Mental health has affected my life. How has it affected yours?

Cathy is thriving with the support of her work at Out of This World Cafe.

Every time I go to the Out of This World Café, I get more than a good cup of coffee, I get to visit what feels like the heart of the CAMH campus. It’s buzzing with staff, patients and people from the neighbourhood. The last time I was there, Cathy was in the thick of it all. As I sat and waited for my meeting to start, I kept thinking it was great to see her in action. She’s confident, chats with customers and is always smiling — thriving, really.

Like Cathy, I believe that workplaces like Out of This World are vital. They provide safe spaces where people can be themselves, feel accepted and be understood. Cathy says her job is a lifeline. One thing I imagine for our city is more organizations working together to create lifelines like this one.

Last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week. Our friends at CAMH launched a campaign to remind us that even though lots of people struggle with poor mental health, we tend to minimize its impact. It was an important reminder to be more mindful, accepting and empathetic.

The thing is, everyone’s life is touched by mental illness in some way, including mine. I have family members and friends who, like Cathy, suffer from depression. Not only does it affect their ability to live their lives, it touches everyone around them.

The causes of mental illness have deep roots. They’re complex and often connected to things like inadequate income, education and social supports. That’s why a lot of United Way’s work involves trying to improve those conditions. As Saleem reminded us, there is so much more to well-being than having a healthy body. And healthy people make communities around them stronger.

Over the next few weeks, this blog will focus on how we can build strong communities and make people across Toronto healthier. We’re going to start by talking about mental health services.

I’d like to invite you to reflect on your experience with mental illness and share with us. How has mental illness touched your life?

2 thoughts on “Mental health has affected my life. How has it affected yours?

  1. About 4 years ago I was under a lot of stress. My husband was out of work. I was only working part-time and we were barely able to make ends meet. We found ourselves slipping further and further into debt and it was a scary time. I thought I was fine. That I was coping. But then I started to feel light-headed, I got muscle-twitches and cramps that would wake me up at night. Most nights, I couldn’t sleep for more than three hours at a time. I developed migraines – I would rarely get headaches before. It was awful and scary and one of the worst times of my life. When I went to see my doctor about my strange collection of symptoms, she questioned if I was maybe suffering from the effects of stress. I thought she was just brushing me off. But it turned out she was right. The real battle began when I started to look for help. It was so frustrating. We had no money to pay for me to even see someone to find out if I was suffering from depression, stress, anxiety, something else. The waiting list to see a MD who practices therapy (which meant it was covered by OHIP) were years long. I was desperate, feeling more and more out of control and without lifeline. But I was lucky. I found the name of a doctor who was able to take me because of a cancellation in her roster of patients. She saved my life, I think. General Axiety Disorder was my diagnosis. I hated it at first. Feeling like I was somehow flawed for suffering from it. I mean, come on, I’m educated, accomplished, I had a good job, I was a mother and a wife and a friend and a sister and I was handling it all! Wasn’t I? Not so much. She helped me more than I can say and still does. But I can’t imagine what I would have done had she not called me back. I think about all those people who can’t find help and are so desperate, like I was. I know they’re out there. What kind of city do I imagine? One where no one ever has to wonder who to turn to. One where there are supports for people like me. And there are a lot of us. Maybe even you…

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