Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness

I was trying to think about something to blog about on this cold, wet miserable night. Then I read about the death of Joe Bodolai, the American who nurtured so many great young comedians in Canada.

Who killed himself the other day by drinking a mixture of Gatorade and anti-freeze, but not before writing this last post.

Which both stunned and saddened me.

Then I read Sabina Becker's reaction.

And it stopped me in my tracks. Because what puny words could I write about anything compared to something so honest and so powerful that moved me so much?

Especially this part:

Can we start, please, by just not stigmatizing mental illness anymore? Can we make it okay to talk about this taboo subject, to even laugh about the illness without mocking the sick ones, and not shrink away when someone mentions suicide?

For although I've never been afflicted by a mental illness, one of my close friends has a bipolar condition, and has suffered several psychotic episodes since I first met him in university.

So I know how much it hurts, I know how families and friends can be driven to despair and exhaustion. I've seen the inside of our overwhelmed mental health system, in all its horror and glory. And of course I have experienced the radiant joy of seeing my friend get well again.

But I've also seen how some people have treated him, since his last brief stay in a mental hospital a few months ago. I've noticed the little glances, the hesitation, the mistrust bordering on fear. Even though he is a kind, gentle guy, an awesome artist, and a wonderful friend, who has never hurt anybody not even himself.

Thank goodness he doesn't seem to notice, but I do, and it makes me so angry. I feel like grabbing some of those those ignorant people by their starched collars and asking them:

 What is your problem stoopid? Don't you know it could happen to you? And if it happened to someone you love, would you help them?

And if you're so ignorant, HOW could you help them?

But of course the best way to smash the stigma is to talk about mental illness as honestly and as normally as we talk about any other human condition. Because it's about time.

And that's it eh?

So sad Joe.

Thank you Sabina...

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