Txt, telephone or…blog…let’s talk about mental illness!

This is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Multiple Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, lead spokesperson for the campaign, was on CTV News in Toronto today. From among the calls she fielded came this articulate gem, “To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.”

However, and this was Clara’s message, help and hope are available to those who reach out.

Citing Bell’s initiative today, St. Paul’s (Toronto) MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett, in a Member’s Statement in the House of Commons, called on the federal government to move forward with an anti-stigma campaign. I won’t hold my breath.

To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.

Something else important to point out is that mental illness is on a spectrum. Major depression, bipolar or schizophrenia are examples of the most serious forms of mental illness but there are plenty of gray areas, too – usually the first signs of something more serious.

My first meeting with a mental health professional came around the time that I was diagnosed HIV-positive, nearly twenty-two years ago.  I was put on the lowest dose of a common anti-depressant and it was only when I took myself off it a few years later (unsupervised, such as I did it, is never a good idea) that I realized how much it had been helping.

Then, years later, what I identified as a distinct lack of depression led me down a path of behaviour quite out of character.  Only at the bottom of the deep hole of my own digging did I again seek help at which time I was diagnosed, over time, with bipolar-II – a variant of the more extreme bipolar or manic-depressive.

Listening to a description of the condition and its symptoms I recognized myself and felt much relief. It explained much about recent feelings and behaviour but also put historic episodes into better perspective.

A change in medication once or twice, trying to minimize effects on my lipids, has resulted in a recent period of stability.

I cannot take my moods for granted, certainly not the good ones.  Yet I feel that, so long as I take my medications (“head meds” or those for HIV/AIDS), I have hope.

Social contact cannot be over-emphasized either.


PM Harper’s New Year’s Toast to Canadians

Stephen Harper has shaken a bottle of champagne sparkling cider, held it against the collective ass of Canadians, and let the cork fly into our nether regions with a monotone “Bonne année Canada, happy new year Canada.”

At this time last year Canadians by the thousands held cold weather protests against dictator Harper’s proroguing of Parliament when, it must be remembered, his government was facing defeat in a motion of non-confidence over its handling of prisoner transfers in Afghanistan.  (Transferring them via Afghan handlers, it was alleged, had led to instances of torture.)  Never mind, countered the Tories, we need to move that off the front pages, for the sake of our troops, so we’ll ask/instruct the Governor-General to prorogue Parliament for an election to “recalibrate”.

That solved so much,didn’t it?

House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, in a win for the Opposition, demanded the government release most, if not all, pertinent documents pertaining to the prisoner transfer issue.  Yet, despite such a moral victory, we’ve heard precious little about it since.

“Lake Wastemataxes” was the name coined by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for the infamous fake lake built inside the Direct Energy Centre (near Toronto’s Lake Ontario shore, mind you) – the government’s showcase for Canada to visiting members of the media to the G-20 summit.  This, and party favours built in Tony Clement’s riding (the proximity to the earlier G-8 summit seemingly of no concern), were symbols of the restraint-preaching government’s hypocrisy.  Oh, and then there was that small matter of G-20 security…

With Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett hopeful her Private Member’s Bill might reinstate the mandatory long-form census, while Republican-style Conservatives rejoice that it has been nixed, this issue will only have legs so long as Canadians can be convinced that what will be missing from future, Conservative-drafted surveys is more important than whatever perceived intrusiveness our longstanding, highly-respected census gathering techniques have against it.  But, since the pros don’t fit on Conservative t-shirts as easily as the cons, Canadians may be denied the facts about this – or the facts about Canadian society which the Conservatives do not wish us to know.

When they return in late January, Members of Parliament will vote on Bill C-393 which aims to modify the ineffective legislation known as Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime.  I wish this would enjoy all-party support but it seems that it has its detractors both among government and opposition members.

While we are sometimes too powerless to persuade these head-strong Parliamentarians about all things, a victory for us now and then is possible.