It’s time we acknowledged there is a crisis
We need to change the way we handle individual care
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.