Mental illness and addiction issues are overlooked by today's society. Ignorance causes dicrimination and stigmatisim. We are human beings with feelings and deserve the same rights and freedoms like any other Canadian.
Mental illness is very common. It's a quiet disease, however. Physically, the disability remains unseen. It's an infliction of one's heart, mind and soul. You must not stereo-type us as 'crazy people', you must understand that we have an illness. We must learn more about these devastating conditions. Let's not forget that mental illness plauges millions of people world wide. We don't deserve to be frowned upon or considered unimportant members of society. Many of us who are inflicted with mental illness try very hard to hide ourselves from the general public, so that we are not recognized as having a disability. We don't want other people to know that we're not 'normal.' We have worn masks throughout our lives, and know which face to put on in which circumstances. We are so clever that our deception is usually never detected. Our illness and struggle is kept secret. Fighting the ailment can leave one confused and exhausted. Physical ailments arise from the continual battle within one's self. The battle becomes unbearable, and the 'combatant; can become too weak to fight. Subconsciously, we cry for help through our actions, because often we are unable to ask for help on our own. These actions are a automatic response to our own mental pain. There is no thoughts or planning; our minds no longer have control. We can usually remember our actions, but certainly not in control of them. We are usually unable to explain our actions, because we really don't understand them ourselves. Many people with mental illness are substance abusers-including me. We try to clear or remove the anguish by any means possible. The most common substances, in decending order, are coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription and illicit drugs. Unfortunately, many of these substances can greatly interfere with a solid treatment program. I have respect for people with mutiple sclerosis, AIDS and other ailments. Why should I not be respected for my medical ailment? Attitude towards the mentally ill must change-not just for our sake, but for the sake of all those who come in contact with us. Society must learn to accept the mentally ill for who they are. Education is the key to becoming a better person and learning about others. A little understanding will go a long way to removing the stigmas and fears associated with mental illness. I once volunteered my services to a local chatity. They knew I had a mental illness. They treated me as if I was mentally incompetent. I was given useless tasks of no importance. Even though I previously had a career in the army where I used equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, they believed I wasn't capable of the simplest tasks such as gardening-I most certainly can pick up a shovel. They talked slowly to me, and I was never left unsupervised. This treatment made me feel inept and belittled. I have met an incredible man, however, who has the power and authority to inform the public of life with mental illness. Vern Faulkner is the editor of Esquimalt News. He listened to my story and felt that the topic of mental illness was imporrtant enough to do a two-part series. He examined the political, structural and emotional aspects of mental illness. He then ran the stories, which were later picked up by other sister papers. He made a substantial effort on behalf of the mentally ill to inform and educate the public about this ailment, and has been recently nominated for a journalism award for his efforts. He made a weighty contribution toward removing the stigma of mental illness. I have the deepest respect for him and he has also treated me with respect. In my entire life, Vern Faulkner is the only person who has treated me as a normal human being. I have been ridiculed, belittled and abandoned by friends and family. I have been accused of being lazy and of being a useless bum who should get off his butt and work. The public needs more education to help prevent sterotyping of us as useless and lazy people. With the proper support and medical intervention, we are capable of taking care of our families, running households, working in the public sector and accomplishing our dreams and goals just like 'normal' people. We can do all that and still have time to be tortured by illness on top of it all! Although my illness has caused severe challenges, my wife and her family are also incredible. They have stood by me, never wavering for a single minute. My wife has had many reasons to leave me, but her love and support has made me survive. Her incredible courage to withstand some terrible situations and to still stand by my side is remarkable. All I want is to live a happy normal life, free from prejudice. People with mental illness want the respect that many 'normal' people take for granted. Everyone has their bottom line, I ask that you respect mine