We are fortunate that our youth remain blossoming and their minds are ready to receive the right information so that they may make informed choices in their life. In speaking to a few youth recently I asked them to think of an image when I said 'mental distress' and we discussed the stress of every day life, some of them mentioned the distress that they felt when they had exams but it is a very different conversation when you ask someone to close their eyes and picture images when they hear the words 'mental illness'. BOOM! Images of straight jackets appear with men screaming at the top of their lungs, then there is the image of the person who carries the sign stating 'the world is coming to an end', we have all seen this person at one point of our life and thought "He's nuts!" I find it ironic because that is the exact same thing that I believed when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder having a psychotic episode. I truly believed that the world was coming to an end. I have spoken before about hiding in a small laundry room while at the Ottawa hospital. I had been having premonitions that the House of Commons was going to be demolished by an airplane similar to 911. I pictured the ash, the crowds and the city burning to a crisp. As I crouched under a table in the laundry room I surely was convinced that the ceiling above was going to topple over leading me to my death. The only difference between me and the gentleman holding the sign is that I just never had one and I didn't advertise it at them time. He is doing the service to the world of letting you know so that you can be prepared when the world ends. Next to these images is one of me as I am indeed a face of mental illness, except the picture is not current. It is me with a face full of Popsicle smiling up at the camera when I am four years old. It will be wonderful when we internally inquire about 'mental illness' and we see an image of a little girl and the other images will fall away and become a faint memory. We will say 'that is the way we used to think about mental illness'.
In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, finding peace and calm sometimes feels like a distant goal. The demands of everyday life, from work to personal responsibilities,