I’ve missed you and for months I’ve felt guilty about not being here. I’ve even avoided PsychCentral.com.
I know these are not excuses to abandon you and my blog, but I was really beginning to think I had nothing more to offer in this forum.
Then, on September 17, less than a week before Marty’s harrowing pre-admission day at Mt. Sinai Hospital, after months of living with him and witnessing his struggle with chronic pain, Jane Smithson, a public health nurse with Halton Region emailed me asking if I would be interested in speaking at the Halton Suicide Prevention Coalition Annual Meeting.
I was shocked. Though I have known a number of people who have died by suicide, as I think all of us have, depression is not my illness.
I have a rare bipolar disorder that’s way off on one side of the bipolar spectrum (or as I prefer, the “manic depressive” spectrum) and I have never experienced clinical depression. Just mania. I get so high, I become psychotic. I’ve been hospitalized 20 times for mania, but that’s old news. I’m in recovery and fine.
Furthermore, I was beginning to feel that my mental health advocacy days were over. No one ever called. I felt that perhaps I had nothing more of value to add to the conversation.
However, out of curiosity, I called Jane back.
It seems she had found me through the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario) website, where my slightly out-of-date bio is posted because I have volunteered, written and spoken for the CMHA Mental Health Works program for many years. She was intrigued with my ideas about mental illnesses and in particular “stigma,” a toxic word, as far as I’m concerned.
I think it should be banned. I have always been sensitive to the language used in the field of mental health, especially as words are so powerful and language matters to all of us more and more. We don’t converse much anymore. We email and text. I don’t like it, but that’s the way of the world.
I posted about that here a while back. It’s a passion. We could help so many people overcome their fears and prejudices and feelings of shame if we stopped using the antiquated word “stigma.”
It resonates with centuries of entrenched prejudice and discrimination, especially the phrase, “the stigma of mental illness.” That just brands us.
No one takes personal responsibility for “stigma.” Implicit in this branding is “shame,” which makes it even harder to speak out and share our stories. I hate using that word. When you use it, you invoke it.
When I get going on this subject, I get very excited and passionate. Jane was excited and decided to propose my name as a speaker. Frankly, I didn’t think the HSPC would go for it, but a few weeks later, they invited me to speak and yesterday presented to 160 people, including several members of the Halton Region Police. And it seemed to go well.
What I didn’t know was that CHCH TV News out of Hamilton was taping my presentation and wanted to interview me afterwards. Maria Hayes, CHCH Health Reporter spoke with me for at least 30 minutes. I had no idea how she would boil all that down into a three-minute report, but she did it. Beautifully.
So, last night at 6:30 p.m., my presentation was the subject of the CHCH TV health report and you can see it by clicking here.
This got me thinking about how I may still contribute to any discussion on mental illnesses and mental health.
How vital it is to keep that conversation going. To question “accepted truths,” that may not be true at all.
It’s crucial to take care about the language we use when we talk about mental illnesses.
Language can fight discrimination and prejudice.
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Last reviewed: 10 Nov 2013