promotion two years later to Internal Audit Project Leader. What joy that was to obtain that job role!

But, along the way, I needed to learn relaxation techniques that I still use periodically when required. These were quite numerous that I learned from my worker and she indicated that the techniques should be thought of as part of my tool kit.

My tool kit included practicing square breathing, listening to relaxing music, watching entertaining movies, stretching, organizing my home, eating a proper diet according to the Canada Food Guide and getting plenty of rest (both sleep and breaks). What a world of difference this made! I could finally distract my always busy mind by relaxing!

There are two final techniques that I used and continue to use when I find myself becoming too stressed (some stress is positive to motivate).

The first technique is remembering the story of the stone cutter. The stone cutter hits the stone for the 99th time and cannot believe the stone will not crack as needed to reveal the contents inside. He/she is about to give up, when he/she decides to give one final swing. Well, the 100th hit cracks the stone! This reveals that it wasn't the 100th blow alone that caused the stone to crack but that it took all 100 blows. The moral of the story is to break down big tasks into smaller tasks to manage more successfully towards an end goal, to realize that all activities done towards an end goal are important, and to never lose faith and to keep resiliency in the face of adversity no matter how badly discouraged and frustrated you get.

The other final technique is to visualize myself in the role that I will be playing. Athletes use this visualization of success in their athletic role to go through the mental motions. The physical motions then follow. If this visualization does not work (rare) then I visualize my former worker who provides me with encouragement. I can then move forward to accomplishment by managing my stress and completing whatever work is at hand.

For these last two techniques, in this perspective, anything is possible and I can do whatever subject matter I set my mind to.


David Albert Newman, CGA, CIA, ACCA (UK), B. Comm. (Hons.) with Distinction
"Anything is possible if we let our mind wander away from standardization towards creativity."
φ = π - 2^2/φ^2 + e

Submitted by Laurie Corzett

Too brite days
midnights that refuse to
abide dark and secret
when empty phrases chant
to fairytale Moons
I tell myself
This is no ordinary room
This is no fleeting flittering life
This is a magical passageway
sparkling like mica, like miracles

Quiet traces
luminescent impression
a trailing kite tail binds
silent whimpers, sojourning whispers,
tears shining behind mime smiles

Crone's gnarled fingers, playing
to spite agony
simulate touch
beyond ache,
too brite cell,
crouching scarred shadow
I cast silhouette of metamagic gypsy
hand
offering

Laurie Corzett - libramoon42@mindspring.com
http://emergingvisions.blogspot.com

8/4/10

A Note about the Canadian Health Care System and Beyond: Treatment Quality Primary, Quantity Secondary



By David Albert Newman
August 3, 2010

This post discusses a very strong point of interest of mine: quality over quantity health care treatment.

This article shows the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) advocating pay for performance based upon quantity of patients treated.

A piece rate system (pay for performance) based upon the QUANTITY of patients treated is NOT a good solution. That rewards expedient performance. That is the problem with the current health care system: patients are treated TOO quickly by doctors when they finally see them after waiting for too long and the patient ends up with suboptimal care.

The solution: pay for QUALITY of CARE measured by LESS FREQUENT follow up appointments and/or fewer hospitalizations from conditions that could have otherwise been treated sooner or better.

Quality over quantity better manages the health care operations bottleneck: waiting times. I have studied this in my MBA Operations Management course about queuing theory and line balancing to manage the bottleneck by adding resources to equalize a system flow.

We need to adopt a new model of health care that I have coined: Think. Consult. Reflect. Act. (TCRA).

Doctors rely too much upon their own knowledge and skill rather than consulting a peer for his or her thoughts and a second opinion. That is extremely rare in professions.

The consult may take more time up front BUT in the long run the patient may recover with fewer repeat contact points to the health care system.

This is important since while many doctors think they are infallible, they are like the rest of us: they make mistakes AND their mistakes are often more serious due to the nature of their work of treating human beings who are ill, either acutely or chronically, and who may be getting worse.

It's time to change the culture of doctors to REQUIRE that they consult UNLESS IF and ONLY IF the diagnosis and treatment is very routine.

The current system BEFORE a negative change to a piece rate system of pay for performance relates to my poor health care treatment when I had ulcerative colitis in my mid-teens that almost killed me (I went to hospital at 98 lbs at 5' 10" tall and I was there for a week or so). This family physician not only did not diagnose my ulcerative colitis, he provided medication that moved food through my body faster since he thought I had an ulcer. That exacerbated the already chronic diarrhea that was dehydrating me and leading to my rapid weight loss. Thus, he broke the rule of non-malfeasance in the duty of care for me as the patient.

As for my mental health care, I was diagnosed incorrectly during 2000. I can't recall if the doctor was a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but based upon talk therapy, he must have been a psychologist since psychiatrists rarely perform talk therapy; rather the psychiatrist is a pharmacologist toward mental illness treatment.

During 2000, the psychologist stated that my long dead grandmother did NOT have schizophrenia even though she had finally been diagnosed with schizophrenia by a very prominent Winnipeg psychiatrist when she was quite old; how can a subsequent psychologist make a differential diagnosis about a relative, my grandmother, who had been dead for years and then extrapolate to me that I also did not have schizophrenia even given my paranoid behaviours of my wall posters staring at me and persecuting me? I was treated for anxiety with medication that controls the heart rhythm. This too is an act that broke the rule of non-malfeasance in the duty of care for me as the patient.

That is a SERIOUS error since I suffered for 5 more years before being hospitalized three times during 2005 where I finally received the diagnosis of schizophrenia (with depression and anxiety as a result since I could not recover properly and I had no idea at the time before diagnosis what was wrong with my brain, along with the following reality). I had lost all jobs, I had no positive cash flow income, I almost lost my house, and I almost killed myself since I was highly suicidal. The EI system funds ran out and then they came back at me for not properly declaring the little side income I did earn in my poverty.

I would have been gone and not only my family and friends would have lost me; I believe in myself and my ideas and the world would have lost those too.

The underlying problem in my case for both the family physician and the psychologist: no peer consult and over confidence in their knowledge and skills to properly diagnose completely ignoring me, the patient, and the input from me and my family. The CMA does have one thing correct: the patient MUST be the center of care. That is the whole point of the health care system.

I think the Hippocratic Oath needs to be recalled by all medical doctors regardless if they are a general practitioner or a specialist. This patient was almost killed twice by insufficient and inappropriate medical treatment and it is not only my goal, it is my moral duty, to minimize that same occurrence for other patients who may be too ill to fight for their human rights of proper health care treatment in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

David Albert Newman, CGA, CIA, ACCA (UK), B. Comm. (Hons.) with Distinction

"Anything is possible if we let our mind wander away from standardization towards creativity."

8/3/10

Being Scene

‘The artists are reaching for something inside’



Being Scene is an art exhibition which showcases pieces by artists who have experience with mental health or addiction issues. It combines pieces from artists with formal training, as well as, those with no training at all.

The exhibition pieces do not follow a mental health theme, artists contribute whichever pieces they would like. Rather, this is an opportunity for artists who have faced mental health challenges to express themselves creatively and share their work with others.

This article on "Being Scene" appeared in Sunday's Globe and Mail.

Read article here

7/29/10

Mental health and the workplace: An experience

In her most recent video, 2010 Face of Mental Illness Marie Asuncion discusses managing your mental health while in the workplace.

"A brief experience with mental health and the workplace. See how you can handle mental health and having a full time job, and what you should do as a person with a disability to ensure you use your rights!
"

Watch Marie's video

7/26/10

Aron Firman's struggle

"Schizophrenia, drugs were his demons", by Morgan Ian Adams, appeared in The Barrie Examiner on July 23, 2010.

This article discusses Aron Firman who lived with schizophrenia and drug addiction. Sadly, he died from the use of a Taser during a confrontation with police officers after an altercation with another resident in the group home where Aron lived.

Four weeks after his death, his family is still trying to understand how this happened, and how it could have been prevented.

Do you think increased understanding of mental illness would have helped in this situation?


Read article

7/21/10

OPEN CASTING CALL - Manitoba


Hello MIAW friends and supporters.

2010 Face of Mental Illness Dr. Ted Jablonski is busy preparing for his 2010 SAD no more Canadian Tour this fall when he will cycle, run and speak across Canada to raise awareness about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and inspire action to overcome it.

Ted needs your help!

Do you, or someone you know, have Seasonal Affective Disorder and want to share your story?

Be a part of Ted’s video project to raise awareness of SAD

If you live in Manitoba and want to share your story about living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, email and we will put you in contact with Ted to be part of his 2010 Sad no more tour video project.

OPEN CASTING CALL! Seeking – Male and Female participants, of any age, with Seasonal Affective Disorder, currently living in Manitoba. You don’t need to be a professional actor, just a real person, playing yourself and speaking honestly in your own words.

Find out more about Ted’s tour at www.SADnomore.ca

Thank you for supporting Ted and MIAW!

Dr. Ted Jablonski: SAD no more tour: Countdown to Departure!



2010 Face of Mental Illness, Dr. Ted Jablonski is about to kick off his SAD no more tour!

We wanted to share his message and ask for everyone's support in getting his message out. Please share this page with your friends and help us raise awareness of seasonal affective disorder and support Ted in his bike across Canada!

Hi everyone,

First of all, a big thanks for your ongoing support and involvement. We are truly grateful to all of you for your hard work on our behalf. Now the real FUN begins!

The SAD no more Canadian Tour 2010 start is less than 2 weeks away. The first event is a pre-tour promotional/educational event occuring at Fort Street Cycle in Victoria on Thursday July 29, 2010. There will be some education about SAD and inspiring talk as well as a silent auction of bikes and cycling accessories, tour merchandise and "dr j" musical memorabilia. Thereafter a bit of final preparations and the tour will start on August 1st at Mile 0.

The website is fully updated, all social media has been going for a while and a daily blog will be started very soon. TOUR SCHEDULE is now well displayed so no confusion about where I will be on any given day, the google map system will be deployed as the tour actually starts moving.

I am fully relying on each and every partner to promote this tour with the energy and excitment that it deserves.

Depending of the event, this is a unique opportunity for physicians, allied health care workers and the public to learn more about Seasonal MDD (SAD), hear a motivating story from an excellent and inspiring speaker :) and be part of a national Tour. There is much to be learned about this poorly understood mental health issue and hopefully many questions will be answered about the practical "nuts and bolts" of the condition. For the media, the story is much the same. This is an awareness to action campaign and in the broadest sense, public awareness of how to get started in making changes to improve overall health (physical and mental) and essentially be SAD no more. Akin to getting physicians out to CME events, the media will need cajoling, coaxing, prodding, etc to pick this up and hopefully everyone is up for the challenge of pushing hard to get the story out there.

Monique and I have been preparing for this tour for 2 years and you must know that much sweat and tears (not much blood has been shed yet) has gone into this project. We rely on you all to relay our dedication and enthusiasm to everyone "in the field" so that we can continue to gain attention and momentum as the tour kicks off and gets going across the country.

Thanks

Dr. Ted Jablonski, 2010 Face of Mental Illness

7/19/10

Filmmaker starves himself for three months



D'Arcy Mann starved himself for 100 days to raise awareness of the serious effects of mental illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.

During the 100 days of this stunt, D'Arcy would limit food to half an apple for breakfast, a can of tuna for lunch, and the other half an apple for dinner.

"The 100 day project won’t likely change any minds of those who already have the anorexia demon inside them, as they often rationalize their behavior and lash out at anyone who tries to convince them otherwise. But I do hope it reaches out to people in the early stages and convince them that it’s just not worth it. Similarly I hope that people who have rationalized being overweight or even obese will take an introspective look and consider how they’re shortening their lives."

Visit D'Arcy's blog to learn more

7/13/10

The stigma of a “schizophrenic town”




“While at lunch July 12, 2010, I was reading a local Winnipeg newspaper that I enjoy very much. I read about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The sports writer (and previously another sports writer and even the former head coach) have used the term “schizophrenic” when generalizing about how Winnipeg fans act with respect to the football team’s wins and losses (e.g. an up and down, love and hate relationship). A crime writer at the same newspaper has also used the label “schizophrenic” when writing about an individual charged with a crime. I have emailed all of these writers to correct them since it is my moral obligation/duty to fight for those individuals who have mental illnesses who may be currently too sick to defend themselves from labels, stigma, and discrimination.

From my learning during my time at CMHA Winnipeg Region within the Psychological-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery Program, there was a poster that sensitized me to the proper terms to politely use for individuals with mental illnesses. From this poster, it denoted that the label “schizophrenic” is inappropriate and in my view, the label is derogatory. The label “schizophrenic” is derogatory since it generalizes and discriminates. It does so since it assumes that the mental illness governs the entire person when this is clearly not the case. It also creates stigma and it makes recovery harder if we label individuals.

I pose an interesting question: would you label someone with MS a Multiple Sclerosic?

Both are brain illnesses; schizophrenia a neurotransmitter imbalance and negative social experience mental illness with social behavioural positive and negative symptoms, multiple sclerosis a neuron brain illness with demyelization of the neural myelin sheath creating lesions and symptomatic physical pain, and both balance and vision problems.

Thus, to me, there is no place in the human vocabulary for a label such as “schizophrenic”. I communicated this to the local newspaper and they changed the wording to say “fickle”. However, it has left an impression with the general public again since the print version cannot be changed and the online version was read by probably many readers before I caught it at my lunch hour. One reader commented that they liked the reference to “schizophrenic” while another reader commented similar to how I have in terms of inappropriate use.

The “schizophrenic” label use is problematic since the use of labels perpetuates stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness which leads to ignorance amid misconception. This is why Mental Illness Awareness Week is so important: we must educate the general public and health care practitioners about what mental illness stigma and discrimination both are, how to minimize these, and what steps are needed to move from that understanding beyond tolerance to acceptance and finally respect. Those end goals of understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and finally respect are human rights issues.

Schizophrenia is not just a severely debilitating mental illness and I had to actually make this clear in a recent survey by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada upon how they should focus their public awareness efforts. Schizophrenia provides the very strong gift of creativity to the individual. This is a very unique ability that those individuals without schizophrenia do not have as strongly since the person with schizophrenia can often see patterns and make neural connections that others do not see or hear. Therefore, schizophrenia is both a disability and an ability. It all depends upon our point of view.”


- David Albert Newman

7/12/10

Marie's vlog: Cognitive Therapy


2010 Face of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Marie Asuncion, shares some very valuable information about cognitive therapy and her experiences with it.

Watch Marie's vlog!

7/7/10

Steps to recovery and mental freedom: Part 2: Marie Asuncion



Once upon a time I knew I was never going to be the same. I knew I had this illness, and for a long time I knew I wouldn’t get better, permanently. One day I was working, and felt sick, so I had called in to work to take the day off. I hurried and tried to remedy my situation, but nothing but time did the trick. I needed to step back. Despite the career-driven and motivated young woman I was, I needed to step back. Did I blame myself at all? The answer to that is yes. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to make money the way everyone else did, and not give a single thought of my illness. But, inevitably, the illness found me first. I knew I had to give myself a rest and slowly work my way back up to recovery. Sad, it seems, but I know I need to understand my world, a world where mental instability is always going to be present.

I know that deep down inside I will always have something to turn me away from that scary feeling I get when I am not on top. It's miraculous that someone with a mental illness can dig deep and on their own find remedies without turning to outward advice. Maybe one day we all will find that special something that will always be there when we need it the most. I’m scared that one day my life may never be the same, and I could lose everything. But in due time these things come to pass and I am never left alone, thankfully.

It's all about balance. I cannot be Marie when Marie is doing everything but taking care of herself. She needs to be around positive influences and people who understand that really, her illness will always be predominant in her life and she is trying to remedy everyday of her life to the best that she can. I can be myself, yes, but in the long run it isn't going to be easy, and it never has. I pull through every time but sometimes I lose all hope, and that is when I know I need my space, my belief system that never shifts, and people who surround me with happiness and productivity.

I'm in a way sorry for all the things I wasn't able to do when I was so sick. I feel bad that I couldn't turn back time and relive those moments when mental freedom could have been mine to keep, but instead, God had a much different path for me, which I would not have changed at all. In retrospect, my life would have been more of a burden if I didn't leave the space I was in and turn around and walk away. I walked away from all of that, because I needed to. Nothing would have saved me except for my own selfless ways. There was a burden in my heart every day for seven years and it is not until now that I can feel like I control the steering wheel. No longer will I doubt my capabilities, I can act and action makes things easier rather than just wishing one's life away.

I know I can be happy one day without having my illness affect what I love to do the most. In the end, however, mental freedom will only be by chance. We cannot change the fact that we have it, and so life may take us into unexpected places and we are left with ourselves, and whatever we need to take with us in order to recover.

Wellness is possible. Remember we are all able.

-Marie

Steps to recovery and mental freedom: Part 1: Marie Asuncion




Whenever I used to get sick, the feeling would be so strong that my mind would begin to wander into places that were so dark, it was depressing. I had lost all my friends during high school, and now as an adult, I pick and choose who I decide to let be my friend, because in a way I need to protect myself. Having a mental illness is something that we as people have to manage on our own and on our own time. You can't expect to be cured when you are constantly busy and have too much on your plate. Recovery takes time so one has to be sure of the necessary precautions they need to take before they feel wellness.

I remember as an adolescent I used to pray a lot. Prayer was my outlet. I could go and pray and the next day I would know that I was being looked after, even during the worst of times. God was a pivotal figure in my life and has helped me recover. My faith has grown ever since, but I am not afraid to share my story, especially with God being the main reason I am better today.

I use certain remedies to help me feel better when I get symptoms. I use my brain, first of all, despite that there is a chemical imbalance I find ways to change the situation and strive to be a perfectionist at it. If I don't know my brain, then it isn't going to co-operate with me. What do I need? Is it medication? Is it time off from work? I let my mind tell my body what it needs, and go from there.

A technique I use a lot is cognitive behaviour therapy. I have read countless resources that I have memorized in the past, so that when I feel confused, or upset, cognitive therapy is one way I can stop the negative thinking; I do this by pulling a plug, so to say. Pulling a plug and letting the negativity drain. This metaphor is perfect since it's what I try to make myself think when I am mentally "stuck". We all have our ways of mentally worrying ourselves. The only thing is that for mentally ill people, worrying can be detrimental to their health. Any little stressor can rock the boat, even sink it. The main goal is to think positive and not to be afraid when failure comes, because it will come, we'll just have to be okay with that.

-Marie

Mike's Story: Part 5




By May 2005 my sore was healed but I was so skinny all my bones were showing. I had smoked so much weed and tobacco my muscles were withering away, so the doctor at the rehab hospital admitted me for a six-week period. I spent most of the time over the first two weeks lying in bed thinking about my life and how it all seemed to be centred around tobacco and marijuana. My mom suggested I should use the opportunity of being hospitalized to stop smoking marijuana since it wasn’t doing me any good. I thought back about the times when my brother would rip me off or how I would crave it so badly when I couldn’t have it. I decided that I didn’t want to be a slave to it any longer.

The psychologist at the rehab visited me and for the first time I accepted that I had a problem. I told him what happened to me and that I believed I was in hell for my sins. He taught me about mental illness and helped me understand that I had probably been suffering from a psychosis. We also talked about scriptures from the Bible – especially the ones about Jesus coming to the world to save sinners not to punish them. I believed him and for the first time in a long, long time I started feeling good about myself.

When I finished my six weeks in rehab, I decided it was time to do something with my life. I decided to go back to school to finish my high school education. After getting my diploma I took a peer support volunteer course. Now I spend a lot of my time at the rehab hospital visiting new patients and helping them cope with their injury and losses. I also decided to learn more about cannabis and psychosis. I learned that marijuana can trigger and worsen schizophrenia and other types of psychotic illnesses. I’ve learned about cannabinoids – the psychoactive chemicals that are found in the bloodstream after you smoke. I thought a lot about that night I broke my neck. The last thing I did before I snapped was that water bong. Knowing that has made me all the more determined to never ever smoke that stuff again. I’ve come to the conclusion that that night I had a psychotic episode triggered by marijuana use.

In October 2008 I also quit smoking cigarettes. I can now proudly say that I am addiction free. I continue to see the psychologist once or twice a week. I’m writing a book about my experiences. I can honestly say that right now I’m in the best mental shape of my life. I love speaking at the PARTY Program telling my story.

And that’s where I am at today. Even though living in a wheelchair is very difficult, I can honestly say that I very much prefer my life the way it is now – without drugs and knowing that I can do things to help others.


-Mike Parent

7/6/10

Jennifer's Blog




Jennifer Asawasegai is one of this year's Faces of Mental Illness.

She has just started her own blog and would like to invite you to visit it and learn about her personal experiences with mental illness.

Visit Jennifer's blog!

Michael Wilson among Order of Canada appointments



Lauded as a strong advocate for mental-health issues, former Canadian ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson is being invested in the Order of Canada as a companion.

Following a long career in politics and the financial sector, Mr. Wilson became a mental-health crusader after losing a son to depression and suicide. He started the Cameron Parker Holcombe Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto and has worked with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. He was first appointed as officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.

- Sarah Boesveld
Globe and Mail (excerpt)
Thursday, July 1, 2010.

7/5/10

Social media helping erase stigma of mental illnesses



Web-based forums talk openly about 'the elephant in the corner'

In an article by Gillian Shaw, the Vancouver Sun discusses the many ways social media is helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness by making it easier for those living with mental illness to share their stories in a comfortable environment.

"Once you start clueing people in, you find everybody has been touched by these things but it is the elephant in the corner and we are still not talking about it." Says Steffani Cameron, a blogger and a speaker at Mental Health Camp, on why it is easier to open-up about personal experiences online.

Read full article

6/29/10

Mike's Story: Part 4




When I was well enough to be transferred to Toronto Rehab’s Spinal Cord Program for six months of therapy I was fitted with a wheelchair – and for the first time in two months I was able to sit upright. The very first time I got up in my wheelchair I went outside for some fresh air and saw a man smoking a cigarette. Even though I had been tobacco-free for two months, I craved a smoke so strongly that I went up to this man and asked him if he would give me a cigarette. I was soon smoking almost as much as ever. Soon I became friends with another patient who always had marijuana and quickly resumed that habit as well. Any time I wanted to get high I would just approach him and we would go for a joint.

My life as a patient was very difficult emotionally. Some of the staff tried to talk to me to help me sort out my problems but I refused to talk to anybody about my feelings or the events leading up to my injury. I was living with depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts, thinking I was in hell and being punished for my sins. It was really scary.

I was finally discharged from rehab in October 2002. I spent the winter in a very bad depression. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or go anywhere. I just wanted to stay in my room by myself.

In March 2003 I developed a pressure sore on my tail bone. I don’t know how I got it, whether it was the chair or bed. It just appeared one day and it was really, really bad. I wasn’t allowed to get back into my wheelchair so I had to stay in bed 24/7. All I wanted to do was smoke weed and cigarettes. I ended up staying in bed for two years.

Mike's Story: Part 3




A few days later I was getting ready for bed around 1:30 a.m. Like I always did before going to bed, I smoked a water bong, which would usually put me to sleep right away. However, this time was different. After finishing the bong a strange feeling came over me. The next thing I knew I was I was in my dad’s room shaking his shoulder to wake him up. I said to him, “Let’s go to Israel.” I remember seeing fear in his face so I took my hands off him and left his room. Still dressed only in my underwear, I left our apartment and walked down the hallway, down the staircase and outside the building into the cold winter’s night. I walked across the street to the school yard and kept walking – straight into the school’s brick wall head first. I staggered backwards a couple of feet and then walked again into the wall, head first. A third time, I bowed my head and rammed into the wall. This time all I could do was fall onto the ground, unable to move. I remember lying there on the ground for a couple of minutes looking up into the black sky and thinking to myself, “Am I dead?” and yelling, “Oh God – no, no!” Everything went dark after that as I fell into a coma.

I don’t know how much longer I lay on the ground alone. Shortly after I had left my father’s room, my dad had gone looking for me around our building. He couldn’t find me so he went upstairs to wake my mom and call the police. The police checked around the building for about 45 minutes. They went up to the roof to check there and then headed back sown the stairs when they found I wasn’t up there. On the way down, my dad looked out a window of the stairwell and saw a light shining on the ground across the street, lighting up the top half of my body. Where that light came from was a mystery since there was no streetlight in the area and that part of the schoolyard is usually totally dark at night. The source of that light continues to
be a mystery to me and my family to this day.

I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where they found I had a broken neck, which left me quadriplegic (paralyzed in all four limbs). I came out of my coma three days later, which happened to be my 27th birthday. I couldn’t move a muscle. One of my lungs had collapsed and my other lung was on the verge of collapsing. A team of doctors ordered everyone out of the room. They thought I was going to die and called in a priest to give me my last rights. They hooked me up to a ventilator to keep me breathing. The doctors told my mom I would never again be able to move a muscle below my neck. So I lay in bed motionless with tubes down my throat for a month. One day I started getting twitches in my arms. I kept getting more and more movement until one day I was actually able to touch my nose to scratch it. That was like a dream come true!

They then took the breathing tubes out and gave me a forty-eight hour trial to see if I could keep breathing on my own. They put a hole in my throat – called a tracheotomy – which gives them access to my airways to suction out fluids to prevent me from getting pneumonia again. I passed the breathing test and was able to speak for the first time. When I was able to speak, a psychiatrist came into my room. He asked me what had happened to me. The only answer I could come up with was to say that God had done this to me as punishment for my sins. When he shook his head in disbelief, I felt angry and closed my eyes until he left the room. The psychiatrist diagnosed me as having a bipolar disorder and called my incident an “unexplained psychotic event.”

Mike's Story: Part 2




By the time I was 20 years old all my friends had either graduated or dropped out of school. My ability to play hockey was going down the drain so I dropped out too. I got fired from the gas station when they caught me stealing and then found a job at a moving company with one of my friends. But I soon lost that job too for not showing up for work after a night of partying. The times in between jobs were really tough since I didn’t have enough money to feed my cravings for marijuana and cigarettes. I found another job driving a truck. It was a good paying job. But I was spending $50 a week on cigarettes and $180 on marijuana. On Sundays I was also gambling on hockey and football and I was drinking a lot. My whole paycheque was going to feed my addictions. A few years later I lost that job as well because of too much partying.

In 2001 I took a job with a courier company delivering goods to dollar stores. My parents only wanted $50 a week from me for room and board; the rest went to my addictions. One day I got pulled over by the police and got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. It was only a $100 fine but I never managed to spare the money to pay it. Shortly before Christmas that year I got a notice in the mail telling me my license had been suspended. I lost my job as a result. The first thing I did after collecting my last paycheque was buy a carton of cigarettes. Then I gave my mom $50 and I took another $140 to buy marijuana. All I had left was $80 to buy Christmas gifts for my entire family. It wasn’t enough so I used the money to gamble on football – which of course I lost. That New Year of 2002 I found myself penniless. The feeling inside of me was just one big hunger for marijuana and cigarettes. The cravings were so bad I started selling my things – my computer games, my golf clubs; I even tried selling my hockey skates for a measly $10. I was really skinny, not taking good care of my health or my hygiene – all I cared about was getting high.

I looked in a newspaper and saw an ad for a moving company that offered to pay cash daily. The owner was badly in need of workers, so he called me the next day to offer me a job. My dad bought me a pack of smokes, gave me bus fare and off I went. Late into the shift I was craving so strongly I could barely function, so I faked an injury, collected my pay, and left the poor guy and his customers hanging while I went to my drug dealer to buy some weed and then hustled off home to smoke it.

Mike's Story: Part 1



Mike Parent sustained a spinal cord injury a number of years ago during a psychotic episode.

Mike has presented his story on many occasions to an injury prevention program in Toronto called PARTY; now he wants to share his story with you.

Because Mike has so much to share, his story will be presented in 5 parts. Check back over the next few days to read the rest of Mike's inspirational story.

Part 1

I grew up in Toronto with two loving parents and pretty much everything a kid could ask for. I attended a Catholic grade school. I had three older brothers and a sister and lots of friends. I loved playing organized sports – hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. I really excelled at hockey and was always at the top of my team in goals and points. At the age of nine, I was breaking scoring records in my hockey league.

But in Grade 7 my troubles started. That is the year I discovered beer and cigarettes. My friends around the neighbourhood were all older than me. We all played hockey together. After one of the games the guys somehow managed to get beer. I tried one and loved the taste and smell of it and instantly became a fan. That’s when I also started smoking cigarettes. Every weekend my friends and I would hang out together smoking cigarettes and drinking.

It wasn’t until Grade 9 that I first tried marijuana. I had known the smell of it for a long time since I shared a room with my older brother, who used it quite regularly. He sometimes would lock me out of the room and stay in there with his friends or my other older brothers. When I was allowed back in the room there would always be a strange smell – like a skunk I thought – and the air would be really cloudy. My friend, who was a year older than me, said that when his brother smokes marijuana it smells the same way. We promised each other that we were going to try it one day. When years later some of the older guys asked me if I wanted to smoke up with them, I was more than eager to try it. I remember taking drags off that first joint and almost coughing my lungs out. But the way it made me feel was amazing – like I was in another world with no problems and a feeling of perfect bliss.

I remember going home that night and telling my brother that I had smoked a joint. He just laughed at me. The next day my mom gave me five dollars for lunch. But I really wanted to get high again, so I took the money and combined it with my friend’s money and we skipped class and smoked up behind the school.

In Grade 11 I joined the senior hockey team. Because I was a really good player all the Grade 13’s took a liking to me and invited me to their parties, which were all about beer and girls. I had my own close group of friends though and we all liked marijuana the best, but I was developing an alcohol problem as well. I started to get cravings for weed and alcohol every day.

I took a job at a gas station after school. It didn’t pay enough to pay for my bad habits so I started stealing from customers. If the customer wanted $20 worth of gas I would pump $15 worth and put the remaining five in my own pocket. I would keep doing this until I had $20, which was the minimum my dealer would sell me.

Bipolar Babe!




Part 2

Upon arriving in Ottawa, I connected with my political colleagues, made new friends and began to establish myself in a place I then called home. I loved Ottawa but suddenly things changed.

The story of ‘what happened to Andrea’ is long and personal but I have begun writing it in a book and sharing my story on my blog because it is so captivating and unreal. At times it is difficult to decipher what was ‘real’ and what was simply caused by my now diagnosed bipolar disorder. In Ottawa, things began to change and transform in such a way that I cannot even explain to this day. I plunged into a ‘psychosis’ and my reality became my own but still lapsed with this world. I saw things, heard things and the entire time believing that all that was happening around me was truly taking place. I started to have delusions and believe things that were not true and my mood was erratic ranging from hyper, talkative and extremely happy to pouring out with tears and fear. I willingly attended the psychiatric ward still not thinking anything was ‘wrong’, but my peaceful demeanour accepted my friends’ concern as genuine. I was admitted to the hospital and spent nearly one month, and as I complied with my medication regime I began to return to reality.

My story has heartbreak, fear, hope and even a point where I even gave up on life. I only truly had myself to rely on at that time in Ottawa, and with great survival skills and perseverance I crawled out of the gutter. To this day, I understand why a lot of people with a mental illness end up on the streets, and it can happen to anyone one of us.

I never felt completely ‘normal’ since that time. It was almost as if something had broken in me. I left to Korea for two years and returned to Canada, hopeful with two suitcases by my side. I left Canada angry and resentful, feeling everyone had turned their back on me. It was not until I decided to have a healthy lifestyle and seize responsibility for my health that I really began to feel at my best. In late 2007, I decided it was time to really live.

People are often shocked that I have a mental illness, like it is possible to pick us out in a crowd. I used to feel shameful and devastated, but with creating BIPOLAR BABE I have learned that there may be negative attitudes in the world, but the only one that I can control is my own. I share my personal story openly and freely to inspire the broken ones who feel there is nothing left for them after being hospitalized. I also want to share with the curious ones and create a world of acceptance and freedom where we can all just be ourselves.

In sharing my story I shed the stigma within myself and that will then translate into the rest of the world. I am blessed. I have my health, an excellent job, a funded education, amazing relationships with friends and family, a blossoming relationship and so much more…but after all of it I just have a story to tell. I am no different than anybody else for we all have a contribution. This is why I have created a BLOG , to keep the conversation going as I am interested in what you have to say and so is the rest of the world.

Much Love, Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe

6/28/10

Meet Bipolar Babe!



Part 1

"Hello, my name is Andrea. I am originally from a place called Sudbury, Ontario. Like all teenagers I was faced with some tough decisions-school, parents, alcohol and drugs, friends, and my future. My father did his very best but I was rebellious; however, I took it upon myself to call my mother and ask for a plane ticket to live with her in British Columbia. She graciously embraced me and my new life began to unfold in a small town called Campbell River. That is where I found my first love, then my second, made many amazing friends and enjoyed spending a lot of time on Quadra Island. I graduated from CARIHI Secondary in 1996, but unfortunately, my mother could not be there on that day as she was quite sick suffering from bipolar disorder. My whole life I did not understand my mother’s disorder. I only knew that under great times of stress she would often have to be hospitalized, which led to me leaving our home in grade 11 and I soon was on my own.

I went on to the University of Victoria and graduated in 2002. I loved living in Victoria and began my career in the government, and in my early twenties I began to truly grow and figure out what I wanted in life. I often felt restless, taking on challenge after challenge, never feeling completely satisfied. I involved myself in several things, my favourite being politics, but I won’t get into that as I may put you to sleep. I embraced the belief that my future lie ahead in Ottawa, Ontario and so I sold all my belongings, packed my little car and drove across Canada alone. It was amazing! I stared up at lilac Saskatchewan skies, took in the scenery and saw frozen lakes for the first time since I left Eastern Canada. I listened to hundreds of songs, if not thousands and after 5 days arrived in Sudbury, Ontario. This was my home town, not having been back for nearly 10 years. I visited all of my old schools, churches and homes; it was overwhelming how all the memories flooded over me."


Check back tomorrow for part two, in which Andrea shares her struggles with mental illness and her road to recovery.

6/25/10

Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia



Unlisted is scheduled for release to PBS stations in October 2010, coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW).

For many years, physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston was estranged from her father, Richard, a poet and novelist who struggled with schizophrenia and at times lived on the streets. Feeling helpless whenever he showed up at her door in psychotic states, she decided to become unlisted in the phone book.

Medical school taught Ruston about the science of mental illness, but not the actual experience of people living with it. She reached a turning point when her son started asking about his grandpa. Reconciliation followed—along with supportive housing and treatment for her father.

But Richard stopped taking his medicine and went missing. Reconciliation became a race for survival ending in tragedy

"My dad was a regular guy who wanted a career and family, but he was constantly stymied by his disordered thought process," Ruston said. "With the film, I want to give viewers background on why getting mental health treatment is so difficult. It doesn't have to be that way."

"America's mental health care system is in crisis, but many courageous people are fighting for hope and recovery," said NAMI Executive Director Michael J Fitzpatrick.

"Unlisted is a powerful film and a vehicle for education. The 2010 NAMI Convention is a platform to heighten public interest."

"We hope television critics and feature editors in the news media will take notice and seek more stories about individuals and families affected by serious mental illness. Beyond tragedy, there are many stories of hope and recovery."

Learn more about the film.

Jody Paterson: Taking aim at those unable to fight

Times Colonist columnist Jody Paterson

This is a really interesting article, written by Jody Patterson, discussing the lack of mental health funding in Vancouver and Canada as a whole.

The article continues to discuss the stigma often attached to mental illness and the misconceptions that arise due to the way mental illness is presented in the media, that those with mental illness are dangerous and out of control.


"Mental illness can't be "cured" in that nice, clean way that we prefer, like a broken leg or an ailing heart. Even diagnosing it can be tricky, and the results of treatment unpredictable.

It's stigmatized and poorly understood. It generates just enough scary media stories of unexpected violence to leave the public with the gross misconception that to be mentally ill is to be dangerous and out of control.

Mental illness knocks the wind out of the best of families in no time flat. Even friends and family members tend to take a step back when the diagnosis is mental illness, instead of stepping up to help the way they would have had the diagnosis been breast cancer or hip surgery.

So when cuts come, they hit a group of people who already feel ashamed, hopeless and unworthy. The axe falls, and nobody has the strength to scream."


Read full article here.


Do you think the media plays a part in attaching stigma to mental illness?

Who do you think is responsible for ensuring sufficient funding for mental health services?

6/22/10

A Selection of David Albert Newman's Prospect Paper Ideas


David Albert Newman, one of this year's Faces of Mental Illness, is currently working on his MBA. David is living with schizophrenia and credits his unique ideas for his Prospect Paper as being a factor product of creativity arising from mental illness, in his case schizophrenia.

David would like to share his Ideas to illustrate this creativity.

David's Ideas:
How do you think Galileo and Newton felt when they were shafted so badly on new ideas? Please review history. THE PURPOSE OF HUMANITY IS NEW IDEAS.

As a side note, I don't care what anyone says, I did find a fifth derivative vector space around a slight alteration of Pythagorean Theorem, and I have not just speculated, but theorized quite successfully that information travels faster than the speed of light. It has to do with light time delay in travel (lighting a dark road doesn't mean that there was no information there before you did it; that is same on Earth as in "outer space"). And light for that matter is present even at night not just by the moon reflection, but by the curvature of light around Earth mass.

True darkness is seeing at the speed of light and then controlling the very precise and delicate frame rate between dark-light. Thus, the light-dark shutter which gives rise to many instances of technology, most notably photography at the microscopic scale.

Here is an additional thought: how do you precisely travel at the speed of light IF you cannot first see at its rate? Would you not be blind and destroyed? Currently, there is no sight at the speed of light since our telescopes are light delayed. Thus, we see the eon past. Now, what happens if we alter our telescopes (or more precisely named, our macroscopes) to see at the speed of light and thus, view vast celestial bodies and space in real time?

And most interesting: why should we think that the outer edge of the Universe of a Universe expanding is "somewhere out there?" If the Universe is all around us while also beyond us, it is oscillating by mass stretching into space AND non-space contingent on the mass substance.

Finally, and most astute I think if not to be pompous: the force of gravity is merely space expanding into non-space. It is what holds space and non-space together. It is not some phantom force of mere attraction of objects to each other.

Mental Illness Attitudes Outdated




In the past, facilities such as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and the Eastern Hospital for the Insane were built on the outskirts of cities, separate from other hospitals. Today, the Toronto Hospital and Brockville Mental Health Centre have become integrated parts of these two cities, with the Toronto Hospital undergoing a major remodel and the Brockville Mental Health Centre being integrated into Brockville General Hospital.

But this doesn't mean all opinions have changed. There is still little visitation in mental health wards and limited understanding of mental illness amoung the public. Reasons for this lack of understanding include a lack of information, but also a hesitance to accept mental illness.

In this article,Dr. David Goldbloom, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and vice-chairman of the Mental Health Commission of Canada outlines the progress society has made in recognizing and treating mental illness in a matter similar to how one would recognize and treat a physical illness. He also illustrates how far society has left to go.


This article discusses the the need for society to work progressively towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"It's the modern way to treat people. It's no different than treating people for a broken leg," says Dr. Brockville General Hospital president and CEO Ray Marshall, when referring to the integration of the Brockville Mental Health Centre into the Brockville General Hospital.

How do you fell about the integration of these two hospitals? Is this something you would like to see done in your own town?

Read full article here

6/17/10

OC87: a filmmaker's journey from mental illness to recovery

Check out this new documentary about a filmmaker's journey of mental illness and recovery called OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger's Movie.

Go to the film's website to view the trailer


The documentary is being screened at Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association state conference today. Read more about the film and the PMHCA's actitivies here.

6/14/10

Let's Shout About Mental Illness




By Scott McKeen, Edmonton Journal June 14, 2010

This is for the man who claims a mild flu again today, to explain away his hangover.

This is for the woman who applies a smile in the morning mirror, to hide her depression.

This is for the children who shrink into themselves at school, to hide their constant anxiety.

Forever seeking normal is their daily, plodding ambition. If not to be normal, to at least look normal.


No surprise, given that even kindly Canadian culture doesn't broach the topic of mental illness. We hide it away in language and in euphemisms and talk about "mental health."

We tiptoe around mental illness. We certainly can't laugh about it. Words like "crazy" in a newspaper column are guaranteed to upset advocates of, uh, mental health.

I'm here today with a confession: I'm nuts. Well, that's not completely true. These days, I'm just a tad crazy.

I suffered for years with profound bouts of depression and anxiety. During above those years, I also did some, uh, self-prescribing to calm the storm.

I also married, helped raise three great children and rose in my career to the point where I now mock Harley 50 riders and politicians for a living. The point? I'm crazy, but not exactly weaving baskets.

But no, I don't want to be pitied or praised for my pain or recovery. What I've learned over the years is our greatest cultural secret: Abnormal is the real normal.

Read full article here.

Marie's vlog: Why eliminating stigma is important

2010 Face Marie Asuncion talks about the stigma surrounding mental illness, how it affects her life and recovery, and why it's important to break down the barriers of stigmatization. Enjoy!

6/11/10

New Faces of MIAW 2010: Marie Asuncion



Meet Marie, one of the Faces of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Marie is a musician and English as a second language teacher from Toronto, Ontario.

Read Marie's story

6/10/10

Iron ring for ‘the girl with the cool dog’



Staring at the iron ring on her pinkie finger, Jennifer Francis sees much more than a piece of metal – it symbolizes a journey of struggle and triumph.

Francis will be walking across the stage in Alumni Hall on Wednesday, June 16 for her convocation from the Civil Engineering program. She will be accompanied by her companion and service dog, Spirit, who has a similar twinkling ‘iron paw’ on her collar.

Getting the ring has been challenging for Francis, who was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder. Her symptoms manifested during first year of university.

“The odds were stacked against me, but it just proves that when you put your mind to something, you can do it. I’ve learned how strong I am because of that,” she says.

“Even though it took me six years to get through this program, I really don’t care. I still did it. I still wrote the same tests as everyone. I am still as well prepared for the workforce as everyone else; I just have to learn to live differently.”

Read full article

New Faces of MIAW 2010: David Albert Newman





Meet David, one of the Faces of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

David Albert Newman is an internal auditor from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Read David's story

6/9/10

IIMHL Conference in Killarney, Ireland



Last month, three of our 2009 Faces of Mental Illness had the exciting opportunity to visit Killarney, Ireland to participate in the 2010 International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership’s (IIMHL) annual Exchange and Network meeting.

This exciting event brought together leaders and consumers from around the world to discuss steps to recovery from mental illness and promote strategies for mental health.

Arlene Mayes, Brian Nootchtai and Raija Begall attended this conference.

Arlene has shared her thoughts on this wonderful experience:

I recently got to travel Ireland for the 2010 IIMHL Conference. It took place in Killarney Ireland. What a wonderful experience! The Conference was amazing from start to finish. There were so many people from around the world and we were all gathered there for a common reason, to bring about a better way for the future of mental health and wellness. The theme of the Conference was: "Citizens in Partnership, Inclusion or Illusion"

Many wonderful speakers, many wonderful workshops. A quote was said by one of the speakers that really touched my heart "every duck gets the chance at being the leader"
I look forward to incorporating the tools, shared ideas and wisdom that this Conference brought to me not only with my work life, but with my everyday life. Compassion is such a beautiful gift that we all can spare and share.

What can I say about the Conference and beautiful Ireland and the many kind and generous people I met? I would say I would do it all again.

- Arlene Mayes, 2009 Face of Mental Illness