Friday, 9 October 2015

Bell Let's Talk is SCREAMING IN MY EAR.

I have a strong appreciation of the importance of supporting causes about which we feel passionate. We all have our vulnerabilities. We all have our "stuff".  Raising awareness of the prevalence of Mental  Illness and fighting the stigma associated with it, speaks to me. Actually today Bell Let's Talk is SCREAMING IN MY EAR. I thought I would repost my vision of Let's Walk and Talk.

 I am picturing my version of a Walk-a-Thon to support access and research for Mental Illness. There are men and women here. Some of the group is very enthusiastic.  Some are not so excited. Everyone here is holding on to a rope and walking with their group. There are ropes of many colours.

There is a long rope held by the survivors, those of us that have been in the cuckoo's nest, afflicted
with mental illness.  This group has been blessed with the access to appropriate medical treatments and psychological strategies that allow us to no longer be marginalized.  These are the people you might not have expected to be here, up on the stage, telling their story because they just seem so "normal".  They are up there, trying to break the stigma. They are not comfortable as they know that they will be judged, but there they stand, owning their story. Some of us aren't ready yet but hope to be there one day.  We still have 1 foot in the closet. 

There are the amazing people who support those who struggle with mental illness.  The nurses, doctors, many different healthcare professionals with varying backgrounds all trying to find the right mix of medication and  support that will address the very individual needs of each of their clients.  There are the educators who work with our children to assure their success.  These people have chosen to work in a field that does not appeal to many.  This group advocates and supports and they have made this walk possible.

We hope there are policy makers.  The longer the rope the better.  People who can use the funds raised today to improve access for all individuals.  The 'higher-ups" need to see all the
people here today.  They need to come to understand the prevalence and the large spectrum and overlaps of mental illnesses and the frustrating and unfair gaps in care. Maybe this walk will open a few of their eyes.

Families and friends are out in droves.  They are walking to raise money and awareness
for better access for their loved ones and more research.  Each walking for someone in their life or someone they have lost.

Parents of young children, who themselves may have struggled for years, are walking for their "problem" child.  Some of these kids are here too.  Some hold the rope very tightly.  The "hyper" ones run ahead.  The "slow" ones lag behind and there are those kids who just flat out refuse to hold the rope.  The parents are hoping this walk will help to make their child's world more aware and accepting and perhaps realize that an accurate diagnosis and treatment can make this child's life better than theirs has been.

There is a relatively new group to the walk  They are here because awareness is developing and young adults are showing up now with a stronger sense of comfort at this Walk.  Their parents and supporters are holding the rope with them, despite how overwhelmed they feel.  Many are deemed "helicopter parents" by those who don't understand that advocacy cannot always be done by the individual at risk.

Another large group is holding strong to their rope. It keeps them all together and makes them feel safe. These participants are those who strive every day with difficulty to maintain balance, seeking to manage their symptoms.  They know that mental health is not just the absence of disease. Some of them succeed at  times and then later may again struggle with their demons.  They understand there is no cure, just good management.  They are aware of their triggers and have developed strategies over a long difficult time.  They know the benefits of mental health days, exercise, proper diet and sometimes medication.  They try to remember in the dark times, that with the support of understanding friends and family, they can keep moving, 2 steps forward, 1 step back.  These are the people who really struggled to get to the Walk today.

Now, there are a lot of people who are not at the Walk today.   Many people wanted to be here holding on to a rope.   This is a group that no matter what their intention was yesterday, just couldn't get out of bed.  Some of these people may have finally gotten up, but were so overcome with the "what if's" of what the day might bring that they could not go.  Some couldn't get out the door.  They haven't been out in years.  Some didn't come because there were voices from the TV warning them to stay home.  Some were not physically well enough to come, their body weight, too high or too low, made it impossible to walk this far.  There were others who couldn't come today either, as they are a slave to their addictions. 

There is another group that is absent today. They couldn't come to this Walk because they are hospitalized at this time. A team of healthcare providers is working very hard to stabilize them so they can participate next year.  Some are in the hospital willingly because they understand the risks associated with their disease.  They may have lost someone and seek the treatment that is not available to all.  There are those who do not choose to be admitted, but they are safe.  They are off the cliff.

Another bunch of people might have been somewhat unwelcome here today.  Their rope is all musty and doesn't smell very good.  Perhaps they aren't here because they have no shoes.  We all know them, but we may not have graciously welcomed them. It reminds many that each person, but for the support and access we take for granted, might have been us.

Today's Walk is just a snapshot. Many of us have held different ropes at different times.  We nod at each other to show understanding and support.  There are so many symptoms, diseases and over lap that I can't hope to include all the ropes. The diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is vast, complicated and ever changing.

I will however make note of a large, but perhaps shrinking rope lying on the ground, waiting to be picked up.  This group isn't on the Walk today.  They really saw no reason to come.  Some may be blessed to have family and friends who are emotionally healthy all the time.  I find this hard to believe though. It is unclear to some people just what the point was to this Walk.  They are not participating perhaps because they feel that everyone has problems and just need to deal with them.  Maybe all the walkers could just cheer up, stop worrying so much, relax and think positively.  Some in this group might feel they could provide an insight into parenting the "problem" child with tough love.  They could try to give everyone a good shake. Is there really a problem.  If symptoms can't be measured.  If a blood pressure cuff can't read it,

 if a stethoscope can't hear it, if some doctors don't even see it, then wouldn't money be better spent on real illnesses with real symptoms.  Perhaps as this group becomes more enlightened, the stigma will continue to disappear.  Perhaps they will grab on to a rope one day when their heads emerge from the sand.

Well I see there are a lot of people on this Walk. It would certainly be an interesting group. These are the nicest people in the world.  There is ever a dull moment with us nut balls.   It would be long day of mixed emotions.  With any luck at all the sun would shine on this day.  Could it be a dark and rainy day for this Walk?  I can't believe Mother Nature could ever be so cruel. 

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