So! Today is the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week, a very important week to me. MI Awareness Week aims to bring awareness to mental illness and help de-stigmatize mental illness. The more we talk, the less the stigma!
I was 16 when I went to my doctor and told him something was wrong. I was suicidal, depressed, moody – things were NOT right. My doctor handed me anti-depressants and sent me on my way. Fast forward 6 years and things had not changed. I decided things needed to change – fast. I went to my doctor and pushed myself through the system to see a psychiatrist. I was lucky enough to see one within two weeks. In the first session with my psychiatrist she had me fill out a simple questionnaire. After reading through my answers, my psychiatrist said it was very clear I had a mood disorder and was not on the right medications. She then said something that stayed with me.
“If your doctor would have had you fill out this questionnaire 6 years ago, it would have been clear to him your diagnosis was not depression.”
I could have had a proper diagnosis earlier! It is this situation that drove me in the beginning to want to make changes to the system. From there, I’ve told my story on my blog and in other ways. It is the responses I get now that drive me to help stomp the stigma.
One of the places I started in order to help diminish stigma was volunteering for Partners for Mental Health. I have been a Community Correspondent for Partners for Mental Health for about 2 years now. Being a part of their campaigns have given me hope and passion for mental health.
The current campaign Partners for Mental Health is doing is called Right by You. The Right by You campaign aims to bring Canadians together to better support youth mental health.
The Right By You campaign was created by Partners for Mental Health to improve mental health and prevent suicide among youth, by mobilizing and engaging Canadians to help drive fundamental changes that result in:
- Increased awareness and attention toward youth mental health
- Greater understanding, acceptance and support for young people living with a mental health problem or illness
- Increased access to, and funding for, youth mental health services, treatment and support
They are specifically calling on the federal government to invest in a newly created National Youth Suicide Prevention Fund to support a community based approach to youth suicide prevention.
Statistics show that 20% of young Canadians have a diagnosable mental illness. 75% of children and youth with a mental illness will not receive treatment. Suicide is the #1 cause of non-accidental death among youth. As many as 173,000 youth will try to take their own lives in a year. Almost 90% of those that die by suicide have a mental illness. Every year we lose 762 Canadian youth to suicide. That’s 2 every day.
What can you do to help? There are three things.
- Get the guide at http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-action/#?section=guide. The keys to taking care of youth mental health are to work towards building close and genuinely supportive relationships and promoting mental wellness, and to get help early should problems arise. This free guide was designed to help parents forge and strengthen those connections and support their youth's mental health.
- Tell the Government! To convince government to create a National Suicide Prevention Fund to support youth mental health, our elected officials need to hear directly from the people they represent. Contact your Member of Parliament (MP) using the PFMH online tool – and they will print and mail a letter (with a Life Savers® candy package) on your behalf. If you are interested in meeting with your MP, please contact PFMH at firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can provide you with tools and resources. You can find the online tool here http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-action/#?section=tell
- Spread the word! From passing out postcards to collecting signatures to organizing events, talking openly with others is the best way to generate awareness and get even more people involved in driving change. Help spread the word by getting the community toolkit here http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-action/#?section=spread
I encourage you to do at least one of these 3 things to help out our Canadian youth!