Let’s Take the Stigma Out of Mental Illness #BellLetsTalk

Fact:  Did you know that two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection.

January 31 2018 is Bell Let’s Talk Day!  The day we are supposed to talk to end stigma and start a conversation – which I applaud – but as human beings, we should really be doing this all day, every day.  Mental Illness affects us all – if not you directly, then most certainly someone you love.

What do you think of when you hear that someone is experiencing a mental illness?  Some people feel concern, fear, confusion.  Some avoid the topic or people experiencing it all together.  But in truth, mental illnesses are just like any other illness, everyone deserves care, help and support.

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.

I work in disability claims, I deal with all types of illnesses; organic and non-organic.  It really helps to put things in perspective for me, I see people suffering from mental illness every day in what I do for a living – I see how their  lives and finances are impacted.  I see that their struggle is real.

I also know from personal experience that the struggle is all too real.  I’ll talk a little about my personal experience with mental illness.  I do this to share with all of you that this is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that isn’t surmountable, it’s no different than any other physical medical issue.  It can’t be confirmed on x-ray or CT Scan.  It isn’t always visible (unless in extreme cases, where individuals don’t care for their activities of daily living,  are in a psychotic episode or are in a manic or depressive state etc … ) but it’s there and affects lives every day!

*** Hello, my name is Tina, I suffer from anxiety, depression and panic disorder ***

Panic Disorder:

Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense fear that lasts for a short period of time, the first time I experienced once I thought I was dying, I was only 25 years old.  It caused me a lot of physical symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains and a feeling a loss of control.

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I mean we’ve all experienced a panic attack in relation to a stressful situation but with a panic disorder, panic attacks seem to happen for no reason – no provoked trigger.  I’d get them at the grocery store and have to leave a cart full of groceries, wake up from a dead sleep in a full blown panic attack (not having a nightmare or bad dream), while driving (for no reason) and I have to cancel plans with people because of it, at home cleaning or watching TV.  It got to the point where I started changing my regular routine to avoid triggering more panic attacks.

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We all experience changes in our mood. Sometimes we feel energetic, full of ideas, and other times we feel sad, down and/or irritable. But these moods usually don’t last long, and we can go about our daily lives.   Depression interferes with that … it interferes in your ability to function – it can change the way people eat and sleep, and many people experience physical health problems.  My episodes of depression were triggered by events in my life – I felt constant sadness almost every day, tearfulness,  ++ crying, loss of interest and pleasure in my favourite activities,  was low energy, had psychomotor impairment, a loss of appetite (+ weight loss) and difficulty making decisions/focusing to name a few.

If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news: all mental illnesses can be treated. I went to the doctor, sought treatment and thankfully recovered.  With respect to the anxiety/panic that too is surmountable – treatment in the form of cognitive behaviour therapy, mediation and relaxation exercises as well as lots of putting into practice and my anxiety/panic is much better controlled.  If I feel anxiety or panic coming on – I implement the exercises taught to me by  my counsellor (MSW) and thwart it.

Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function ~ The Mayo Clinic

As a sufferer, my suggestions to you to help end the stigma associated with mental illness are:

Educate Yourself And Others: “I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn’t matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean

Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness: “I find that when people understand the true facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments. I also remind them that they wouldn’t make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.” – Megan Dotson

Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness: “I offer free hugs to people livingScreen Shot 2018-01-28 at 11.21.59 PM outdoors, and sit right there and talk with them about their lives. I do this in public, and model compassion for others. Since so many of our homeless population are also struggling with mental illness, the simple act of showing affection can make their day but also remind passersby of something so easily forgotten: the humanity of those who are suffering.” – Rachel Wagne

Choose Empowerment Over Shame: “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher

Let’s stop the stigma associated with mental illness, if you need to talk – reach out, I’ve got your back.

One last thing,  Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for each of these interactions on Bell Let’s Talk Day at no extra charge to participants:

  • Every text message, mobile and long distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers.
  • Twitter: Every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and @Healthy_Minds
  • Facebook: Every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video at: https://www.facebook.com/BellLetsTalk
  • Instagram: Every post using #BellLetsTalk and tagged @HealthyMindsCanada
  • Snapchat: Every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Snapchat geofilter

Take to social media and let’s get this out there!


T xo Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 9.25.30 PM



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