My street outreach teammates and I saw a slight, older woman who had literally been living in a box for months.* The box was about 6 feet long, 4 feet wide and 3 feet high and was covered by a blue plastic tarp. Her furnishings consisted of a few blankets. The “dwelling” was in an alleyway just behind some shops. The lady was disinterested in any form of housing or treatment and never accessed shelters: she always slept in her box. She repeatedly said that she would soon be moving to a Caribbean island. During a particularly bitter cold spell, we became concerned with her safety, and I completed a form for involuntary psychiatric assessment. The emergency department psychiatrist agreed with me that she likely had chronic schizophrenia, but the client was calm and would not take any medication. She promised the emergency department staff that she would go to a shelter if she was discharged. We made it clear that she was unlikely to do so, but after one night in emergency she was given a subway token to go to a shelter. She disappeared and was lost to follow-up. ...continue reading →
Ogochukwu Crystal Williams is a Child Protection Specialist and Director/Founder of Uniquely Destined Ltd. in Blackfalds, Alberta
I feel a need to highlight the deficit and treatment of mental illness still taking place in this day and age. I am a British citizen who currently resides and works in Canada. I have more than 7 years’ experience in the field of child protection and mental health, working with both children and adults in the United Kingdom and North America. In the UK, I helped develop and establish policies for organizations and charities that are used internationally. From direct experience, I realize that mental health is a global issue. ...continue reading →
Amy Gajaria is a third year resident in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto
Last week was the first snowfall of the season in Toronto. Usually, the first sight of fluffy white flakes collecting on city streets would have me dreaming of strapping on my cross-country skis. This, year, however, the first snow left me huddled inside, frightened of slipping on ice.
Towards the end of September I badly damaged my ankle when attending a charity event. In a few moments I went from an active 30-something to someone unable to stand independently. After the paramedics got me to the nearest hospital, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was not “pain medication STAT” (that was the second thing), but instead “I’m a doctor. I hate being a patient.”
I later told myself that this was because I wanted to speed up communication and avoid unnecessary explanations. ...continue reading →
Normand Carrey is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
I feel sad for the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who were killed on October 20 and 22 in Quebec city and Ottawa, respectively. I equally feel sad for the countless other grieving families left up picking the pieces after a loved one is killed by someone where mental health issues are suspected.
After the murder of Corporal Cirillo, US Senator John Kerry wasted no time in flying to Ottawa before any analysis could take place as he announced without any doubt that these were pure unmitigated acts of terrorism. A cottage industry of TV pundits was trotted out to tell us that now we have something else to fear –self radicalization in vulnerable youth and the home-grown or lone wolf terrorist. It was good to hear, however, in the subsequent week, public debate with many callers reminding the experts about the role of mental health in such tragedies. Why did the media and politicians neglect to include in their debate and analysis of recent events other just as horrifying acts? Where was the mention of ...continue reading →
Amelia Curran is a Juno Award winning singer-songwriter from St. John's, Newfoundland. Amelia has toured extensively throughout North America, the UK, Europe and Australia.
I used to think suicide was cowardly. I was angry with my friends who committed such an act. I avoided those who had tried to end their lives but lived. Then in 2004, with the death of my friend and roommate RM, I obediently cut her obituary out of the paper to put with the rest and discovered some were missing and that I had lost count of my dead friends.
I had lost count. I was twenty-six at the time and I had lost count. I was living through a plague that was taking people from me and I had not bothered to notice. ...continue reading →
Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.
In 1985, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease was private and hushed. Other than a campaign for SBE (Self Breast Exam) there was no publicity or awareness. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed, and thinking that I had somehow caused this, I kept my diagnosis secret and silent from all but a very few close friends. After my treatment, my fears and feelings were repressed and locked, and I got on with my life, my family, my career and my health.
Twelve years later, I was one of the founding members of the Busting Out dragon boat program, and suddenly I was surrounded by other survivors and the steadily growing ‘Pink Ribbon Culture’! I found kindred sisters in these women, and my deeply secreted feelings found an outlet and an expression. My silence was broken, and relief came flooding in.
This year, when I finally accepted the ‘highly suspicious for Lung Cancer' report, I realized that I would not, and could not, be secret and silent about my disease. Learning from experience, I was concerned for my mental health as much as for my physical health ...continue reading →
People sometimes ask me whether doctors are any different from other people when it comes to their mental health. Do they suffer more or less? Do they have different disorders and distress? The truthful answer (as with so many human questions) is a bit like, “Yes and No”.
Of course doctors can have physical and mental health issues, but this fact is often hidden from public view. Mental suffering in particular is a clandestine experience, and disclosure is especially hazardous for doctors, since it adds professional jeopardy to their burden of shame and guilt.
Awareness of doctors as human beings with real personal problems and stresses is not widespread ...continue reading →
Dr Andrée Rochfort is Director of Quality Improvement at the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dublin
I frequently wonder how we can best prepare young doctors for their future medical roles and responsibilities, and how we can best support those already doing the doctor job.
We set out to care for others, to help others, to help others recognize their options and choices. We are set apart from patients during training. We learn to feel the expectations that “others” have of us; our peers, other health professionals, managers, professional bodies, medico-legal bodies, media, patients, patients’ relatives, our own relatives and non-medical friends. To this mix add in our self-expectations of ourselves. Combine these ‘perceived pressures’ then add our intrinsic sense of perfectionism and our pledges to others to do everything possible and we have a recipe for internal conflict! We feel guilt and failure when we cannot deliver perfect care with the selflessness we believe is expected of us. In reality we have to remember we are ‘human’ and we cannot work miracles. We do not have a magic wand. ...continue reading →
Declan Fox is a Family Doctor in Tignish PEI (that's Prince Edward Island, Canada, for international readers)
How did I get here?
With apologies to Talking Heads, I wonder sometimes, myself. How DID I get here? Resurrecting this family medicine practice in Tignish, PEI, is what I'll be doing for the next few years. At the ripe old age of 59 I'm taking on something I wouldn't even have attempted 25 years ago. And I'm doing it 2500 miles away from home in a health service that is very different from the UK NHS I once loved with a mighty passion.
So what's so great about moving to Tignish? A little history might help. 17 years ago this month I was mooching around home, three months after a suicidal breakdown due to my second bout of major depression. ...continue reading →