Those who struggle with mental illness battle an invisible disease. For most people, they aren’t noticeably sick when you see them walking down the street or eating in a restaurant. They aren’t sent home from work when they’re feeling sick. On the surface, they appear just like the rest of us.
There are no daffodils or pink ribbons distributed to millions of people to show support for those with a mental illness. There are seldom walks or runs in their honour.
Today, why is it so much easier to say “I have cancer” than it is to say “I have depression”?
That is a question that cannot be answered simply. But we can try.
The common conception of mental illness in Vancouver is the dishevelled man talking to himself on the street corner, or the woman with an uncontrollable twitch on the bus. Eyebrows are raised and these people are avoided, not because they are bad people, but because their behaviour invokes a certain amount of fear.
We fear they are unstable, or dangerous, or on drugs.
And while mental illness takes many shapes and forms, and some do become dangerous to themselves or others, the majority of us struggling with mental health are the people sitting opposite you in class, your bus driver, your boss, your friend, or your brother. And there is a fairly good chance you had no idea.
Increasing awareness of mental illness is the first step to solving this medical plague that affects one in five Canadians. And that is where you come in.
To celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 4 to 10, Vancity Buzz will be publishing stories from readers who have struggled with mental illness either currently or in the past. Submissions are now open until October 2, 2015.
Creating awareness for mental health is a complex issue which is so often targeted on a broad level – national campaigns, celebrity endorsements, books and movies. While more and more people are becoming aware of the realities of mental illness and the stigmas related to them, for someone suffering, there is always the constant feeling that they are alone in their battle.
In the age of social media and over-sharing, it is no surprise that most people don’t use those platforms to broadcast the negative aspects of their life. They don’t post tear-stained selfies or honest tweets about how they really feel. The internet is their shield in which they can pretend they are living a happy, normal life. Even though we are all guilty, it gives those who are suffering the impression that they are alone.
If we are able to publish stories of relatable people struggling with mental health and living right here in Vancouver, people whom someone might know or share a community with, we can show those who are struggling that they are not alone and help is available.
Note: Not all submissions will be chosen to appear in our series.