Friday, October 07, 2005

Are you mental ?

This past week I attended a conference entitled "Living with Mental Illness".
I thought it would be an interesting topic for an article, but I wasn't prepared for the effect the main speaker would have on me.

His name is William J. MacPhee, he publishes four magazines concerning mental health, and he himself is a diagnosed schizophrenic. His own classification was that of an "acute" case, and the brief historical data available on the disease, indicated a more favorable outcome than those that have the "gradual" type, can often realize. In fact, since his lengthy battle with his illness, the former commercial diver has become a husband, a father of three, and a successful publisher. He still has to take an injection every four weeks, and most likely will have to continue to do so for the remainder of his life - there is no known cure - but by all standards he is a productive individual who enjoys a quality of life few do.

He spoke of his life, his illness, and the need for active and vibrant advocacies for mental health causes, much like the Aids movement has.

He was engaging and thoughtful, and in turn had the audience respond in kind. This speech caused me to think about mental illnesses in a new way. It seems almost as if every group you can think of has pushed for a public awareness day, concerning their agenda; Gay Rights, M.A.D.D, Aids, Secretaries Day, etc., Now almost every cause has a legitimate reason for not only being, but also continuing, yet I can't help but come to some certain obvious conclusions.

We are not all gay, we are not all women, or men. We do not all drink, nor do we all drive. We do not all share the same language(s), or live in the same regions, but we do all have intellect. We all have a brain, and we can all be overcome by an illness that is brought on not by any action we take ourselves, but because we are genetically predisposed to it. It therefore seems, to me at least, that aside from being respectful to each other and allowing each other to live in peace, we should endeavour to give ourselves the gift of mental health. We have only scratched the surface at to what our brains are capable of, and what can cripple it. It has been statistically claimed that at least 20 per.cent of society will suffer a form of mental illness, in their lifetime.

Isn't it time we remove the social stigmas still attatched to matters of the mind? Maybe a campaign that makes fighting mental illness as paramount as fighting terrorism? Or as noble as fighting Aids? Whatever it takes, it will take us all, because in the end whether directly (ourselves, our families) or indirectly (our friends, our neighbours) it will touch us all.


Anonymous wendy said...

Darcy, I didn't get the chance to attend that conference, but last year i went to the Low-beer memorial lecture with Amy Long as the guest speaker. She was absolutely phenomenal. A former consumer who's been failed by the system, she's now a psychiatric nurse advocating a revolution both inside the walls of mental institutions and throughout society as a whole. Her passion was contagious. If ever a single person has inspired me to pursue social advocacy journalism, it was her.

I wrote a feature about her for the Concordian (be warned, the editors did quite the hackjob on it.)

It's a damn shame that in a society that allegedly preaches tolerance for its previously stigmatized members, the mentally ill and the elderly are still relegated to the cobweb-ridden corners. Those two groups really are the last "pink elephants" of society.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Darcy O'Brien said...

Wendy. I'm afraid you are right on the money. It's beyond disgusting when a nation like ours pontificates over the actions/inactions of other nations, while not taking care of its own backyard.

7:41 PM  

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