My family has a history of mental illness.
You know, a couple of years ago…I wouldn’t have dared write those eight little words. I wouldn’t have spoken so candidly about the struggles we have faced as a result of mental illness. I was pretty much banned from writing about it, because that was how I was raised. You didn’t discuss your family’s “dirty laundry”, and for the longest time…mental illness fell into that category. It was how my parents were raised, and how their parents before them were raised.
Of course, I’ve always rebelled this notion. It seems silly to avoid talking about something that has a real seat at our family table. It’s not going away any time soon, and mental health is every bit as crucial as physical health. Changing or avoiding the subject doesn’t diminish it; it just steals the voice of many people living with it.
It makes the shame live on, and I’m pretty much done with the shame associated with mental illness. There’s no place for it here, so I decided to start talking about it. The only shameful thing about mental illness, but there is denying its existence.
Many of my loved ones suffer from depression and generalized anxiety. Most of us have it under control, but there are a few who self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, and that has always been so difficult for me to watch.
But getting appropriate and adequate help for mental health is easier said than done, even in Canada. Universal health care has never prioritized mental health. Wait times for affordable psychiatrists are endlessly long, and many people don’t have the funds to pay for therapy or medication.
Money isn’t the only obstacle many face; there’s also the severe lack of resources available.
For example, When my parents sought help for one of my sister’s extreme mood changes and rage, they were told “it’s just teenage hormones“. They took her to so many doctors, and they all said the same thing. Even though my parents had raised other teenagers before and knew it wasn’t your garden variety of teenage hormones and angst. But finding doctors who would listen even just ten years ago was next to impossible.
Mental illness reeks havoc on families; especially untreated mental illness. Untreated mental illness combined with substance dependency and teenage hormones is like standing in the path of a volcano during an earthquake; an unstable, terrifyingly disorienting experience where in you know your chances for coming out unscathed are very, very low.
Ignore the uneducated people who still insist on telling you kids can’t suffer from mental illness issues. That’s absolute bullshit; youth are among the highest risk populations for suicide. If you find that your teenager is acting out; it’s a cry for help, and casting aside these concerns as regular teenage angst puts you on par for a collision course that you do not want to be on.
It’s likely that earlier intervention could have changed the course of everything for my sister, or in the very least given her the skills to cope with her mental health issues. If you suspect there’s something going on with your child or teenager; trust your gut. Demand those recs and appointments.
Times have changed. You no longer have to sweep unpleasant things like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse under the rug. You don’t have to be quiet about it. You can reach out to the community; to friends or other family members about your struggles. You don’t have to feel alone, because you’re not alone. 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem or illness in Canada.