My name is Mark Smed. I work with information technology and have had a long successful career. People generally like me, and say I’m hard working and funny. I’m too loud sometimes and I’m emotional often. I love to do creative writing, art, hiking, fishing and some camping. Once I ran for council in my home town. One of the great passions in my life is to sit and have a coffee with a friend. It’s a simple pleasure, but I don’t need huge risk and thrills to be happy.
Submitted by Mary, Salmon Arm BC
Once upon a time, I had a white picket fence. It was adorable and shiny and surrounded my little world : three gorgeous babies, a handsome brief-case carrying husband in a European suit, a home in the suburbs with a minivan in the carport, my own small business, a role on the preschool board of directors, freshly baked cookies cooling on the counter. A sandbox and a swing-set in the backyard. All of that was real, except that white picket fence. It is a metaphor, or is it?
In my family, I inherited a genetic pre-disposition to tummy aches, heart disease, aneurysm and stroke and bad eyesight. What was less spoken of was the genetic pre-disposition to depression, anxiety and addiction, handed down through generations on both sides of my family. Just like money, depression wasn’t talked about. I was aware of my dad’s alcoholism but it was couched as “habitual drinking” with our family taking on the rigours of any family with substance abuse – routinely coping in silence in our version of ‘normal’ and enabling until a point of crisis and dissolution. Likewise, I found out about my mom’s struggle with depression following my parents’ separation only after cleaning the bathroom and finding her prescription.
submitted by BC Resident Rhoda T.
My nephew's worker said supervised med assist was not available because he was never at any one address for long (sometimes a tent), but my request he be briefly hospitalized, detoxed, stabilized on meds, given mental health housing, and supervised med assist, was refused. My request that he be given an assessment for his traumatic brain injury was also refused. I also asked for assessment by a psychologist or occupational therapist to identify the cause of and document his adaptive functioning deficit symptoms. This request has also not been responded to.
These clients of the Mental Health system are intimidated, rebuked, and afraid to disclose the extent of their problems, as their addiction is thrown in their face. Their rights are trampled upon, such as when they request a new Psychiatrist and are refused, and, if they do not take their medication properly, they are not put on supervised med assist.
Part way through a busy day of family practice, on a cold grey November afternoon in 1984, I quietly let myself out the back door of my clinic and walked away. I was convinced my life was over. I knew I drank too much and was ashamed of secretly injecting more and more opioids. Suicide had become my friend: if it got any worse, I could end it. I believed I was using substances to escape my desperation. I really had no idea I was suffering from something called addiction.
We’ve come a long way, but the journey isn’t over yet. I feel that way about how we, as a society, handle mental illness and mental health and about how I handle my own mental illness and mental health.
I was volunteering for CMHA at a Kids Health Fair yesterday and spoke with the mother of a child with mental illness. She told me that her son had been diagnosed at the age of three and that he is now fifteen. I was so happy for him that he had been diagnosed at such a young age, but also sad for myself because when I was three years old, children were not diagnosed with mental illness. The medical profession simply did not diagnose anybody under 18 with mental illness, as though 18 was some magical age at which mental illness suddenly appeared in people!
In 2016, I attended CMHA’s #b4stage4 conference where I was inspired by the stories of powerful politicians, nurses, psychotherapists, and students alike. It was a vivid reminder that mental illness does not discriminate; every one of us has been, or has the potential to be impacted.
As I sat there in a room full of people and watched powerful and successful individuals courageously share their most personal struggles, I couldn’t help but feel like a hypocrite.
Because there I was, advocating for ending stigma, and yet many people in my life had no idea that for over a decade, I’ve been fighting my own battle.