Ending stigma


Mental disabilities are invisible and stigmatized in society, and the situation is bullshit

The latest incident started off with an assumed lapse of judgment when a few individuals were using the “r-word” (“retard”) on twitter as an insult to someone’s political choices. I kindly responded with, “Please don't use the r-word…It’s very offensive to people with disabilities, like myself. Thanks.”

Seems straightforward enough, right? That any reasonable person would reevaluate their use of an offensive word and not repeat it? Apparently not, as these were some of the responses I received.

“I had no idea being hyper-sensitive was a disability now-a-days. That’s retarded.”

“Please don’t follow me on Twitter. It offends people with a goddamned sense of humor… I don’t care about you making a personal mountain out of a sarcastic molehill.”

The attitudes that surround those who identify with mental disability are still rooted in ignorance and cruelty. The above responses show that we have a long way to go before people with mental illnesses feel safe, accepted and empowered.

The thing is, though, is that we don’t have time for a gradual evolution of political correctness. Suicide is the second highest leading cause of death in Canadian youth, and even though 1 in 4 youth need mental health services, only about 25 per cent of those who need them receive them.

That’s why a new campaign by a national organization called Partners for Mental Health is a vital tool to the conversations we need to be having. The “Let’s Call Bullshit” campaign aims to have youth challenge the ways that society talks about mental health and to take on the responsibility to change it. It has to be our generation that truly starts the discussion, because it is our generation that is suffering most.

I call bullshit that the reason that I sometimes can’t get out of bed is because I’m lazy or just not trying hard enough.

I call bullshit that I use my disability as an excuse or crutch.

I call bullshit on the fact that mental health is consistently ignored in our health care system. That a person has to wait for hours in the emergency room in the midst of a panic attack, screaming, crying and thinking that they’re dying, before they become important enough to pay attention to. That the only way a person can receive psychiatric services in a timely matter is if you try to kill yourself or kill someone else.

So I invite you to join with many youth across Canada in taking on the stigma of mental health head on. There are many ways to get involved.  Most of the campaign can be accessed online at callbs.ca where you can sign a declaration, share your own story of BS, and read what others have to say on the BS wall. Then, social media the heck out of it – yes I just used “social media” as a verb!

On campus, check out the posters for the campaign and catch us tabling in the Riddell Centre to get more info. Stay tuned for a possible coffee house for people with lived experience/psychiatric survivors on campus that will hopefully turn into a regularly meeting support group. If you’re reading this and want to help out, please do! Shoot me an email at p.kezima@cfs-sk.ca.

Paige Kezima

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