Henry Miller is famously quoted as saying:
“the tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face. Thousands and thousands of us, and we’re passing one another without a look of recognition.”
It’s common knowledge that One in five people in Canada experience mental health problems in their life time and the problem is we choose to ignore the suffering that exists and instead concentrate on ridicule and scorn instead of open discussion.
Instead of thought were quick to prosecute and judge without rational discourse as if ignoring problems makes everything better. Unfortunately, that’s non sequitur reasoning devoid of rectifying the problem, and without the benefit of a strong mental health association that provides a true network to support people with problems. Why does this concern me? Probably because of my own past experience dealt in a system that has limited resources or assistance to cope with actually helping anyone and this is my attempt to address those concerns.
Recently I read an article on the globe and mail and have looked over Michael Kimber’s blog and after reading what Mrs Kimber has had to say I felt compelled to articulate my own sentiments on the subject, and hopefully express who I am as a person to someone who is willing to listen, so I could eliminate or decrease the stigma generally associated with People with mental health problems, because if you believe that blacks, homosexuals, religious minorities and the physically disabled should have their voices justifiably heard, then it should only be fair that those who have an alternative mental condition, be given the same chances and opportunities to express themselves and their concerns as anyone else.
There is a belief among the public that if you have no outward signs of physical limitations, then you are perfectly well, that whatever symptoms manifested stemming from an internal malaise are inventions of a theatrical or narcissistic personality, that keeping things to yourself will make everything better and the world will somehow function without the need to talk.
There is also a perception that if you are “mentally ill”, then you are threat to the general populace of society, and are considered violent or have a severe cognitive deficiency which impairs their ability to reason or critically think correctly and are “subhuman” and are marginalized and put into corners.
As someone who has been diagnosed as having high functioning autism called Asperger Syndrome I’ve spent most of my life hiding behind attempts to be normal or living behind walls just so that I could maintain the idea that I can fit, but have felt drowned in my attempts to be something which inherently I struggle with on a day to day basis – the facade of being normal.
When I was 17 my general problem was not trying to pick up the pretty girl in the biology class, or earning an A in math, or trying to get my driver’s licence, but just trying to get to school without the desire to cut myself with a razor blade so I could feel better. I never had the traditional teen age rebellion phase that other kids went through and still relied emotionally heavily on my mother for support then most of my peers, especially for friendship and acceptance.
The desire to hurt myself has always been stronger then the desire for procreation, and though I am functioning more adequately now then when I was several years ago. Although I have never engaged in a physical altercation with anyone and don’t condone the use of violence, I have harboured thoughts of such graphic intensity that I have needed to restrain myself into self confided solitary existence. I still struggle with just entering a building where there are lots of people- hell to me is a shopping mall at noon, sports events and loud crowds make the ability to hold thoughts together in a consistent format, however I function with a modicum of success.
Please do not think for one minute that I have not contributed, I am currently enrolled at St Lawrence college although it is on a part time basis, and have had work experience at Independent grocers and volunteered at the Agape center without being conditioned so by the 40 hour program of high school curriculum.
When the port theatre aired classic films, I made it a promise to support that endeavour by attending every month just to see the films, and would walk two miles in a snow storm just to see original John Carpenters “The Thing” on the big screen. I have even supported community endeavours including the make poverty history event held in September, although I struggle to be in classrooms with my peers, and there are days my head is unable to concentrate with being surrounded by people, I get through as best as I can, but only with counselling and being able to make contact with councillors on a weekly basis, without assistance of just talking to someone about my concerns and fears and rely on emotional support I wouldn’t be able to completely function.
As for the community of Cornwall offering assistance for mental health?, Good Luck to you. I have found you’re better off trying to solve problems on your own because No one is going to help… here’s a small scoop from the inside …
Places to go = Zero
The only knowing institute that Cornwall has for individuals associated with mental health problems is the Star Bright center located on Pitt St, opposite the Police department (and located near a liquor store if you like irony). Which from my experience of visiting several times found it to be a dismal and under run establishment, which doesn’t provide the benefits for individuals who are higher functioning and perform to greater performance then those who are lower functioning.
The staff can be clinically condescending and unconsciously supercilious, any attempt to engage them as a normal human being is almost always met with an astonishment that you can make critical thinking decisions on your own “While yes I happen to know how to draw up a balance sheet and make calculations on my own!”.
Star Bright is a perfectly apt place for individuals who are not fit for cognitive performance and need case workers to help them understand living arrangements, but it is a deplorable place for anyone who can think and reason without bedside assistance of mother bunch to make you feel better. From my experience there is no adequate support for those who have high functioning problems; Star Bright exists solely for those who cannot cope with the ability of living on their own, and if you want free cooking go on Wednesday.
Hospital cures? – are full of bad pills
Personally I have never visited the Cornwall general psych ward colloquially referred to as “third south”, though what I have heard has led me to conclude I would find more relief with a steak knife driving into my left thigh, then waiting four hours just to talk to someone who suggest I’m depressed (that’s sarcasm, us crazy people can joke). From what I have heard of third south is that it’s nothing more but a limited placebo, your there for three days, Doctors give you meds and then they ship you out again putting band aids on bullet wounds. Like I said this is only a secondary account, but having had meetings with the crisis team associated with the hospital, I will take a haphazard guess mental illness is universal in their profession.
Who you gonna call? – Best bet hot air
I’ve been told that for severe cases of depression and self harm to contact the Ontario crisis line, however the only remedy I’ve ever gotten out of that establishment is to rectify my life to make a positive commitment for myself, because talking to those people is like a really bad Monty Python sketch of gigantic absurd proportions (“you want to cut yourself and kill your family, now is that how you really feel?”). The crisis hotline are under staffed and run by amateurs who are familiar with textbook cases and are unable to make conversational connections without sounding like an automated machine. Try calling to test the theory and see exactly what I mean; you get an after school special and a pep talk from an infomercial.
On a side note if someone is suicidal and is calling for help. don’t have put them on call waiting and give them elevator music to listen to… that will proceed to make them MORE SUICIDIAL (that’s humour, though if I was forced to listen to Lady Gaga you can rest assured I’m going off to meet Vishnu)
Now Cornwall is not the only town, or city, that has this problem of being inefficient to assist individuals considered the pariahs of society. Cities such as Toronto and Montreal are well known for having decrepit mental health associations which rarely meet levels of satisfaction and adequacy. However these larger cities have communities which are supportive for people who have mental health issues, and as anyone who has lived in Cornwall long enough will tell you, this is not a town that is kind or benevolent towards anyone who approaches things with an “alternative mentality”, no offence if you read this far, but what I have personally experienced is a town that is hostile and xenophobic to anything that does not represent an established mentality to mainstream orthodoxy, and for minds outside of box and have little contact with a world they can’t relate to, it could be hypothesized that an individual will “loose it”.
I admire this town and believe it has some great beauty of eastern Ontario, yet at the same time the fiefdom mentality of some of the inhabitants makes it inhospitable for anyone to discuss problems openly without assigning blame on anyone and creating villains when in reality no one is a true bad guy. All I wish is educated reason and sincere humane compassion for all man not the facade of shallow etiquette perpetuated in an uncaring health care system.
Personally, as someone who has experienced mental health problems I have never wanted to exploit the system for hospital bed or a social worker, or a magic drug to make me like everyone else. All I want is an outlet where I can talk with someone of equal and benefiting courtesy, who understands that there are other ways of thinking. We have therapy sessions for cancer survivors, and programs that assists the poor and gay pride events, why is mental health issues never seeing in the same light? The minds darkest thoughts can be more terrifying then any incurable disease; it’s the cancer of the soul which robs us of authority to govern ourselves efficiently, yet anyone who admits a fault is guilty of being less then themselves and I find that sad.
Please understand that because of my condition, I am not in the traditional sense “mentally ill” I despise the word, as someone whose neurological networks and biochemical makeup are rewired differently telling me I’m “ill” is like saying someone who has dark melatonin is “pigmently challenged” or saying that a homosexual is a “sexual deviant”, which only creates the perception that they are abnormal.
The reality is, ethnicity and orientation are natural process of evolutionary mutation which add distinction to Homo sapiens collective. “Mentally ill” is offensive pejorative manufactured to provide people a semblance of artificial security from anyone who is slightly different, people who are Bipolar, schizophrenic or have high functioning autism can function normally when they are given the correct treatment that benefits them a chance to work within society.
I apologize it this sounds like self indulge whining and adolescent melancholy, but there are thousands of people privately fighting inside of their heads locked in universes of loneliness and despair, they simply don’t have guides towards. (Guess you know which philosophy subscribe to)
I am different, but I am still human and though I think and act in ways perceived by the dogmatic tenants of social and cultural homogenization to be “alien”, I still laugh, cry and have dreams like anyone else. “Prick us do we not bleed, wrong us do we not revenge”, Shylock was pariah of his era because of his religion, but he was still a man with his own passions, Shakespeare is still regarded because unlike anyone else he had an understanding of the human condition. A human condition that exists within all (wo)men -black, gay and non neurological mainstream, and every one of their voices needs to be heard, because in the end everyone of us just end up as bones.
Kevin Glover – Cornwall Ontario
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