Book Hippo

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mental Illness

It's been a long time since the 1970s when help for young people with depression or other mental disorders were treated to therapists who were engaged in guesswork almost all of the time. The main idea of the time was that depression was a personal failure which could be erased by facing up to your mistakes. The government left these kids to deal with this alone, there was no backup, no psychiatric survivors groups, nothing when it didn't work out.
In the eighties, a contest for the best stage play by high school students left Ottawa aghast, all the plays were about depression in teens and suicide. It was commented on but there were no steps to help these kids. In the nineties, with the rise in Ottawa of the homeless population, mental illness became, in people's minds, associated with crimes and the illness of 'failures'.
Just a while ago, we had an election. I was phoned by one of the parties. I told them I was not interested in any of their platform, I was only interested in when was somebody going to do something about mental illness in young people. The woman said she, too was interested in this subject because as a grade school teacher, she saw many children with mental disorders, who needed care but weren't getting it. She convinced me to vote for her party, the man running was very interested in the subject. He got in but when I tried to talk to him about it, he never answered my letters or even the form he himself sent around.
Last year a hockey coach's daughter killed herself for depression and a couple of months ago an MPs teen-age boy committed suicide over depression caused by being picked on. Why are we, as a society leaving these kids to suffer like this. It seems it starts very young when we 'streetproof' our kids, making them take responsibility for themselves when they should be being watched. A little while ago, in a city park, a man tried to lure a young girl away from the playground. She ran to her mother at her house. Good. But why necessary? Why weren't there adults present on the playground to intimidate any perverts from hitting on kids. Now it's just my own amateur opinion, but I think when we have kids policing themselves, putting pressure on them from an early age to keep themselves safe, they tend to think they're all alone. How many times do the feel the burden of coping with their troubles all by themselves? These things tend to become a habit, in my opinion, so they learn not to reach out, there most probably won't be anyone to help them. Unfortunately, in the case of mental illness, they are right.


  1. Hi Madeleine, thank you for sharing this post. Yes I think especially now kids, let alone kids with mental illness, fall through the cracks, and with our modern culture driven by rampant over stimulation, I think kids are even more vulnerable to these outside forces. I guess even with the best of parenting, you can't control who will suffer a mental illness, but as a community we can certainly advocate for people with mental illness, and for the treatment so that they can live better lives. I am aware though even with treatment, some people suffer so terribly that they will need to be institutionalized despite strides in medication management, and for these souls you can only hope God has a reason far greater than our understanding...


  2. Madeleine, this topic is very close to me, because my daughter has suffered from depression since she was 16. She has been taking medication all this time and she has learned to become a fairly normal appearing human being. It is not easy being a parent, but when I was growing up I played alone a lot of the time. My parents both worked and I hung around the neighborhood with my friends. However, I do remember when someone bothered me my parents were there to yell at them. I disciplined kids that weren't mine if they were being bullies too. As a teacher myself I have seen the signs of a child who is depressed. They keep to themselves and don't have any friends, usually. This blog post helps to remind people that children need to be protected. I think not too many people think about children as vulnerable, but they are and need to know there is someone around to protect them if they get into trouble.