Few can argue – successfully, anyway – against the statement that mental illness touches everyone.
There are, of course, those with the diagnosis. Then there are their children, siblings, parents, friends and co-workers.
Even complete strangers are often hit with the ripples, as society is forced to bear the burden of missed work days, medical visits, inadequate treatment options, etc.
It doesn’t matter that research has led to many strategies and treatments that, when adhered to, can help sufferers live productive, even normal, lives.
Perhaps if it felt easier to talk openly about mental illness, things would be different. For those directly affected, it can feel simpler to try to ignore the reality – to keep the door closed and the windows shuttered, so to speak. Not the healthiest approach, really, but common nonetheless.
And while time has led to strides in the realm of mental illness, it has done less for society’s acceptance of it as a disease.
Many worthwhile stories do not get told in these pages because of the stigma attached to mental illness; the fear people have of being branded by going public with their struggle.
‘Mental illness’ is still two words that, despite so-called progress, few afflicted with the likes of depression or schizophrenia or paranoia dare to mutter outside – sometimes even inside – their immediate family.
Make no mistake, there are tireless advocates on the Semiahmoo Peninsula for the mentally ill.
Many of these individuals are parents, siblings, friends or colleagues of those living with a mental illness. A few are those individuals themselves, who have taken that brave step into the spotlight.
All know firsthand the impact of the conditions.They know the difference that acceptance – both of the conditions and the person trying to live a balanced, productive life with them – makes, and we can all learn from them.
Outside the Peninsula, efforts by people like Olympic cyclist and speed-skater Clara Hughes, who is riding coast-to-coast to help squash the stigma, are helping effect change.
But there is still a long way to go.
No one should feel the need to hide something they cannot control.
The reality is, many of us share the blame for the fact so many people do.