The Price You Pay

The cost of mental illness is now becoming more of a topic of discussion, as a way to propel the conversation forward due to the large economic costs to our society.

When we talk about it, we talk in terms of lost labour hours and wages, or the cost to our health system. We talk in macro economic terms because the problem is of such great magnitude that it actually can impact our economy. If you Google what mental health costs in Canada, you’ll learn that it costs our economy over $50 billion every year. You’ll learn that the cost of mental illness represents almost 3% of our nation’s GDP.

It’s estimated that 6.7 million Canadians are struggling with their mental health, vs 2.2 million dealing with diabetes and 1.4 million with heart disease (CMHA). Despite mental illness effecting 20% of the population, only 7% of our health care budget is spent on mental health.

But, I’d like to focus on the micro economic costs of mental illness – the costs we don’t talk about that impact how well or how poorly we can line our pockets. Because I’m angry about it. This post is not a happy one, but it’s a necessary one.

We know the numbers on the national impact of mental illness, but what about on an individual basis? How expensive is it?

We need to discuss these concerns, because it’s important that we acknowledge that accessing mental health care in our country is reserved for the privileged. Our public health care system is inadequate, underfunded, and overburdened, leaving those suffering to seek out private care options. Canada boasts being a country with public health care, but the mental health side is largely privatized. This points out one flagrant fact: our health care system does NOT see mental health and physical health as equally important. As a result, far fewer resources are allocated to mental health care and the ratio of needs to resources is grossly disproportionate.

Beyond that, the public health care system only provides support in a couple of very small areas – emergency intervention (hospitalizations) or PRESCRIBING pharmacological support (like anti depressants). A note about pharmacological support – you don’t have to pay for the doctor to prescribe it, but in order to not pay for the pills themselves, you have to have fantastic extended health insurance (so basically private). Personally, these two areas represent less than 10% of my actual mental health care needs. The other 90% is self funded.

So what does that 90% cost? Well, in the past year alone, I’ve spent almost as much of my money on mental health care as I have on rent. I maxed out my extended health converge from work within the first month.

It costs a ton of money – in fact, therapy alone is close to 2x what my annual university tuition was  (and I was in one of the most expensive undergrad programs).

In Ontario, the average income is less than $60,000, which is less than $45k after tax. The running rate for therapy in Ontario is $225 per hour. So if you’re an average person in Ontario and go to therapy weekly, you’re paying $12,000 a year. More than a quarter of your income is going just to therapy. Considering a good insurance plan for that income bracket is $1000 a year for mental health, you are covered for just over one month of the year.

The cost of mental health goes beyond therapy, however. There are costs I incur for physiotherapy and massage therapy, because the physical symptoms of mental illness are very real. That’s another couple thousand bucks a year. Since my illnesses are largely “treatment resistant”, meaning most medication doesn’t actually work for me, not to mention I’ve had horrible side effects from pharmacological support, I’ve had to use a naturopath to find more natural remedies and adjust my diet. So tack on another couple grand. When I do take prescription medication, it can cost hundreds of dollars a month. I remember being in university and being apprehensive about trying a new medication because there was no generic version, so it would cost me $400 a month. This past year I tried a new medication, and a trial of just 6 pills cost $45. Part of me was relieved when it didn’t work because I didn’t know how I would afford it otherwise.

Even without doing a bunch of math, it’s clear that having a mental illness is expensive. In fact, it’s basically unaffordable. And you might be thinking that there are some free programs available to people who really need it, and you’d be right. The issue is that those services are largely inaccessible due to them being over-burdened. Wait times are staggering and it can take over a year just to get an assessment for what programming you’d be eligible for. Then you wait again for a spot to open up in that program. When you’re struggling with your mental health, that wait time can quite literally be a death sentence. It would be like being told you have cancer, but you can’t get chemotherapy for another year, even though waiting could mean you die within that year.

When we find out someone is struggling, our first thought is to reassure them that help is available. But do we ever think about if that help is actually accessible? Do we stop to acknowledge the financial barriers that could get in the way of them getting help? When we tell people to get help, do we recognize that because the cost is so high, they may have to make significant life sacrifices? We shouldn’t have to ask these questions. People shouldn’t have to pick between taking care of their mental health or putting food on the table. In a country with universal health care, we shouldn’t have to open our wallets to buy access to services because the free services become basically useless when they’re inaccessible. But we do.

Until we as a society can finally recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health, we will always have to ask these questions. People will have to spend five digits annually out of pocket to take care of their mental health needs. Until we bolster our services enough to reduce the strain on current infrastructure, people will continue to slip through the cracks.

Keep Surviving by Living.


100 Posts of Surviving by Living

This is my 100th post on SbL. 1700+ days. 25000+ viewers. 85+ Countries. 20+ Collaborations. Two eye-opening projects.

Countless hours of writing. Even more hours of thinking and not writing.

Since launching, I’ve spent 6 days in a psych ward, made two ER trips, attempted suicide once (contemplated more times than I can count), tried 9 different prescription medications, seen more than 7 doctors or specialists, talked to 8 therapists, received 1 additional diagnosis, and had over 150 hours of therapy. Caring for my physical and mental health during this time has cost me over $25,000 out of pocket (and that’s with extended health care coverage/insurance). Every. Single. Penny. was worth it.

What I’m trying to say, is that it’s been a wild ride. And I’m so grateful to all the people that have stuck around for this crazy ride and followed along. And I’m at peace with the people who chose to leave, because they taught me valuable lessons, and were in my life for a reason at the time.

Whether you’ve been the one I go to when I’m upset, or have helped me get out of a funk whether you knew it or not, or even if you just tossed me a “like” on Facebook  every so often, thanks for being there. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for making this “roller coaster from hell” a little more fun and a little less dark. Thank you for showing me that I matter, and not giving up when I don’t believe I matter. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for giving me the platform and space to have my story heard. You’re teaching me that my story deserves to be heard. That I deserve to be heard.

In my very first post, I said I’d be sharing “more of my real story – not sugarcoated, not horribly depressing either” and I hope I’ve done that. I hope that you’ve learned a bit more about what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and more importantly, I hope that you think of your own mental health more.

Pursuing a better mental health state is a lifelong journey – that’s something I’ve learned the hard way. I’ll admit that I thought I could be fixed or cured, and that if I ever wrote a 100th post it would be looking back and saying “damn, what a wild ride. Glad that’s over!” And I’d be lying if I said that a part of me isn’t a little disappointed that the words I wrote in my first post ever, almost five years ago, are still pretty true.

I wrote: “If you ask anyone what type of person I am, common words used to describe me are “Funny”, “Witty”, “Intelligent”… Are these words an accurate depiction of me? Probably. On the outside, at least. Notice how none of those words showed any deeper emotion? I like it that way.

If you really wanted to know me, you would know that I have a tendency to overanalyze everything, my thoughts are my biggest enemy, I am stubborn as hell, and I grapple with mental illness everyday.”

Yep, I’d argue that still sums me up pretty well. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t made a ton of progress. I forget that a lot. I forget how much I’ve grown since I was a scared student who wrote about her mental illness in secrecy from the safety of her bed at 3am. While I may wish that I could have progressed more, and sometimes give myself a hard time for not having made it further, it’s important that I recognize the strides I’ve made.

I’ve transformed over the past five years and really started to own my story. I talk about mental illness to anyone who will listen. I commit my time and energy to teaching others about mental health, and work to reduce stigma and make people a bit more compassionate about these issues. I’ve even worked in the mental health sector, and have been affiliated with a number of different organizations supporting mental health over the years.

I’ve learned that no one has to go through this alone, and there should be no shame in struggling. I’m still learning that it’s okay to admit that I’m not okay and reach out for help. I still face the same demons I faced years ago, I just have a better support system, and know more about myself.

So I hope that these 100 posts have meant something to you. They’ve meant a ton to me. I’ve poured blood, sweat, and yes, even tears, into this process, so that maybe someone out there feels a little less alone. I hope that the words “Surviving by Living” mean more than they did before – that they’re more than three little words. They’re a way of life. They’re a commitment to striving for more than just survival.

Surviving by Living is not just a blog, it’s a promise to demand better for our future, so that we may enable one another to live full, beautiful, wonderful lives that are worth living. Are you surviving? Or are you living?

Here’s to the next 100 posts of Surviving by Living.

For the 100th time, Keep Surviving by Living.

The Pressure of Recovery (and tips to help!)

Some of closest people in my life have seen multiple versions of myself over the years. They knew me before mental illness was a part of my life, they knew me when I was in the thick of my depression and suicide attempts, and they know me now.  If you ask someone about me, they might say how I think I’m really funny (and if they’re in a good mood they’ll admit they think I’m funny too). They’ll probably think about my intelligence, or my love of craft beer, or other parts of myself that I choose to showcase more than others. And despite openly talking about my struggles with mental health, it’s probably not the first thing they see.

I’ve designed it this way. I wouldn’t want to be seen as my mental illness (even though I talk about it literally all the time, sorry pals, I don’t intend to shut up about it anytime soon 🙂 ) .

The issue is that when I talk a lot about the strides I’ve made to get better and recover, people forget about the harsh realities of my mental illness that pop up when I least expect it. They forget the bad days can strike at any time, and they do.  They still seem surprised that so many years later, I’m not “better.”

I’m not better. It doesn’t go away. Even when I’m laughing and smiling and having a good time, it hasn’t gone away completely. I may not be as bad as I once was, but that doesn’t mean I’m good. Just because you don’t need a hat and mitts when it’s not snowing anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need a jacket. We all bundle up after the blizzard too, because it’s still cold out. So I’m not freezing, but I’m still cold. We still see mental illness as something that gets better and goes away, like an infection or cold, and don’t accept that it could be something we live with every day like diabetes or arthritis. We always hope mental illness will go away, yet we never go to someone with diabetes and say “oh, I really hope you beat this soon! You’re so strong, you can do it.” Saying that makes it sounds like if it doesn’t go away, we weren’t strong enough to make it go away.

My friends and family are wonderful, and I love them dearly, but they’re often the ones building that pressure when they ask if I’m better, or tell me how happy they are that I am better. This type of pressure comes from people meaning well, but they actually make me feel guilty about my recovery being a non-linear process.

Now, as you’re reading this you’re probably thinking “shit. I’ve said that.” Don’t worry, I’ve said it too, but here are some shifts in language that I’ve found really supportive and helpful. Here’s a great trick on good days as well – celebrate the wins and accomplishments of the good day, rather than just the good day itself.

Language Shifts on Good Days

“I’m glad you’re better” –> “Sounds like you’ve had a few good days”

“Yay, you’re cured!” –> “I’m so happy you feel the worst is over, I’m here if it’s hard too though.”

“You’re finally better!” –> “I know it’s been a long process, but I’m here for the long haul.”

“Phew, glad that’s behind us.” –> “I know you’ll have ups and downs, and that’s okay.”

“I knew you’d get here if you tried hard enough!” –> “I know how hard you try to have good days, and I know how much harder you have to try on the bad days.”

Basically, you’re just trying to reassure the person that you’re excited for their good days and for the times that they’re better, but you’re also totally okay with sticking around for the bad ones. When I’m feeling better and having a good day, my biggest fear is that it’s not going to last, and that I know I’ll have another bad day again (as we all do, to varying degrees).

I also find it really helpful when my friends point out small wins – a friend and I often do this for each other when we’re having good OR bad days. We recognize accomplishments, regardless of how big or small, and celebrate them. On a bad day it’s something like “YAAASSS, YOU ATE A MEAL!”, and on the good days it might be “YAASS, HIT THE GYM!”. We’re proud of each other both times. When I get treated with the same amount of enthusiasm and respect for what I’m capable of on good days and bad days, I feel less ashamed of the bad days, and less pressure to hide them.

That being said, don’t be the annoying person who acts like the bad days are good, because they’re not. I need my support system to acknowledge how hard it is, and how it’s okay to be sad and scared and upset that I’m having a bad day because it’s really hard.

Language Shifts on Bad Days

“Tomorrow will be better” –> “I know today is really hard, how can I make it a bit better?”

“Just try going to the gym, you’ll feel much better” –> “You’re having a hard day, is there anything that you can think of that might help?”

“I know how you feel.” –> “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

*When you don’t know what to say, so you say nothing* –> “I don’t know what I can say or do to help. Is there anything I can do that would be helpful?”

“it’s just a bad day, don’t worry about it.” –> “I know it doesn’t feel like it, but this will be temporary. You’ve gotten through it before and you will again. Until then, I’m here for you”

“Come out and have a good time! The distraction will help.” –> “Would you be up to coming out if you think a distraction would help? Or I can come over to distract you or talk about it? You’re not alone.”

“Let’s have some fun and get your mind off it.” –> “I’m here to sit with you in the darkness if that would help. If you’d prefer to have fun, we can do that too.”

“Did you forget your meds?” –> Just. Don’t.

“Call your therapist.” –> “Did you want to talk about anything? I know I’m not as good or qualified as your therapist, but I’m willing to listen until you can talk to them.”

“You have to eat” –> “Have you eaten anything? Can I bring something over? I can leave it outside and we don’t even have to see each other if you don’t want company.”

“I hate seeing you like this” or “I hate when you have bad days” –> “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. I wish I could make it easier for you, but it’s totally okay to not be okay sometimes.”

Basically, by not making the person feel bad on their bad days, and showing up to listen, care, and just acknowledge their struggle, you’re removing the pressure for them to be okay all the time.

So here’s the point I want to make: I feel a ton of pressure to be better, and the fact that I’m not better makes me feel really guilty and ashamed sometimes. Actually, most of the time. Recovery (I hate that word) Progress is not linear, so extra good days don’t mean I won’t have extra bad days anymore. Dealing with mental illness doesn’t look like climbing a mountain – it looks a lot more like surfing. I’m working on accepting that being cured or better may not be a reality for me, and that’s okay. I’m becoming okay with it, and I need the people who love me to be okay with it too. It’s not something to be sad about, it’s just how it is. Some people will have depressive episodes and be okay later, and others won’t. Some people will have their anxiety virtually go away completely with the right therapy and meds and coping strategies, and others won’t. It’s okay. It’s okay to have a mental illness, it’s okay to have dealt with a mental illness at one point, it’s okay to struggle with your mental health before, now, or in the future. It’s okay, because we all struggle a bit, some of us more than others. Most of all, it’s okay because we can all love and support each other a bit more to ease that pain even just a tiny bit.

Keep Surviving by Living.

Suicidal Ideation is a Sprained Ankle

CW/TW: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation

People are scared to talk about suicide because it’s a scary thing to think about. And because the only time we talk about suicide is after we’ve lost someone from it. Anthony Bourdain. Kate Spade. Chester Benningfield. Our suicide awareness and discussions come at the expense of being shocked enough to open our eyes.

We see suicide as a point-in-time event, like a strike of thunder or lightening, as opposed to considering it as a lengthy storm. We often hear people say that the attempt “came out of nowhere” and was completely unexpected, but that doesn’t make it true. Whether we could see the signs or not, suicide is often not an impulsive decision. People can be really careful to not show signs of what they’re thinking, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Therefore, if someone survives an attempt, we cannot treat it as a one-off.

When we talk about suicide when the person survives, IF we talk about it, we talk about how they made it through – how they survived and things will be better now. Surviving an attempt means life continues, but the hard work is after the attempt. Surviving an attempt doesn’t mean the pain that caused the attempt disappears. The hard work is rebuilding, or building from scratch, a life we can live. When we see people survive the suicide attempt in movies or TV, that’s the happy ending. It’s not. It’s just the beginning.  It’s what comes after the attempt that we need to lean in closer to, it’s how we all have to band around that person and make their experience a little better.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is how suicidal ideation is for me. Suicidal Ideation is like a sprained or broken ankle, or any big injury really. Have you ever broken a bone or had a bad fracture or sprain? And no matter how much physio you go to or how much you take care of it, it can still hurt sometimes? Maybe the weather changes and you feel that part ache a little more, or you work out too hard and the impact forces you to take a couple extra days of rest before working out again. Sometimes you have flare ups from sleeping funny or not resting enough, sometimes you get flare ups for no reason at all. For me, suicidal ideation is just that. It’s the sprained ankle that will never be the same. And you can still do all the things you did before, like run or play sports or do the things you love, but maybe you’re a little bit more careful. Maybe it’s the first thing to get triggered to indicate that you need a break. I have to be mindful of my “triggers” and take a bit of extra care to avoid flare ups, and avoid unnecessary pain.

What if we treated people who survive suicide attempts the way we treat people after an accident? What if instead of never talking about that “one dark time” that’s finally over, we talk to them about how rehab/therapy is going? What if we reassured them that it’s a process, and it takes time, and there are ups and downs to physio (or therapy)? If we normalized that and didn’t pressure them to be okay overnight? What if we accepted that they will need a brace or supports every now and again, maybe forever? And five or ten years down the road, when our friend complains of shoulder pain from that car accident they had that they were never quite the same after, we offer to hold their bag and slow down. Similarly, if our friend who survived a suicide attempt five or ten years ago mentions that they’ve been having some passive thoughts of suicide, what if after confirming they have no intent to act on it, you just offered to help take some of the weight off by listening?

People are so happy when they hear that I haven’t attempted in almost five years. It’s a great accomplishment, and I’m very grateful for my first, second, and third chances because life has been so worth it. But I can’t remember a time I didn’t have passive suicidal ideation. Passive, meaning I have no intent or plan to act on my thoughts, but they’re just floating around. Not strong thoughts of wanting to die, but fleeting thoughts of being okay with not being here. In my world, I can think about suicide, and not be suicidal. In Frank King’s TED Talks, he says “Let’s say my car breaks down. I have three choices: Get it fixed, get a new one, or I could just kill myself.” It’s so common for me, that I hardly notice it anymore, and of course in King’s example, it’s not the option he is going to go for (personally, I’m rooting for option 2 – new car), but as he says “it’s [suicide is] always on the menu.”

This is usually the part where people get scared and think this is very, very serious, and they’re not wrong because suicide is scary. It is scary. But the reason I’m telling you this is not to be scared, I’m telling you because we need to reframe the way we think of suicide as a single occurrence, and adjust to seeing it as a process. We need to make these conversations okay, because talking about it really, really helps. And if we respond to these conversations with rushing to a hospital or freaking out, we make it unsafe to talk about something big and scary.

Offer love. Offer compassion. Throw judgement out the window. Isn’t that what we should be doing when anyone talks to us about their mental health anyways?

As a caveat, I must add that if you or someone you love is experiencing ACTIVE suicidal thoughts, it’s important to help them get the help they need immediately. Remind them they are not alone.

  1. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
  2. For 24/7 phone support for you or a loved one, call 1-833-456-4566
  3. For youth (<20) texting support, text “TALK” for English and “TEXTO” for French to 686868

Suicide attempts occur in a fleeting moment, but the stuff that led to that moment, and the aftermath of it, is where we need to band together as a community and support each other. We can’t act like surviving an attempt gets rid of the problem, and that someone dying by suicide is always a complete shock.

Look out for your friends, check in with them, make sure they’re okay. And if you have a friend that has attempted, be on the lookout for warning signs, but also be there to listen to what got them there in the first place.

I’m not suicidal. But I experience suicidal ideation. Much more often than I wish I did, but I’m safe and I’m not going anywhere. And people like me shouldn’t have to feel this way alone because it’s scary or uncomfortable for others. It’s scary and uncomfortable for me too. It’s easier when we’re in it together. So just as you’d be there to support your friend with that pesky busted knee from hockey 6 years ago, be there to check in on the friend that “made it out of the woods”. Pause. Listen. Support.

Keep Surviving by Living.



The Funny Side Of Depression

With the tragic news of Robin Williams’ passing, many articles about his shocking suicide have been released. While I am deeply saddened that yet another life has been claimed by such a crippling mental health issue, I feel I am not at liberty to comment on it. Each person’s struggle with depression, suicide and mental illness is profoundly different, and no one can say what he may have been going through, or what caused him to take the final step to take his life. I can only comment on my own experiences, which allow me to identify with many of the comments that have been made about his suicide. One of the articles I actually really appreciated, was one on a typically comedic website that didn’t make comments directly related to his death, but rather used it as a stepstone to spark a very necessary conversation. Aptly titled “Why Funny People Kill Themselves”, the article addresses the facade that many depressed and suicidal people become brilliant at maintaining.

I was that kid; that funny, silly, class clown type that seemed never to have a care in the world. I never took life seriously, and was always in it for the laughs. Thinking back on my childhood, it was the only character I felt I fit, because it was quirky and didn’t have rules about how to act – being a class clown is very “anything goes”. I wasn’t like many of the girls in my class; I hated pink, was uninterested in dolls or fashion, and most certainly was bored by the prospect of discussing cute boys. I never fit in with the boys; for starters, I was a girl, and my awkward clumsiness and lack of athleticism made me a less than ideal candidate to fit in with the “jocks”. I was kind of a nerd, with my high prescription glasses, good grades, and need to be acknowledged positively by my teachers. Yet, I didn’t fit in with the incredibly smart kids either. I was more complicated, more emotional, more inquisitive and some may say mature, but I counteracted that by acting stupid and immature. If I was making people laugh intentionally, then they couldn’t laugh at me. I remember a friend telling me once that they thought I was such a popular kid. I responded by describing my “friends group” as royalty, with my closest girl and guy friends as the Queen and King respectively, and I was the court jester, who no one really cared about and wasn’t royal (popular), but was kept around for the laughs. (more…)

One Year.

One year. It’s been just over one year since my first suicide attempt. People always say a lot can change in a year, and I don’t think I quite realized how much can change in a year until I looked back on this past one. It’s been a year of countless ups and downs – more downs than ups – but some ups nonetheless. As I think back to my first attempt, my heart immediately hurts. Not for myself, but for those around me that I hurt. My depression was not only hard on me, but I know it’s been quite taxing for my friends and family as well. I’m grateful for my incredible support system, and more specifically, I am grateful that I can recognize them as supports, which is something I couldn’t do a year ago.

I don’t like thinking about August and September of 2013; they were the darkest months of my life, yet I know without those struggles I wouldn’t be where I am today. Sometimes I have dreams about the time I spent in the hospital and wake up feeling terrible, because it is something I’m always afraid of happening again. Even a year later there are days where I think of the hospital, or something reminds me of it and I feel physically ill. If I ever have to enter a hospital, for whatever reason, I hesitate and feel more shaky than usual. I absolutely hate hospitals, ambulances, sirens, or anything that reminds me of my experiences, yet they are a huge part of who I am today. I don’t want to think about what happened to me, or what I almost did, but it’s an unavoidable fact, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed that I have a mental illness and I’m not ashamed to admit that I desperately needed help, and that sometimes I still need help. (more…)

The Selfishness of Suicidal Tendencies

Before I was even diagnosed with depression, and before I really knew anything about depression or suicidal thoughts, other than the very mild tendencies I had in junior high, I had a conversation with one of my classmates. We weren’t very close, but happened to have lunch together with a mutual friend. We somehow got onto the topic of suicide, a topic I never dared to even think of discussing out loud. She seemed quite passionate about it, although she didn’t know anyone who had attempted, and was especially adamant that suicide is selfish. I absolutely did not agree, but wanted to hear her out a bit more. She went on to spew many myths people have about those who are suicidal – suicide is a cop out, it’s selfish, people who attempt suicide think of no one except themselves, and so on and so forth.

I didn’t argue the opposite side very well, and simply said that I didn’t agree, and that I thought suicide was far from selfish but was too timid to argue that idea well. It may be too little too late, but I’d like to clearly state that in my opinion, suicide is anything but selfish. I can completely understand why people, especially suicide survivors (people who have lost someone to suicide) think that suicide is incredibly selfish, and that those who choose that route are completely inconsiderate and self absorbed. (more…)

Don’t Pull The Trigger

One of the main things I’ve noticed through my journey with depression, is that there are tons and tons of websites about it. This is excellent news, because people can participate in forums, blog or post about their journey and the internet has made finding support so much easier.

The issue, however, is that these sites are almost always monitored, and there are strict rules about what you can and cannot post. Of course it’s good to foster a positive and inspiring environment, but it doesn’t give an accurate picture about the raw, nitty-gritty stuff. People who run these sites are concerned about triggering people struggling with depression – every raw post must have a disclaimer saying there are triggers within the post, or sometimes it just won’t get posted for being too much of a trigger risk. Yes, we are dealing with a very volatile and serious situation, where small things can be triggers, but it still needs to be discussed, because when I read “triggering” posts, I kept thinking “Yes! I agree! This is so accurate!”, as opposed to the lovely sugar coated posts that say absolutely nothing, where I felt like people weren’t being truthful about how dark and ugly mental illness can be. When I was interviewed about my struggle with depression, and held absolutely nothing back, I also included a disclaimer stating it was much more intense than anything I had said before, but it needed to be said. Part of the reason mental illness is so prevalent is because we don’t talk about it! We don’t say “you know what, you had a rough go at it and dark stuff happened like contemplating or attempting suicide, but lets’ discuss it”. People aren’t afraid to say the word “heart attack” or “stroke” or “aneurism”, but people are terrified to say “suicide”. It’s as if saying it is as bad as swearing. Suicide is a serious epidemic that needs to be brought to light – it’s not Voldemort, where we need to skirt around saying the actual word.

If I asked you, “what is associated with Breast Cancer?” I’m sure every single person could say that it is a pink ribbon. What is the symbol for suicide awareness? Or mental illness awareness? Could you answer that? If so, congratulations, you’re one of very few. This is a serious issue, considering suicide is the number one cause of violent illness worldwide (close to 50%), and a person dies from suicide every 40 seconds, which means that in the time it takes your Keurig to make you a cappuccino, 1 person has died from suicide.

Here are some other hard-hitting facts that most people don’t know: Within 5 years, mental illness is going to be the second leading cause of premature death (after heart disease). At any point in time, 15% of Canadian children or youth (under 18) have a mental illness, and 1/5 people aged 15-24 have a mental illness or substance abuse problem. Some say the onset of mental illness can be as early as age 7! Even with these astounding facts, Canada only designates about 7% of health funding to mental illness, even though over 20% of the population is directly suffering from one.

Even though 80% of people respond very well to treatment (therapy or pharmacological), 2 out of 3 won’t ever get help for their mental illness and 90% of people with depression won’t seek help. Over 50% of people report experiencing a stigma from friends, family or other groups as a result of revealing they have a mental illness. Suicide accounts for 24% of deaths among people aged 15-25, which is close to 1 in 4.

According to a British Columbia study of 15,000 Grade 7 – 12 students: 
Those who knew of someone who had attempted or died of suicide: 34%

Had, themselves, seriously contemplated suicide: 16%

Had made a suicide plan: 14%

Had attempted suicide: 7%

Had to have medical attention due to an attempt: 2%


Despite all these astounding facts, with the prevalence of mental illness increasing at an astounding rate, there is not nearly enough being done about it. Therapy from a psychologist or counsellor or therapist, is not covered by most drug plans. Psychiatrist visits are sometimes covered, or partially covered, but the waiting lists to see a psychiatrist are way too long. Drugs like SSRI’s or SNRI’s, which are the most popular for treating depression and anxiety disorders, are seldom covered by basic drug plans, and can be quite expensive for those who need them the most. 70-90% of people who are unemployed have a mental illness.

Based on these facts, it is extremely important that we not only increase awareness about mental illness, but we take it a step further and talk about it without filtering the severity or ugliness of it, because it is the only way to help this epidemic. You can’t solve a problem that is never openly discussed. This issue is becoming bigger and bigger, and it’s time to step up and allow those suffering to speak up without being ostracized or accused of triggering someone else.

All facts taken from The Mood Disorders Society of Canada Quick Facts

Keep Surviving by Living.

Mark Henick – A Brilliantly Articulate Man

Mark Henick spoke at TedX Toronto 2013, an event my sister played a role in organizing. Both my father and sister saw this Ted Talk and immediately messaged me saying I had to see it. I watched it when the video was put up online, and was shocked at how accurate, honest and raw it was.