As more and more people and organizations speak out about mental illness, the more awareness is raised and these programs and systems will continue to improve. It is so scary and you feel so exposed and vulnerable when you “come out” as someone with a mental illness, but it’s important! It’s important so you can get the help you need, you can inspire others to seek help, and you can add to the larger voice demanding for more options and better protocols.
I was terrified the first time I wrote about raising awareness for NewLifeOutlook; it was going to be public, it was going to be on the internet, my face and my name would be associated with that and it can’t be tucked under the rug anymore from this point on. But you know what? The people that those articles help are why I do it. If I write 500 articles and they only ever help one other person, then they have helped one person. And for me, that’s worth it. For me, it’s worth sharing my story and my experience and being a light for those who need it.
Canada is one of the more progressive countries in so many ways, but why do we still suffer and have so much room to improve when it comes to mental health? I will continue to write, and continue to raise awareness and support those whom I can. Hopefully one day soon, the rest of the country and the rest of the world will be where we need it to be.
One of my dear friends over at The Wolf and The Wardrobe has agreed to write a guest post for me sharing some of her thoughts about Canada’s Mental Health System in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month! Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!
An Open Letter to Canada’s Mental Health System
I remember how strange it felt. I had just resigned from modelling, was settling back into small-town life, and not once did anyone ever ask the question ‘why’ or ‘how’? ‘Why’ did you decide to quit such a glamourous job and industry? ‘How’ are you doing? Are you doing okay?
I can’t necessarily fault them; I had been closed off and reserved for months leading up to my decision. Friends would ask what it took to stay in shape as a model and I’d give a roundabout answer that made it seem natural and effortless for me. I left out the parts about the 10k runs, the hours spent running stairs, and the lectures I’d get for eating mango salad or anything that was seemingly healthy to the average person, but not for a model.
My boyfriend asked me when we were out for breakfast one day before I formally resigned if I had an eating disorder. I got quiet, then I got defensive, and then I said ‘No.’ He told me one day I’d look back at that moment, whether we were together then or not, and know that he he was right.
I searched for a long time for an outpatient program that catered towards my demons and experiences and found nothing; nothing that served me immediate help, or offered any guidance or alternatives in the interim. I was fortunate enough to have a healthy support system that was willing to stand by me. I sought out a psychologist who specialized in EDMR, I attended reiki sessions, eventually I felt okay – more okay than I had. I had never felt suicidal, but I had felt failed by the one system that was supposed to protect me.
Canada’s mental health clinics and programs haven’t only failed me; however, they’ve failed my friend and so many other young Canadians. A wait list for someone with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts could last for over 2 years. I know, because I was at the ready, providing email addresses, the phone numbers to crisis lines and acting as a counsellor to my friend who tried everything she could to seek help, but was told she wouldn’t receive it unless she admitted herself into a hospital. Eventually, when feelings became too heavy and exhaustion became too much, she tried to take her life and ended up precisely there. But after a few days they discharged her, told her to attend a program which she did at first, but soon stopped, and she didn’t hear from them after that.
I understand that those who staff these places who are put in place to save us from ourselves are likely understaffed, overworked, and underpaid. They are government-funded afterall. But how can these people lack such education, knowledge, compassion, and dedication to their patients and the suffering and tell them to ‘wait’?
Apparently my town has a Canadian Mental Health Association branch. Who knew? I didn’t, and I researched. I sought. I asked. But how could I know? It was not advertised. There was no brand awareness. How are young people supposed to know where to turn if the places we are supposed to turn to are virtually invisible? If the people in our lives – teachers, parents, counsellors – can’t tell us where to turn to, to get help?
My town has had several teen suicides in the last few months, and they continue to ask the question ‘why’? I’ll admit that’s a good place to start, “Why”. I only hope they start by looking in the mirror and asking ‘How.’ How can we improve? How can we make our services known? How can we ensure we’re employing the right people to deal with these cases and illnesses? How can we make sure these unnecessary deaths of our youth don’t continue to happen? I sincerely hope by asking the right questions, they will begin to find the right answers.
Alyssa is a lifestyle blogger, Arien, feminist, and #GIRLBOSS-in-training. In her free time, she enjoys hoarding beauty products, horseback riding, painting, marathoning episodes on Netflix, and blogging at her style and beauty blog, The Wolf and the Wardrobe. You can find her on Twitter & Instagram @TheAlyWolfe.