Sidney and I connected through LinkedIn a few months ago over one commonality: we are both passionate about being a Mental Health Advocate, and will have the tough conversations needed to drive change. When I approached him about IMPACT@Work, he was eager and open to share, and genuinely wants to make a change in the world. His story is one that many people share, and it is a story that we need to collectively work to change so that no one else is forced to feel like they have to hide.
My first experience with negative remarks towards my mental health issues was in 1988 while I was working in Ottawa.
While in hospital to discover exactly the diagnosis of what I had, it was determined at that time I suffered from ADHD. This devastated me. I was scared to tell my employer and when I finally did, the response was less then acceptable.
The management labeled me crazy. Some of my co-workers called me dumb, stupid, and I felt like an outcast.
Brad McKay is a retired veteran with 33 years of service with York Regional Police. Brad co-created the York Region Critical Incident Stress Management Team in 1996 where he holds a position as advisor to the executive and alumni team lead. Brad started the Operational Stress Injury Prevention and Response Unit for the York Regional Police and lead the creation the Peer Support Team there in 2014. As a Certified Trauma Services Specialist, Brad has responded to and coordinated over a thousand interventions for front line responders and their families. He leads Trauma Recovery Groups, provides peer support in a weekly first responder yoga program, provides clinically supervised peer support. Brad is a Team Lead, for the Peer and Trauma Support Systems with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. He recently co-authored “Walk the Talk” a peer support systems guide with Syd Gravel.
Last week I read an article discussing the differences between identifying as BEING mentally ill, as opposed to HAVING a mental illness. I don’t think I had ever really thought about how different the two terms are, but subconsciously I always did. When someone asked me what was wrong with me, more often than not I would say “I have major depressive disorder” or “I have depression” as opposed to “I am depressed”. There are of course times where I have said that I am depressed, but I always chose to say I have an illness. I’m not sure why, I suppose in my mind, it made it less my fault to say I have something, than to say I am something. I am not my mental illness. I am not depression. Depression is a huge part of my life, that has changed every single aspect of my life, especially the parts I never wanted it to touch, but it doesn’t make me my illness. I know that saying “I am depressed” doesn’t mean that I am my illness, or that it defines me completely, but it’s just easier to say that I have it. I feel like it disconnects me from my depression to say I simply have it, rather than I am depressed. The article went on to reiterate the sentiments I am currently expressing, about how people choose to identify as having a mental illness over saying “I am XYZ”. It got me thinking about how depression is the one that flip flops the most, in the sense that it’s quite common to hear “I am depressed” and “I have depression”. Funnily enough, depression is the weirdest one, because saying “I am depressed” or “I am SO depressed” holds LESS weight than “I have depression”. Why? People loosely use the term depression to just express sadness, such as “Ugh, I’m so depressed because Forever 21 didn’t have that jacket I’ve been wanting for forever in my size.” or even just saying “Ya, I’m just so depressed today”, when you really may not actually be depressed. Whereas saying “I have depression” actually means that you have the illness, and aren’t just saying you’re depressed. So then I started thinking about other mental illnesses that people have, and which one you hear people say more. (more…)