Friday, 22 November 2013

Miles for Mental Health Walk

The third annual Douglas College Miles for Mental Health Walk/Run was held this past Saturday.  The following is the speech given by Anna Helewka to start off the run.   
The dream team consisted of Anna Helewka, Vicki Shillington and her son Jake, Patricia Juvik, Joan Crisp, Sarah Mellet, Shana Lund, Maria Bishop and her dog Sadie, Maureen Mackey, Donna Roy, Kathy Potter, and Hazel Postma.  
Kudos to the PNUR department for its involvement, along with HR and External Relations.  Great community involvement !!
Get ready for next year students!!!!!  Faculty dream and student dream team!


 Welcome to 3rd-annual Douglas College Miles for Mental Health Walk/Run. This event is organized by and supports the Simon Fraser branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which serves New Westminster, the Tri-cities, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. Douglas College is proud to sponsor this event. Today I am here as part of the Douglas College Dream team.
Our team has dream---that, we will one day live in a world that is free from the destructive stigma and bias that still exists for those living with mental health challenges.
As a young student nurse I came to understand early the extent of this stigma towards those suffering mental illness.  My first psychiatric patient as a student nurse was a woman who had been a pharmacist for almost 20 years—she had what was called a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized and put on some very heavy duty medications with damaging side effects---when I met her she had been in hospital 37 years---no one came to visit her, family and friends abandoned and forgot about her because of the shame----she was alone in this world except for her co-patients and the hospital staff at Riverview. 
SO, yes we can say we have progressed in decreasing the stigma towards mental illness from those times—when those with mental illness were banished to locked institutions BUT we still have a long way to go. 
Attitudes of stigma and bias continue to be injurious to those experiencing mental health challenges but these attitudes are also detrimental to all of us individually and to who we are as a larger society. 
I ask the question---how can a society that has come so far in so many arenas, continue to engage in, accept and sometimes promote such damaging attitudes?  A favorite quote of mine that illustrates this is from past US President Bill Clinton:
Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of but stigma and bias shame us all.
Some things to think about as we walk/run today:
·         A fifth of Canadians will develop mental illness at some point in their lives, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  This means that many Canadians will be affected not only directly but indirectly by mental illness, because their friends, family or neighbours will develop a mental illness.

·         Mental illness affects people of all ages, cultures, education and income levels
·         Labels of mental illness do not define the person---no more so than a label such as Diabetes defines the person—there is so much more to the individual than the label ‘assigned’ to them.
·         Stigma or bias results in a decreased sense of self. The individual begins to believe they ARE worthless because of how they are treated.
·         Stigma associated with mental illness causes people to hide and not seek treatment resulting in unnecessary suffering, alienation, pain and often very real feelings of terror so that they choose to escape the pain through suicide.
·         Stigma is responsible for many of the barriers that those with mental illness face in communities, hospitals, workplaces etc.
·         Aside from accidents and injuries, mental illness in youth accounts for the second highest reason for hospitalization

As we run or walk today on this beautiful trail, let’s all think about how we can as a community and individually raise awareness of and conquer the attitudes of stigma that continue to exist around mental illness.  
Let us make a pledge to go further than our 2.5 Km walk or 5 Km run today ….lets strive to advocate and educate for a change in societal attitudes on a daily basis with everyone we meet.  

Anna Helewka, Program Coordinator, Department of Psychiatric Nursing, Douglas College Faculty of Health Sciences



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