THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOOSING HELP: HOW COVID-19 IS IMPACTING MENTAL HEALTH IN CANADA
Mental health in Canada isn’t as greatly taken care of as one might think. Sure, we have free healthcare, but that doesn’t mean we are taken seriously. We are still told there is nothing wrong with us. Canadian’s are still told that we can’t fix our mental health, that we just need to "man up,” “get over it," "just do it," and “live with it.”
LET ME SHARE THE FOLLOWING STORY.
I was in the middle of a conversation with my friend "Ned." He told me that during quarantine a friend (who we will call "John") came to live with him. John lost his job because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. He already suffered from a few mental health illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. After he moved in with Ned, he started staying in bed for most of the day.
Ned told me about how openly he welcomed John into his home. John stayed with him for three months. He didn't, however, pay any rent or do much of anything. Ned paid for the rent, the groceries, the utilities, and things such as alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis (he lives in Canada). He didn't do this too often because he knew John's mental health would most likely be made worse by these drugs.
It was nearing the three-month point when he decided to talk to John. He said something like, "Hey, man. I know you're suffering. I know that it feels like you have no control and this will never get better, but what's helped my mental health is to start doing small things. This might sound like I want you to start pitching in, but it's really not about that. It's about giving you some agency." (The last sentence he didn't use verbatim, though I added it here).
SOME OF YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHAT THE DEFINITION OF AGENCY IS.
It essentially means "the will and ability to make one's own choices and one's own life." Agency is an interesting topic and one that will be written about in-depth as The Empathy Front evolves. It's a main tenant of the philosophy behind this movement.
BACK TO THE CONVERSATION.
John said, "Yeah, I can do that." However, as you might have guessed, it never came to fruition. He continued to suffer from depression. He thought he didn't have the chemicals that allowed him to be happy, content, nor motivated. Worse, he believed that he couldn't control it and his mental illness took over and controlled him.
A while later, Ned started to get more concerned. John had started to talk to himself, had hidden knives all around the house, and Ned noticed other red flags popping up. Ned did what any good friend would do and, because we live in the beautiful country of Canada, took his friend to be admitted to one of our universal healthcare hospitals.
They kept John for a few hours. They called Ned and said, "Please come pick him up. He doesn't need to stay here."
Ned urged the hospital to keep John. He knew something wasn't right. The hospital refused for reasons unknown. HOWEVER. Not only did the hospital discharge John, but they also kicked him out before Ned got there to pick him up. This shows how great our system helps mental health in Canada.
NED ARRIVED AT THE HOSPITAL TO FIND HIS FRIEND HAD ALREADY LEFT.
After some searching, he found John wandering around a university campus. He took him home (since Canada's health care system failed him) and talked to him. They have an in-depth conversation where Ned tells John, "I can't do this on my own. You have to try to help yourself too." Essentially, he was telling him to "man up."
I think something clicked in John. What scares me the most, not just about him but for everyone who suffers from mental illness, is that he realized that he just couldn't do it anymore. He realized that the best way for him to help himself was for him to kill himself.
Ned went to bed that morning at 5:00 AM. By 10:30 AM the same day, he found his friend dead. John hung himself in Ned's garage. He killed himself. My friend thought it was his fault. The thoughts that maybe it was his harshness or maybe that he couldn't empathize enough haunt him.
Ned views it as his fault that his friend killed himself. He views it as his fault that the hospital discharged John even though he urged them to keep him. He even lined up for John to go live with his mom, going as far as to buy his airline ticket... yet it wasn't enough. All because of the faulty system for mental health in Canada.
MENTAL HEALTH IN CANADA AND WORLDWIDE
I share this because the medical system creates a victim mentality. They tell us that if we have mental health issues, it's because of "A," "B," and "C." They tell us that we don't have enough chemicals in our brain and we need help. The types of help they want to give us are medication, psychologists, and a whole psychiatric system. They tell us that we cannot help ourselves. They teach us that our current reality is fixed, that our mindsets have to stay fixed.
The medical system does not teach us to be resilient. It doesn't teach us to take care of ourselves. It doesn't teach us that we can in fact help and take care of ourselves. At least not in any super helpful way. The medical system fails continually, especially when it comes to mental health.
The medical system has this horrible habit of placing those with mental illness in the same triage they place those with cancer in. Cancer is treated as "you have cancer so you get medication, chemo, and it will go away." Mental health is viewed as "oh, just because you're don't feel any joy for life it doesn't mean that you are depressed. You just need to man up and do what you have to in life and you'll feel better." Or even worse, “Take this pill and you’ll be better without changing anything.” It’s not just mental health in Canada that is viewed this way. It’s all over the world.
YOU CAN SHOW UP, EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD.
You have more options than to sit paralyzed by your mind or (worse) kill yourself. It’s hard to move forward when your mental illness actively holds you back. It’s a dance of two steps forward, one step back.
You can do things you can control, such as doing the dishes, folding the laundry, or going outside for a walk. These little, simple things seem like mountains for some. They may not seem like accomplishments, but they are.
We are all snowflakes. What works for you will not necessarily work for me. What works for me won't necessarily work for you. It's time that the medical system started treating anyone with mental illness like real people with real problems. It’s time for us to push forward with the strength we have deep inside us. It’s time for us to fight for our agency, to be seen, heard, and taken seriously. Mental health in Canada isn’t perfect, but we can fight for its importance.
If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or are in crisis, don’t hesitate to call these following numbers.
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or https://kidshelpphone.ca/
Canada Suicidal Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 or https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/
TransLifeline: 1-877-330-6366 or https://translifeline.org/
The Trevor Project (for LGBTQI+ youth): 1-866-844-7386 or https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or https://nami.org/help
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 or https://www.crisistextline.org/text-us/
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-799-7233 or https://www.thehotline.org/
TransLifeline: 1-877-565-8860 or https://translifeline.org/
LGBT National Help Center: 888-843-4564 or https://www.glbthotline.org/national-hotline.html
If you don’t have anyone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me @amy.demone on Instagram!