1 in 5 Canadians experience mental illness, yet stigma creates a sense of shame and fear that makes it difficult to seek the support needed.
So we ask you to help battle the stigma by replacing myths with truths, fear with understanding and compassion.
Take a stand and make a promise to help end mental illness stigma.
Here are some promises others have made:
On October 31st, 2004, the reflection in the mirror is a fragile and gaunt woman staring back, her collarbones are sticking out, and her face is pale and haunted. There is an emptiness in her eyes – sadness, darkness and no life. She is filled with desperation, and unwilling to continue going through this deep physical and emotional pain of depression and anxiety. Her days and nights are filled with suffering and the feeling of being a burden to all those she loves. Fast forward to five years later: It’s November, 2009, the reflection in the mirror is a revitalized woman who has faced her inner demons courageously and has found purpose and passion; in her eyes there is now light and she sees things in shades of love and beauty. Her emptiness is now filled with inner knowing, a zest for life and the desire to positively impact others. She looks forward to what each day will bring with excitement and the determination to make a difference in the world. The woman then and the woman now are both me – Lee Horbachewski. Anyone who has experienced depression and/or an anxiety attack knows the feeling of such hopelessness, fear and panic. In 2004, I was admitted into a psychiatric ward for depression and anxiety disorder, believed to have stemmed from untreated post partum depression. The desperation I felt on October 31, 2004 led me to make three attempts on my life, the last attempt resulted in my sitting by the reservoir with a broken beer bottle; as I began to draw blood at my wrist, two little birds flew into the lifeless tree beside me. I could see my two precious little girls; my angels, and at that moment I decided I wanted to live. I made a conscious decision to accept how ill I truly was and to surrender. At that point, I was able to move forward with tiny baby steps, taking a minute at a time, then an hour, slowly rebuilding my life that had seemingly been stripped away. This past 5 years have been a journey into finding and re-connecting with my inner strength and beauty. Speaking openly about my Depression and Attempted Suicide, at times brings a feeling of discomfort from the person I am speaking to, a reminder that mental illness is still a taboo subject. For the most part, people will open up about their own personal struggle (or someone they love) with mental illness, I listen with empathy and compassion, and am proud to say I have inspired others to choose life instead of death. To this day I remain on Anti-depressants, which I am personally at peace with. On May 2nd, 2010 I had a relapse where I went into the darkness of anxiety again. Thankfully, this time I had the awareness and tools to reach out ask for help, which in turn led to a speedy recovery. I applaud every person who speaks openly about their challenges with mental health, and know that eventually every human being will have the opportunity to share without fear of judgement!
Lee Horbachewski, Canada
My story takes the form of an inspiration that runs deep in my life. I have schizophrenia. It is not all of me. It is a part I need to manage. I am also a volunteer, a student, a daughter and a full time worker in the mental health field. It took years of medication, psychotherapy and a strong spiritual sense to overcome my illness and achieve once again in my life. It took healing my trauma’s. I am no longer receiving financial support from the Government. I am independent and strong. I want to tell people that anything is possible in life regardless of your limitations. I want my internal inspiration to be shared with others for the greater good. In my work I share HOPE! In my education I explore all the options available for personal and professional growth. I am not done achieving. My grander goal is to complete a Masters Program in Leadership that I was accepted into at a local University. Schizophrenia is not an end but a beginning to know myself more fully. I am in full acceptance and moving forward every day. I hold gratitude for RECOVERY!
Tara Timmers, Canada
I have had 7 chronic depressive episodes between the ages of 21 and 40, some lasting nearly a year. They were anxious, black, scary times in my life, but luckily I have been well for 3 years now (touch wood!) I want to thank my mother, father, sister and brother because without them, I doubt I would have made it. Now I have my own business (8 years old this year!) and am about to work full-time with animals, which has been a dream for a very long time. To my family – you are my rock. To my long-time friends – your support means so much. To anyone struggling with a mental illness – do not give up! How you feel now will NOT be the same as how you feel when you recover. And you WILL recover. And lastly, to Michael – may the wind always be at your back, smoothing your journey. Because that is what you are doing now for so many.
Leanne, Vancouver, Canada
I am a physician with mental illness. I promise to do my part to help end the mental health stigma.
Chad Lund, Canada
I learned about your ride in the Toronto Metro news that my wonderful daughter sent to my wife and I to see. Michael and I have some similarities in life’s journey. I too have a mental illness, most likely my whole life. Over 10 years ago, it all caught up to me and my world began to crash around me step by step. I too am a grade 5 teacher, but haven’t been working for over 2 years now. This is the first year that I haven’t been thinking about going back to school and the challenges. For now, I am fighting the challenges of my illness and trying to recover to be the best that I can be. Just think how many years I told kids that is all I ever expected from them. I am also a cyclist and it has been one of my saving graces. I fundraise once per year in the MS ride and I now have my two daughters riding along with me. We did 75 km around Niagara area this year. So I admire Michael on his journey and spreading the message. The amazing thing is that although the majority of my good friends know about my illness, the school I left does not know. I am becoming confident with speaking up about my illness and looking for supports. Thanks Michael for your journey and courage. It provides courage to me too.
All Movements have to start from somewhere, whether it was the Cancer movement in the 70s, the AIDS movement in the 80s or the environmental movement of 00s. The time for the mental health movement is now and Michael Schratter is doing amazing work in cycling it into the limelight. More needs to still be done. Having recently been diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder I have been subject to more suffering and pain I as a past amateur endurance athlete (cyclist) knew I could handle.
But along with this pain I am having to endure I have gained membership to a club I had no idea existed or thought that I would ever join. The mental health patient club. How could I as an educated Canadian not know that this segment of the population existed, that these illnesses are real and things that other people who are ‘weird’ get. The time is now to step out of the shadows and bring more awareness to these issues – our society needs to be made aware of these illnesses and needs to stop shying away from what is not pretty.
Life is a series of challenges and illness can strike anyone – there should be no barriers for anyone to seek help or care. Stigma should not hold people back, it is time to change the way we view mental illnesses in Canada and each one of us with these brain diseases should not feel ashamed or guilty.
We are all just human trying our best to enjoy or time on this beautiful planet.
I promise to do my part to help end the mental health stigma.
All my life I had anxiety and then panic disorder started in University. It was not until I was hospitalized for depression, and I had the courage to try medication, was my life changed forever. Now I live a happy life free of depression and anxiety thanks to modern pharmaceuticals. Go Mike!
I attempted to kill myself at the age of seventeen. Why? You may ask. My boyfriend at the time, whom I had broken up with several months earlier, had found a replacement and wouldn’t get back together with me. I was devastated. I took several bottles of pills, all the Tylenol and Prozac I could find, and washed them all down my throat. You’re probably thinking, what a stupid reason for someone to attempt suicide! But it wasn’t about the boyfriend. That was just the tipping point. That was just one more reason for me to hate myself, to feel unworthy of love, to feel abandoned. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I was clinically diagnosed with depression when I was fourteen, although it began many years before that. I recall being 10 years old and wanting to die. As a young child, I believed the world, my parents, everyone, would be better off without me. I hated myself. I was angry and filled with a deep, dark pain. As a seventeen year old girl, when I made the decision to swallow those pills, it wasn’t about wanting attention or being selfish, as so many people believe when kids are suicidal. It was about wanting to die rather than live another day in pain. It was about the pain and turmoil I was feeling inside. It was too much to bear. It didn’t make sense to anyone around me. It didn’t even make sense to me. All I knew was that I wanted it all to end. I wanted the hurting to stop. It wasn’t until twelve years later that the pain of my childhood began to make sense. When I realized I was sexually abused as a child I finally understood where the darkness I felt inside came from. I knew then, that I wasn’t ˜messed up” or ˜crazy.” I was simply a wounded little girl who needed to heal. I have since dedicated my life to healing; healing myself, helping others to heal, healing the world. Over the last several years, I’ve worked with many children, youth and women. Children, who have been abused, abandoned, neglected and left to fend for themselves. Children who have seen and experienced things that we, as adults, don’t even want to imagine. Many of them struggle with feelings of self-hatred and the pain that comes with feeling unworthy of love. Many feel alone in this world. Many of them want to die. Thoughts of suicide seldom come to an end when an attempt is made. For many, it becomes a struggle they face for the rest of their lives, an internal battle between survival and escape. It can be a very lonely place, where shame, guilt and fear pervade. The desire to end one’s life is unique to every person, as are the reason’s behind it. Suicide is a scary subject, a painful subject that most people would rather avoid. But it is real and it happens every day to people of all ages, even children. We must begin to talk openly about suicide and suicidal ideation. We must open the door to those who want to talk about their feelings, but are too afraid of being judged, criticized or condemned. There is no shame to feeling pain. There is no shame in wanting relief from that pain. But there is a way out of the darkness; by talking about it we can open the door to healing; I am opening the door.
Michele Harshenin, Canada
I, Shelley & Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear from Vancouver, BC promise to do my part to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I will do this by: Participating in Ride Don’t Hide as a rider, donor, volunteer or virtual rider, sharing my personal story, understanding that mental health begins where we live, work and play, challenging the stigma that surrounds mental
illness by creating open dialogue, promoting mental health and well-being, supporting a family member, friend or colleague living with a mental health issue, donating my time or money towards a mental health cause
Story: Woof to all. Please “Ride Don’t Hide” & support my efforts to promote mental health & well-being. I am a 9 year old Chinese Crested Powder Puff dog and registered, trained and loyal Emotional Support Animal for my best friend who has suffered all her life from this chronic illness. Supporting a family member, friend or colleague living with a mental health issue has been my life’s work and I know first hand the stigma that she faces daily from all areas of society who truly don’t themselves understand the facts on mental illness. The more you know the more you will want to help those who suffer from mental illness & it’s unexpected consequences.
“Wag more, Bark less.”, Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear
I, Karla Zlatarits from Canada promise to do my part to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I will do this by: Participating in Ride Don’t Hide as a rider, donor, volunteer or virtual rider, Sharing my personal story, Understanding that mental health begins where we live, work and play, Challenging the stigma that surrounds mental illness by creating open dialogue, Promoting mental health and well-being, Supporting a family member, friend or colleague living with a mental health issue, Donating my time or money towards a mental health cause
Story: My name Is Karla Zlatarits I am a 28 year old woman with Anxiety.
At the age of 9 my parents and I notice my anxiety evolving. I would turn down invitations to birthday parties, sleepovers and after school play dates. At home with my mother close by is where I felt safest. Soon even attending school became too much. I was home sick several times a month and needed lots of encouragement to get to school each morning.
Over the years my anxiety fluctuated depending on my life stress level. I noticed when I was active playing soccer I was at my happiest and my anxiety was at a low. I stayed very involved with competitive soccer throughout my youth and was able to attend school regularly and have a social life after school hours as well.
My friends and family were very supportive about my anxiety as I was open with them about what I was dealing with. Teachers and staff at my high school were also aware and I was given special permission to leave class at any time if I felt anxious. Being open about my mental health issue and advocating for myself as to what I needed from friends, family, teachers, bosses and other people in my life is what enabled me to travel as a young adult, get a post secondary education and maintain a steady job.
I still now deal with anxiety but on a much lesser scale. I truly believe this is because I SPOKE UP about my illness and kept physically active. With the support of my loving husband, family and friends I am able to be happy and lead a typical life. Yes anxiety will always be apart of my life but it does not consume me anymore.
Karla Zlatarits, Canada
I was diagnosed a year ago with major clinical depression. Treatment included psychotherapy and medication. After the initial shock of having a mental illness wore off I proceeded to read everything I could get my hands on about depression. I have read much about the stigma associated with mental illness and have only one example of being stigmatized due to people’s misinformation. Last month when talking with friends about a related topic I volunteered that I have a mental illness. I was summarily dismissed with ‘Herb you have been well for months. You do not have a mental illness. You tend to over dramatize things.’ For a brief time I felt that, once again, I was less than and unequal to but was able to shake it off. I reiterated that I had a mental illness and no amount of wishing it not to be so will ‘cure’ me. Special vigilance is needed so the black dogs are kept at bay.
Herb Burnett, Canada
I promise to do my part to help end the mental health stigma. My beautiful daughter, Jennifer lost her battle with mental illness in Dec of 2008. My one hope is that no other family in the world will go through anything as painful as that. Awareness is critical and I commend your effort. Why does this disease have such a stigma attached to it?
My brother and cousin committed suicide when I was twelve years old. My step-sister, Willow, committed suicide in 2007. Suicide and depression must be seriously addressed. Every day I am touched by mental health issues. Thank you Michael and everybody for all your hard work – change can happen!
Nina Kabatoff, Canada
After years of struggling with depression, I am coming out of the closet. I am 42 – a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend. I have depression and I do not need to feel ashamed anymore. Depression is a disease, just like diabetes and cancer. Society has a hard time dealing with mental illness and I am not sure why. It makes it hard to battle and survive your own mental illness when you are looking around the corner and trying to keep your disease to yourself. My battle with depression has impacted my husband, kids, parents, other family, friends, employment and my quality of life. I have lost friends who didn’t understand. I have caused bewilderment among family members who couldn’t help, couldn’t understand, were frustrated, scared. Just over a year ago I ended up at the emergency psych ward at my local hospital. I took myself there – not sure how I drove from work and actually parked the vehicle. I knew that I could not handle life anymore, I snapped, I was sobbing, scared, helpless in the darkness I couldn’t find my way out of. Bit by bit, I have worked myself out of that black hole with a lot of help (medications, medical professionals). I slipped backwards sometimes but climbed back up and put one foot in front of the other – again. I have a team of people taking care of me – a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist and my family doctor. My husband is amazing and through it all has stood by me and done everything he can to help me. He wants his wife back just as much as I want myself back. Depression has changed me in ways I never could have imagined. I have definitely learned many things about myself I didn’t know before. Maybe its because I am older and wiser, maybe its because I have my husband by my side, maybe its because of the professional help I am getting. Do I wish I never had to deal with mental illness? That is a tough question. It has made me a stronger person. It has made me more aware of the negative stigma of mental illness in the world and want to find a way to change it. I do wish that I could take away all the pain my illness has caused my family. If we all speak out/stand up, we can make a change in the world. Mental illness is not a four letter word. Ignorance of mental illness can change to understanding and support, what we most need.
Karen Pottinger, Canada
I was 13 when I first felt it. It was horrible, and completely alien to my spirited, happy-go-lucky, and sometimes devilish disposition. Although the transition of puberty is difficult for most kids, looking back on it now, there was definitely something more going on with me, something much more sinister, and it had me feeling deeply ashamed. I carried this awful burden with me until just over a year ago, when I decided it was high time to deal with it once and for all, to be rid of it! To live the life I had always dreamed of. At that time I was a broken man, rock-bottom, in a profound state of mental, emotional, and even physical agony (my heart was like a great thorn in my chest), and I came home to mom and dad, and said, ‘mom, dad, I need help’ and they gave it to me with open arms. This past June I turned thirty years of age, and over the course of the year preceding, I quit drinking for good, quit smoking (though I confess to enjoy the odd cigar every 4, 5 months or so) I spent over a month combined in two separate psych wards in different cities in different provinces, to be observed and correctly treated, though it took my second psych ward psychiatrist to make the right diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, and not the strictly clinical ‘acute depression with an artistic personality’ that I had prior to received and then put onto an anti-depressant that saw me put on 20 pounds!
But I stuck it out, that I was going to get not just better but also become pro-active, ambitious and successful in attaining all of my dreams, and that I was going to give myself every possible advantage to accomplish these feats. Despite the weight gain I raged against it by running every day, my lower legs burning and aching terribly beneath their new-found weight. I resolved to write a novel, and did…okay, it turned out to be a novella. I challenged myself to learn piano and I did–Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love, and sung quite beautifully might I add. Spending many a day taking hikes into the backwoods of Fort McMurray, I not only found a communion with nature, but began taking pictures because I just simply had to. In time, when I did receive the correct diagnosis and re-medicated accordingly I was able to come completely off the the drug that saw me gain the extra unwanted weight, and within weeks it was gone, and I was all of the sudden like a slingshot when I went for runs-and my legs were stronger. I took up swimming laps regularly too. This past Canada Day marked my one year of quitting alcohol. I moved back to Vancouver this October, the place that I dreamed so badly to be living in a year ago, to re-engage myself in the great craft of acting, and now to write, and to play and sing, and to shoot, and to run, and to swim, and to…just be. And, man, I have never been happier. I’m still a moody fella sometimes, but hey, that’s just me!
Andrew Tkach, Canada
Break the Stigma of Mental Illness. I have. The doctor said I was bipolar. I corrected him and told him I was Tracy. A diagnosis does not define a person. Yes, I went through social phobia, ups and downs. However, being stable and knowing what it takes, I pass on my knowledge to those who need it. My goal is to help those of the downtown east side of Vancouver. Mental illness is so evident in those with addiction and homeless issues. I know this through the empathy of my own experience. I urge the support of Michael’s endeavors.
Tracy, BC, Canada
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder with bipolar sub-type just under three years ago. I was put into two different hospitals where I spent five and a half months waiting for a diagnosis. Although there is definitely mental stigma- I’ve found the community I’m now exposed to — doctors, mental health workers and other people with mental illness — has been warm and welcoming. Being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder helped to explain why I wasn’t able to manage at University doing a Varsity sport without medication. I definitely disagree with some of the published work on schizoaffective disorder telling me how I’ll end up and what I can and can’t do. I refuse to let people define me. And guess what? I’m back at school.
Lia, Best Coast of Canada
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