It’s time we ac­knowl­edged there is a cri­sis

We need to change the way we han­dle in­di­vid­ual care

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - KODY DUN­CAN

Each day, whether in­side or out­side of Canada, we can see sto­ries of how men­tal health is be­com­ing a grow­ing is­sue. Ac­cord­ing to our con­stantly chang­ing statis­tics, one in five Cana­di­ans has men­tal health is­sues. Maybe I’m one of few, but as I read each story I’ve be­come less numb, but more an­gry. An­grier about the fact that it seems our gov­ern­ment doesn’t want to talk about men­tal health.

Just re­cently I’ve read about Ni­cole Pate­naude which left me in tears as mem­o­ries of friends, fam­ily, and my own men­tal health is­sues sur­faced. If Ni­cole was alive I would thank her as I’ve al­ways feared to talk pub­licly about this.

Per­son­ally, I’ve dealt with my men­tal health is­sue with­out sup­port since I’ve be­come an adult. That’s be­cause I lost faith in the sys­tem when I was just a teenager as the bond with my guid­ance counsellor be­came a dis­cus­sion of pos­si­ble med­i­ca­tions.

I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing that ev­ery­one stops tak­ing their med­i­ca­tions. But it isn’t the so­lu­tion for ev­ery per­son. Yet it is al­most al­ways the first so­lu­tion when the sit­u­a­tion be­comes too com­pli­cated. My belief is those sit­u­a­tions should be when treat­ment be­comes in­di­vid­u­al­ized, in­stead of fol­low­ing overly rigid treat­ment reg­i­mens as seen in most cases.

The is­sue with in­di­vid­u­al­ized men­tal health treat­ment is it al­ways comes very late in the process. It is nearly al­ways af­ter an in­di­vid­ual is tossed from dif­fer­ent depart­ments or even tossed into prison, some­times mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worst. Over time an in­di­vid­ual can come to feel a bur­den to even the sys­tem as many depart­ments re­ject them as they are not prop­erly equipped to deal with them in the first place.

I was lucky. I never be­came a bur­den to the depart­ments that tried to help and give me tools to learn to con­trol my emo­tions. My is­sue was mo­ments of rage or loss of emo­tional con­trol. As a child, my mother thought of my in­ci­dents as typ­i­cal tod­dler tantrums. Even­tu­ally, it came ap­par­ent that it was a much larger is­sue when I was caught play­ing with fire. I could have harmed my­self or others.

I was put into a fire preven­tion pro­gram at the lo­cal fire de­part­ment with other kids caught play­ing with fire. At my age, I didn’t quite un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing, but was fright­ened enough to know that what I did an­gered enough peo­ple and brought the at­ten­tion of the men in blue and the peo­ple with clip­boards. The men in blue were the po­lice and peo­ple with clip­boards were so­cial ser­vices. Af­ter my first ma­jor in­ci­dent things sub­sided, but not truly. My emo­tions bub­bled and were not con­trolled.

Af­ter this I had many in­ci­dents at my school that al­most led to ex­pul­sion. My par­ents ar­ranged for me to at­tend coun­selling in­stead. My coun­selling taught me two key things: Iden­tify your emo­tion, and as­sess the sit­u­a­tion in re­la­tion to what you are feel­ing. Once you’ve de­ter­mined the emo­tion and out­comes, you must de­cide to ei­ther end the sit­u­a­tion, leave it tem­po­rar­ily, or pur­sue the po­ten­tial de­sired out­come. I’ll never say the method is per­fect, but it has helped me avoid los­ing bal­ance in these sit­u­a­tions.

If I’ve lost you in my dis­cus­sion, my point is there is al­ways an­other av­enue. Through pro­fes­sional or non-pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance, there is a choice to be made. It may seem hard to have to live nor­mally, but I per­son­ally have done so, and so have many others. If you’re won­der­ing what I mean by a nor­mal life, I mean pay­ing your bills, and pos­si­bly pur­su­ing work, or a ca­reer.

What I hope peo­ple take away from all this is that men­tal health is com­pli­cated and la­bels don’t be­long in this dis­cus­sion. In­stead, we must rec­og­nize there is a cri­sis and that it de­mands changes in the way we han­dle these sit­u­a­tions.

Kody Dun­can is a com­puter pro­gram­mer who lives in Hamil­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.