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Pacific Autism Family Network – Stigma-Free Zone with Ambassador Lucas Gates

Pacific Autism Family Network is the first charity in Canada to be working toward their Stigma-Free Zone designation.

They have a team of Stigma-Free Champions that includes Lucas Gates, Ambassador, Laura Lombardi, Vice President, Foundation and additional staff members with the support of Co-Founders Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia.

The Stigma-Free Society is excited to be working with this very effective organization and having all of the Stigma-Free Zone criteria complete in the upcoming months.

 

Children’s Mental Health Program

“Is mental health when your tooth hurts?”, this is one of the endearing answers I received when talking to grade 4’s about mental health and stigma.

While I love talking to teens and adults, the elementary kids I speak to since launching our Children’s Mental Health Presentation Programming have a special place in my heart. Grade 4 is the age when I started experiencing my own mental health challenges. I went from a happy kid who loved school and soccer and anything creative to one of the many people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD.

Many people are shocked to learn that elementary school kids often struggle with their mental health. Aren’t they too young to be depressed? Shouldn’t they just be worrying about life on the playground? Well… like anything mental health related, it happens a lot more than we’d care to think.

But hey… that’s okay! The moment we take away the stigma associated with mental health and teach kids from an early age that it’s just as acceptable to talk about a sprained ankle or a sore tummy, we can equip them with the tools they need to take care of themselves and to reach out for help when they need it.

Even as a ten-year-old I somehow sensed that the intrusive thoughts and painfully time-consuming compulsions I was experiencing weren’t “normal” and were something I shouldn’t talk about. Because of the lack of education and awareness around mental health then, I kept my burden a secret. I still had good grades, I was still “achieving”, but I was also deeply suffering.

When we add stigma to mental health challenges, it’s a scary obstacle that is hard to face. But when we strip away the shame and silence that give it power, mental health issues are just like any other challenge—hard at times, but surmountable. And like any challenge, if treated with the right care and compassion, a person can transform that pain into empathy and strength.

Program Summary: Click HERE

 

 

Blog Author, Robyn Thomas, Children’s Mental Health Education Program Presenter

Program Funded by the Edith Lando Foundation

Natalie’s ‘Coming Out’ Story…

So I guess this is my ‘Coming Out’ story, as I have spent the past few years battling with my identity; the illness vs me. Now it’s time to come clean to my wider circle of friends and family, and perhaps to myself as well.

The signs of bipolar were always there, a diagnosis merely highlighted the facts. I was often met with the label of ‘too intense’, ‘hypersensitive’, and in some cases just pure ‘crazy’. The lookers and pointers where always quick to tell me something was wrong, but until I decided to realize it for myself, everything was just ‘fine’; fine with roller coaster highs and fine with lows that could not be reasoned with. Until now.

Now I stand proud with my bipolar label.

What does this mean for me? A bipolar diagnosis sheds light on some of my past thoughts and actions and it now puts my future into perspective. I take daily medications and use self-care strategies. I work on a colour-coded mood scale, that depicts my darkest and brightest states. I never thought I would be so at home with a label, a chart, even an identity, but you see bipolar is not my identity, it is deep rooted in who I am as a person. A person full of love, happiness, creativity and excitement. Someone who, with the aid of said colour-coded-chart, can pin point her mood at any given time and proactively see the potential pitfalls coming her way and react to them accordingly.

Coming to terms with, and accepting this illness has been by far my hardest task to date – even given some of my most intense episodes and hospitalizations. The realization that there is a manageable life to this eternal illness and having the strength to push on with, and uphold the strategies I need to stay in a safe place, has been nothing less than an epiphany.

So here I stand, guilty of the highs that send me into psychosis and allow me to talk to god, as well as the lows that dig a bigger hole than a JCB excavator! I no longer anguish over the past, but instead, look forward to the future. I now know I can take each day for what it is with the help of some very strong and supportive family members, friends and helpful local organizations such as Stigma-Free Zone. I have returned to University in a bid to learn this illness inside out, I continue to hold down a job and care for my four-legged friend Sandy the Chiweenie (although she may well be the caregiver). I recognize the difference between self-care and selfishness and continue to grow as a person, each and every minute.

I’d never wish this illness upon anyone, but for now I am happy to say it is very much a part of me.

I am Natalie, a daughter, a friend, a lover, and I proudly manage, not struggle, with a disorder called Bipolar 1. I am Natalie, and I have bipolar.

Jenny’s Inspiring Story – The Impact of the Teens2Twenties Support Group

JennySeven years ago, I met Andrea Paquette and seven years ago, she and the Bipolar babe Teens2Twenties program saved my life.

Back then I wasn’t who I am today. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of seven years old and it was at that age that I first attempted to commit suicide. Even being this young I knew I didn’t want to live because the feelings I had were too strong and I couldn’t understand how everything could be so painful. I thought life would always be that way and it started a very self-destructive cycle that took years to break.

Over the next several years I would be shuffled from foster home to foster home, my mental health would deteriorate rapidly and unfortunately, I would begin to normalize abusive situations. I developed a serious eating disorder, drug addiction and would go through various intense psychotic episodes which would result in hospitalizations due to my Bipolar Disorder.

Over the years, I would be hospitalized repeatedly due to self-harm. At my worst, I received forty-seven staples for self-inflicted wounds just to be released from the hospital and given no help what so ever, I was told I was a lost cause by doctors, nurses, friends and family.

When I aged out of foster care, I was put on permanent disability and was not expected to ever recover. My case was “difficult” and I wasn’t reacting to therapy and medication properly so I felt there was no way I would ever escape the torture that I was feeling on a day to day basis. I was unable to work, go grocery shopping, fill out forms or do normal day to day tasks such as cooking or cleaning. If I opened my eyes and reality set in, I would start crying and take more pills to fall asleep because being awake hurt too much.

At 20 years, old I met Andrea and I had no idea that it would change my life, she and the Society gave me purpose and a community ofshutterstock_126377570-2 people I could relate to. She gave me work and volunteer experience, she provided me with tons of resources such as guidance on how to assess proper psychiatric care, counseling and I attended the Teens2Twenties Support Group over the years. She eventually hired me as a group facilitator for the Society’s Women’s Group, supported my art and mostly importantly supported me. She and the Society saved my life.

Now I’m twenty-seven, I’ve gone to school full time and I currently work at a hair salon with the position of assistant manager and advanced stylist. I no longer suffer from psychotic episodes and my Bipolar Disorder is considered to be in stable condition, I no longer self-harm, I recovered from my drug addiction and eating disorder. I sell my art, volunteer, practice yoga and dance and I’m a very active part of my community.

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Andrea, she and her Society literally saved my life and all I want is for others like me to have the chance I did!

Jenny

From Partying to Peace with Bipolar Disorder

From Partying to Peace with Bipolar Disorder

I was born on October 7th 1991; I was my parents’ first child and they were happily expecting me. They obviously had no idea what life had in store for them. From birth you could tell there was something different about me, I would constantly cry for hours and for no apparent reason. By 2 years old, I’d refused to sleep every night because I wanted to play. My parents took me many times to see the family doctor, but he said I was just a crying baby and as I grew older, it would get better. Years went by and things just got harder as I couldn’t make any friends in school because I wouldn’t fit in anywhere. In grade twelve the ‘friends’ I thought I had turned their backs on me and threatened me daily. They even came to my house at night, while my parents were gone on vacation, wearing ski masks knocking on my doors. That was a week before my prom, no wonder I refused to attend.

The Party Scene and Addiction

Finally, once out of school I made new, older friends quickly; they were into alcohol. I loved alcohol; it seemed to drown everything away so quickly. Almost nightly, I would attend a bar or a club to drink, everything seemed so much better that way. I started experimenting with drugs and I became very addicted. To me, those pills were like magic and giving me super powers. It gave me the ability to dance all night and to lose weight at the same time. I lived on pills for a few months but wanted to try something different. When I started hanging out with a new crowd of friends I was able to put my hands on some very dangerous drugs. Heroin became my best friend; I loved it so much in fact I overdosed twice within a month. But after the second time, I realized how lucky I was to survive and decided to sober up forever, and to this day I remain clean & sober. However, after a few years my life was just not getting any better, my head was in a very dark place, and I had my first suicide attempt. I went to the hospital, never saw a doctor but got diagnosed by a resident. We talked for only 20 minutes and he told me I had ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’. He said there were no medications but only therapy. So, I followed Group Therapy and Individual Therapy every week but things never seemed to get better. My ups and downs weren’t going away and I was always acting out on impulse.

Finding Peace with Bipolar Disorder

Three long years later my boyfriend and I moved into our first home together, Within months, I found this amazing family doctor who took the time to listen to me and finally diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder. I have been off work for 6 months and I am working towards my future. I take daily medications and follow weekly therapy and I can tell you, the difference is like black and white. I had no idea what it was like to go through life without all those ups and downs but I now am in control of my emotions, living peacefully.

All this to say; whoever you are and wherever you are, don’t give up. This life has so much to offer, but you have to be willing to make some sacrifices and tough decisions.  You have to keep your head up, there’s a reason why you’re still here. Somebody out there is willing to listen to you and you have to keep searching! Some people don’t understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of a mental health illness; it’s like not being diagnosed and treated for a broken foot and you need the right support to heal from your suffering. I believe you can’t live peacefully with an untreated mental illness, but in turning my own life around, I know now that total peace is possible. Thanks for reading, Sophie 🙂

 

CAMIMH Faces of mental illness bell lets talk

Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) – Faces of Mental Illness Campaign Sponsored by Bell Let’s Talk

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) has announced the four Canadians selected for its annual Faces of Mental Illness campaign. CAMIMH received dozens of nominations, the most ever, from across the country of people living in recovery from mental illness.

Over the next year, the Faces will take part in events to educate Canadians about the realities of living with mental illness, and the effects that mental health has on the lives of all Canadians. The Faces of Mental Illness campaign is sponsored by Bell Let’s Talk. The stories of the Faces of Mental Illness will be featured on posters and postcards distributed to Canadians across the country. Also, they will participate in a national media outreach campaign as well as mini-documentaries which will be shared with federal policymakers at a marquee event on the Hill during Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), October 2 – 8. Spreading Awareness, Reducing Stigma is the theme of MIAW this year.

The 2016 Faces of Mental Illness are:

Andrea Paquette: After suffering greatly from her bipolar disorder, Andrea got help and decided to inspire others to share their personal stories by creating a website called http://bipolarbabes.com. With the launch of the website, she created supportive and impacting programs and founded the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia, which is now named the Stigma-Free Society. Andrea encourages others to change their attitudes towards mental illnesses by explaining that while people can have a mental illness, they are not defined by their condition.

Samuel Breau: An engaged leader and advocate since a young age, Samuel’s journey towards recovery began during university. After moving from rural New Brunswick to Ottawa and facing the high expectations from school, scholarships and peers, Samuel became aware that he may be living with a mental illness, and subsequently sought treatment for a generalized anxiety disorder. Today, Samuel combines professional and personal experiences to deliver powerful messages that seek to reduce stigma and promote psychological health and wellness for all.

Dexter Nyuurnibe: An African-Canadian mental health advocate who understands the importance of breaking the gender stereotypes that define masculinity in order to erase the stigma associated with mental illnesses. He’s shared his story many times, having presented a TEDx talk and at a joint session of the World Bank and W.H.O in Washington, D.C. He continues to speak up about his experiences of suffering from dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder and recovery.

Stéphanie Fontaine: Stephanie understands the struggles of coping with a mental disorder, having bipolar disorder. Her successful experience in corporate workplaces while fighting towards recovery makes for a hopeful story. She put aside her career as an actuary to join Revivre, a non profit organization supporting self-management for people with anxiety and mood disorders in the province of Quebec. She reaches out to the public to make others aware not only that anybody can suffer from a mental illness, but also that anyone can recover from it.

To learn more about the campaign, or to order campaign materials, please visit http://www.camimh.ca. CAMIMH would like to thank their generous sponsors who make this campaign possible: Bell Let’s Talk, Lundbeck Canada Inc., The Mental Health Commission of Canada, Innovative Medicine’s Canada, and Impact Public Affairs.

For more information, please contact: Charlotte Webber Communications and Public Relations 613-233-8906 charlotte@impactcanada.com

 

Bipolar Disorder Society of BC – 2016 Annual General Meeting

The Bipolar Disorder Society of BC Requests Your Support & RSVP Today to Confirm you will join us!

Please RSVP Today for our One-Hour Annual General Meeting!

Hi everyone, Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe here! I know it is summer and many of us are out enjoying the sun, but I was hoping you could spare one hour of your time to attend our brief Annual General Meeting. 🙂

We are required  to have an Annual General Meeting once a year with an adequate number of members to maintain our charitable status. We are requesting one-hour of your time and we will have many refreshments for you! We would love to share our very exciting developments with you and appreciate your support over the years!

Date: Monday August 15th @ 6:30pm, Doors open at 6pm

Location of AGM:
Camosun College, Lansdowne Campus,
Fisher Building, Room 100, Lecture Hall
3100 Foul Bay Road, Victoria BC

See you there an thank you for all that you do to support our impacting work in the community! 🙂