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Breaking the silence on mental illness

By in Opinions

Odds are you’ve come across individuals who silently suffer from mental illness. Maybe it’s one of your friends, a stranger on the street or even yourself. Mental illness affects millions of people worldwide: from the anxiety producing numbness of obsessive compulsive disorder to the extreme mood swings of bipolar disorder to the damning and uncontrollable thoughts of schizophrenia.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, severe mental illnesses affect almost one million people in Canada alone and one of five Canadians will suffer from some mental disorder at one time in their lives. These people who suffer are not social pariahs, they’re not sub-human, and they do not deserve to be ignored. They deserve to be helped.

Some people have a notion that people who suffer with mental illness should be blacklisted from society altogether. That people who suffer with it are all “crazy” or something.

Thousands of Canadians commit suicide every year. But were these people crazy? No, they were suffering. Still, some people say, “Why don’t they get help?” This is easier said than done. Only one third of those in need of psychiatric help will receive treatment in this country. The other two thirds avoid help, thinking they are “weak” if they seek treatment.

Some view a person as “crazy” or “weak” if they admit they suffer from a mental illness. The stigma for mental illness is a brutal one, and crossing the lines for aid is difficult. And when 46 per cent of people in Canada think that others use the phrase “mental illness” as an excuse for bad behaviour, the lines between truth and reality are blurred even further.

For countless Canadians, mental illness is all too real a problem. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, about the 500,000 people miss work every day due to psychiatric issues. In fact, mental health is the second-most common reason for human disability and early death. So don’t call these people “crazy” or “retarded.” Don’t shun them with a glare or ignore them.

Lend a hand to those who need help today; show them you care. After all, that’s what people need nowadays, the notion that they are loved and that someone is looking out for them. It can mean the difference between life and death in a person’s heart. Mental illness can crush our spirits, but it can also push us to excel further in life. Tears fall hard, but suffering falls harder. Twenty per cent of Canadians will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Maybe one day it will be you.

Graphic: Brianna Whitmore

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