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


Meet Bethany Butzer

Through this year's Mental Illness Awareness Week, we came in contact with Bethany Butzer. Read her story below to see what elements aided in her recovery from mental illness.

Bethany Butzer

I'm an author, speaker, researcher and yoga teacher who provides inspirational products and services that help people manage their stress and mood. I suffered from anxiety and depression in my early 20s, and I've made it my mission to motivate others to achieve their highest level of mental fitness.

My book, The Antidepressant Antidote, chronicles my personal struggles with anxiety, depression and a dependence on antidepressant medication. I also share how I finally managed to get off the medication for good.

I truly believe that everyone is meant to enjoy optimum mental health. All of the products and services that I offer, from my writing, speaking engagements and research projects to my yoga classes for anxiety and stress, are geared toward making the world a better place by nourishing and honoring our mental wellness.

I received my Ph.D. in psychology in 2008 from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. My early research focused on anxiety and depression, which was, as you might imagine, somewhat depressing! So, after spending several years studying psychopathology, I changed my focus to positive psychology, which emphasizes the development of human strength and potential. My dissertation research on the psychology of romantic relationships garnered the Martin E. P. Seligman Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research in Positive Psychology.

After receiving my Ph.D., I originally planned on becoming a psychology professor. But the ivory tower lifestyle just didn't feel right for me. I wanted my work to be consumed by and have an impact on the general public. So I turned down a fully-funded postdoctoral research position to take a job in the private sector as a Research Analyst for Info-Tech Research Group, a leading IT Research Firm.

After almost 2 years in the private sector, I realized that the 9 to 5 cubicle life wasn't for me either. So I made the bold (and scary!) decision to quit my job to start my own business as a Mental Health & Wellness Advisor. Following my passion has been an amazing journey filled with both incredible joy and the occasional dark night of the soul.

Today, I fill my days doing what I love: writing, speaking and research. As an example, I'm currently collaborating with Kripalu's Institute for Extraordinary Living, Harvard Medical School and the Yoga Care Foundation to conduct studies on the effects of yoga on well-being.

I'm also a certified yoga teacher and have completed over 200 hours of training in yoga postures, philosophy, breathing techniques, meditation, anatomy, and ayurveda. I've also received life coaching training from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), and I have my first degree Reiki certification. I'm a member of the Canadian Yoga Alliance (CYA) and the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

In addition to my book, I've published professional papers in several leading psychological journals, including Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and Personal Relationships. I've also won numerous national and international awards for my achievements.

A unique aspect of my approach is that I've not only studied the topics that I'm passionate about - I've also lived through them. I combine my professional training with my personal experience to provide products and services that are both empathetic and backed up by solid research. I've personally overcome the obstacles of a rocky childhood, anxiety, depression, and a dependence on antidepressant medication. I've experienced grief, loss, abuse, abandonment, burnout, and almost everything in between. I've been to doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and've tried many forms of alternative medicine. And I've come out on the other side.

Based on my familiarity with both the dark and light sides of life, my style is down to earth and approachable, and I have an extensive knowledge of the services that are available to those in need.

To connect with Bethany or learn more, you can visit her website

You can share your story by connecting with us on Facebook at the Face It: Mental Illness Awareness Page, or on Twitter, @MIAWCanada .


Road to Learning: challenging stigma and discrimination

A study by the American Psychological Association shows that young children are less likely to receive treatment for mental issues than adults. Why is that? They may be shy to seek help or think they will “grow out” of their problems. So, what can we do to help these kids who are living with mental illness?

Ontario recently announced new funding to put mental health workers and nurses in schools to help 9,000 kids. Thanks to this money, these workers will be able to offer training for educators on how to identify mental health issues. This is a great way to promote education, prevention, and early intervention! If teachers can begin to educate students and raise awareness in the classroom, it will certainly help some children feel more comfortable seeking help.

Young people need a place where they can openly discuss what they’re feeling without being judged. A healthy school environment can help to improve students’ well-being. We’re thrilled to see a provincial government tackling these issues. This strategy will build awareness, help to reduce stigma, and identify problems early on.

How important do you think it is for educators to be trained to identify mental health issues?


Healthy Body = Healthy Mind

Mens sana in corpore sano is a famous Latin expression that means a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind. Exercise is not only a great way to develop a lean body, muscles, and a strong heart, but it’s also been shown to help keep us mentally fit too. There are many medical articles and research studies that show the benefits of exercise on mental health and mental illnesses including depression or anxiety. Exercise can also help our bodies deal with stress. One recent study revealed that taking a short eight minute walk can help decrease tension and boost your mood. Even short bursts of exercise can make a difference, which means you don’t have to spend long hours at the gym!


  • Exercise 20 minutes a day, or 30 minutes three times a week to help boost your energy;
  • Remember physical activity can include a range of things like playing outside with your children or pet(s), dancing to your favourite music, gardening, or going for a brisk walk;
  • Increase your motivation by going with a friend;
  • Keep a journal to track your progress;
  • Get out there and have fun!
Do you think exercise has a positive influence on your mental health?


Great news! New government funding for kids’ mental health

There’s been a lot of talk lately about youth who face mental health issues. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, two-thirds of adults report that their mental health issues first appeared during childhood. That said, we’re happy to see the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial Ministers of Health making mental health promotion and support a top priority by investing millions in funding to support positive mental health for children and youth.

Thanks to this funding, so many great community projects will be able to continue providing much needed mental health support services! One project, Handle with Care, offers training for parents and other caregivers in communities that are prone to stress and mental illness, including newcomers to Canada. The program assists people from coast to coast to better understand how to support children living with mental illness. We’re so pleased that this, and many more programs, will benefit from this government funding!

Share your thoughts: Do you know any programs in your community that are helping kids overcome mental health challenges?


Overcoming challenges

Our recent Facebook Page question “Have you ever struggled to find support for mental health issues?” got the MIAW team thinking...

We know the stigma of being labelled with having a mental illness keeps many people from seeking help. There have been several recent news articles about the widespread challenges facing young people who need to access mental health support. There are also studies that indicate that men, in particular, may face different issues than women.

What do YOU think are the major challenges to seeking help or finding support for mental health issues? What are some of the ways you can overcome them?


Marc's Story

Every year, we connect with so many great people through our Face Mental Illness Campaign. We meet people from across Canada with unique experiences with mental health and mental illness.

Marc is one of the people we met this year. Here's his story:

In my view, mental illness means a disease or ailment that affects the brain and/or mind. Such an ailment affects the way one thinks, feels, acts, and engages in society. Chemical imbalances and heredity are thought to be contributing factors regarding mental illness. I first experienced mental illness visiting my mother in the hospital when I was a kid. She has manic depression, a.k.a. bipolar disorder. I have chronic depression and take meds daily, for me, my downward spiral began in high school, and it’s been an uphill battle ever since, even being hospitalized a few times. I want to talk openly about it because it is a very real thing in our society, it has affected me and my family my entire life. It’s something that should no longer be ignored or frowned upon in society. Unless you’ve experienced it, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like. It can be very difficult having a mental illness, and/or living with someone who has it, or even knowing someone who has it.

The stigma (ignorance) that still exists in society today is why depression is treated differently than diabetes, cancer or other harmful physical illnesses. It isn’t fair because all illnesses affect a person’s health to a certain degree, no matter the severity. Mental illness does scare me, speaking from experience, as it relates to depression, I’ve had suicidal thoughts countless times, but I’ve managed to survive one way or another, I would say primarily with the support and love of my parents, especially my dad. I believe people can recover from a mental illness, with the right medications and psychotherapy, their lives and symptoms, including emotional and thought patterns, can be controlled. My emotions vary from anger to loneliness to guilt surrounding mental illness, including depression in particular, which to this day I still struggle with, some 20+ years later, perhaps even longer, as it relates back to an event in my pre-teen years, when me and my family moved, for the first time. My mother has struggled with bipolar for 35+ years roughly.

Lastly, I still know when something’s wrong, it’s like she becomes a completely different person, similar to someone being drunk and affected greatly by alcohol. I am currently an award-winning volunteer and aspiring writer. I live the way I know how to now, through thick and thin, one day at a time, good, or still bad.

You can share your story with us by connecting with us on Facebook at the Face It: Mental Illness Awareness Page, or on Twitter, @MIAWCanada .


Our sponsors over at Janssen have launched a great new online resource for those affected by schizophrenia. Visit and find a wealth of information about schizophrenia for patients, caregivers and healthcare providers. This includes outlining treatment options, ways of recognizing symptoms, avoiding relapses, and tips on how to educate others on the disease.

Most notably, features a series of videos called “Spend A Day In My Life”. These four videos reflect everyday scenarios experienced through the eyes of someone with schizophrenia – being at the doctor’s office, on the bus, at the pharmacy, and being in the midst of a schizophrenic “mindstorm”. Watching these videos allows you to step into the mind of someone living with schizophrenia.

Take a moment to visit the website and tell us what you think. Does experiencing these everyday moments from inside schizophrenia give you a different perspective on the disease and the people who live with it? How can videos like these help promote awareness about schizophrenia?


Jobs & Mental Illness

A recent article in the Toronto Star by Dr. Kwame McKenzie explored the topic of jobs as a lifeline for those living with mental health. The writer explains that his job really helped him integrate into his community when he moved to Canada. However, he writes that many of his clients living with mental illness are not so lucky, as the stigmas surrounding mental health are so negative that they have a difficult time finding employment.

Stigma is still proving to be a big problem for those living with a mental illness and looking for a meaningful job. Dr. Kwame’s article states in his article that study after study has confirmed that having a job actually improves the quality of life for those living with mental illness. Unfortunately, employers are sometimes hesitant to give those living with mental illness a chance. Productive work is a key part in promoting and achieving positive mental health. So why is more not being done to help those living with mental illness secure employment opportunities?

Recovery from mental illness is possible, and a rewarding job may be an important stepping stone on this path.

Do you have any thoughts on how we as a society can help break down these barriers and encourage employers to give those with mental illness a chance to be a significant contributor to their organization?

Let us know what you think!


Mental Health News Update: April 29 - May 5 2011

We're back this week with a look at some of this week's news stories on mental health.

This week is Mental Health Week (May 1st-7th 2011). Did you know that the Canadian Mental Health Association's Mental Health Week is celebrating 60 years? MHW continues to make a great impact across the nation. What an amazing achievement!

  • The Toronto Star’s healthzone featured an article about the new Centre for Addiction and Mental Health opening in Toronto.

  • The Vancouver Courier published an article about Mental Health Week celebrating its 60th anniversary. Mental Health Week was also covered in many other local and community papers.

  • The Vancouver Sun reported on a new mental health facility to be built at the Lions Gate Hospital in North Shore, B.C.

  • On Monday, May 2nd 2011, past Champion of Mental Health, Margaret Trudeau, spoke to a large crowd in Belleville, Ontario about her struggles with mental illness (via The Intelligencer).

  • Coast Mental Health published a story about one of this year’s Courage to Come Back Award recipients, Curtis Baldwinson.

  • As part of Mental Health Week, The Montreal Gazette examined the links between depression and work environment. The article includes tips about symptoms and ways to deal with stress.

  • The National Post reported about the play “Crazy Man” which helps to inform children in Toronto about mental illness.

  • Toronto kicked off Mental Health Week on May 1st 2011 with a walk to raise fund for Kids Help Phone (via The Digital Journal).

  • The Toronto Star reported on new research linking dropout rates to mental health, and encourages the adoption of more mental health programs in schools.

How are you celebrating Mental Health Week? Share your thoughts on Mental Health Week and other mental health issues here , or on our Facebook Page.

Happy Mental Health Week everyone!


Mental Health News Update: April 15-21 2011

Here's a look at some of the mental health headlines for the week of April 15-21, 2011.

  • On Thursday, April 21, 2011 the Amherst Daily News wrote an article about the ‘Minds in Motion Walk’ that will take place on May 4th 2011 to raise funds for mental health. This will be the 4th annual walk to raise money for mental health.

  • Also on Thursday the West Carleton EMC reported on the ‘Do it for Daron’ event which raises funds to develop tools to assist in youth mental health.

  • The Pincher Creek Echo wrote an article on Thursday taking issue to the high rate of suicides in Canada due to mental health and encouraging people to speak up about their difficulties.

Do you have more mental health news to share? Post your links below!

You can also share news on the Face it: Mental Illness Awareness Facebook Page.


Mental Health News Update: April 9-14 2011

Here's a look at some of the mental health headlines for the week of April 9-14, 2011.

  • On Saturday, April 9, the Vancouver Observer did a story on comedian David Granirer, founder of Stand Up to Mental Health.

  • On Monday, April 11, the Toronto Star reported on the appointment of Pat Capponi, a woman living openly with mental illness, to the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board.

  • Also on Monday, The Province reported on Amanda Schell, a recipient of the Courage to Come Back Awards.

  • On Tuesday, April 12, the London Free Press reported on renewed funding for a study examining the relationship between poverty and mental illness.

  • On Thursday, April 14, the Ottawa EMC reported on the launch of CHEO’s 2011 “Let’s Keep Kids out of Hospital” awards, recognizing teachers, volunteers, coaches, and social workers, who work to prevent injury and illness in children and youth.

Do you have more mental health news to share? Post your links below!

You can also share news on the Face it: Mental Illness Awareness Facebook Page.