I just finished my second commissioned painting of another lighthouse. The process of completing this painting was what I described as being, a spiritual experience, because of the state of my mental health over the past few weeks, which have been somewhat challenging, as I was feeling anxiety, stress and some depression. Fortunately for me, these episodes never last long, and things always get better.
I have often thought about mental illness throughout the years, because I was personally affected by it at a young age in my own family. Being a recovering alcoholic I have had my time of mental illness, or me being out in orbit, as I call it.
Lately there have been several items in the media about the treatment of those affected by mental illness and how it is often stigmatized, cloaked in shame and fear.
Many of my loved ones and close friends that experienced mental illness where hospitalized, imprisoned, or tragically succumbed to suicide.
My loving, tenderhearted, creative, and late husband, whom I met in Toronto at the Young Street Mission, an outreach for street youth, was a writer. He lost his battle with schizophrenia at the young age of twenty six in 1980. He had been diagnosed at sixteen years of age. Through out his young life, writing had always been his solace, his refuge and light during the storms of his life, that helped him find his way.
I have always been very grateful for having creativity to be the same for me, whenever I experienced times of depression or grief. It is a powerful healing balm for the spirit.
I am not usually a person likely to post recent bills passed in the government halls of the Canadian parliament, and then write in a blog post expressing what I think about them, in relation to how they affect me or others. I am going to take exception to this because it has been weighing on my heart and I felt compelled to share my thoughts, and experience.
Recently I read an article in the National Post where the retired Senator and past chair of the Mental Health Commission, Michael Kirby addressed this issue, where he expressed that the mental health system is turning prisons into the 21st century asylums for those suffering from mental illness. Michael Kirby himself was personally touched by the death and suicide of his own son, and who suffered with mental illness. Undoubtedly I'm certain this experience caused him to become a dedicated mental health advocate.
Having worked with many youth at high risk in care, with a myriad of mental health and addiction issues, I've seen how many of these youth fall between the cracks, as a result of insufficient support and treatment available to them and their families. So often these youth go on to adult correctional facilities. As a volunteer in provincial prisons, I have met up with some of these same youth, I once worked with, in open and closed custody, years prior to them becoming adult offenders. I attribute their incarceration directly to the lack of support and treatment available to them as youth and children and for their families.
Bill C-54 will directly affect how those with mental illness are perceived and the increased amount of time incarcerated when criminally charged.
The Schizophrenia Society of Canada has spoken out about the proposed changes in this bill and I believe addresses many important factors and concerns.
I am happy to see more people, especially in the public eye, speaking openly and candidly about mental health, as it has been long over due. It gives the much needed hope for those of us affected by mental illness and for a world so in need of hope.
I am reminded of a time many years ago when I went into a local coffee shop. There was an endearing young punk rocker behind the counter waiting on me. He was wearing a button that said, " Hope For The Hopeless". I thought to myself, thank God for that and that will be my mantra!