This week has been Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week. I’ve seen a lot of excitement about it online – there has never been a time in history where so much emphasis has been put on our health. That said, a Google search of “health” provides an overwhelming amount of information on nutrition, disease, fitness, weight loss, and anti- aging. What doesn’t come up is mental health. Mental health is so critical to living a good, healthy life – and it needs to take its important place in conversations around health.
I don’t have autism, and up until ten years ago, I can honestly say I understood very little about autisms or the lives of families who have children affected by autism. There was a boy in my daughter’s grade three class who was non-verbal, had some severe behaviours and spent very little time in her actual class. I would try to communicate with him in the school yard as he often arrived late for class as did my daughter and me.
Four years ago, I shared my struggles with anorexia and disordered eating by writing a book, Unsinkable. Journalists in the following weeks expressed disappointment that another athlete had an eating disorder. They had held me up as a strong woman who went after her dreams, and suddenly I was sharing one of my weaknesses.
Last night I was putting my stepdaughter to bed, when she ran downstairs and frantically opened every cupboard in the front entrance looking for two flashlights.
Once she found the two flashlights, she moved them to another drawer, aligning them meticulously. When she was satisfied they were aligned perfectly, she closed the drawer and went happily to bed.
Here is a thought. Until we can see ourselves in the mentally ill we will not stand up and fight for better care, increased awareness, and greater funding. As long as we stand to one side and not recognize that we are all vulnerable, that mental illness can happen to any one of us, we will not find the will or the resources to help those in our community suffering with mental illness.
My heart swells when I read about the youth of Attawapiskat and the recent suicide pact that was thwarted by the quick actions of police, local services and community. I am the mother of four teenagers ranging from 16 to 20 yrs old. These teen years are tricky ones. I have only to look at my 6 ft “7” boy who most definitely looks like a man, and I think, yes, he is almost a man.
I get excited about Bell Let's Talk day. It's a day when we give ourselves permission to have open conversations about mental illness. Kudos to Clara Hughes and the team who championed this initiative from the start, and in a few short years pried the conversation about mental health wide open.
It took vision and courage to create this national campaign at a time where very few high-profile Canadians were talking about mental illness. It still takes courage to talk about mental illness.
My kids have all returned to school, and with them their friends, their boyfriends, and the happy high paced days and long nights of holiday with teenagers. Teenagers do not sleep the same hours as us adults, and trying to keep up with their zany schedule is as futile as it is exhausting. Irritatingly, it is often the late night conversations with teenagers that are the most rewarding, those conversations where they share a little bit about what is going on in their life, the observations they are making about friends and choices, the plans they have for the future.
As a speaker, a writer and advocate for healthy kids, I make my life in the business of communication. As a NLP Master Practitioner and Life Coach, I pay attention to the words people chose to express their ideas and emotions, and I am careful of the language I use to express my own. I am a voracious reader, and it is normal for me to have nine or ten books going at once. Words matter to me.
Last night dozens of athletes were reaching out to Mike Spracklen as they heard the startling news of his very public firing from his position of men’s coach at Rowing Canada. Mike Spracklen is a legend in our sport, and to the athletes he led over several decades in this country, he played a pivotal, positive role in their lives. To so many of the athletes Mike coached, the firing is deeply personal. Kevin Light, 2008 Olympic Gol