This piece is dedicated to Dr. Heyward Bruce Ewart (religious name Patriarch Paul). He is the President of St. James the Elder Seminary-Universityhttp://www.stjamestheelder.org/. Dr. Ewart is also the Head of Holy Catholic Church International. I’m a graduate student there majoring in counselling and theology. He has been instrumental in bringing me much further along in my inner healing journey from my abuse. Mentoring by phone and email is offered before and after graduation.This accredited highly affordable school features: a certificate in trauma recovery, a postgraduate diploma in Sacred Jazz, as well as bachelor to doctoral studies in theology, counselling and holistic medicine.
I encourage everyone to get involved in increasing mental health awareness by using #BellLetsTalk on January 25th. Your voice counts. For every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and Snapchat message Bell will donate 5 cents more to mental health initiatives. From 2010 when this program was started, Bell has given $79,919,178.55 to these programs, and hopes to donate at least $100 million through 2020.
Quoting from their web site linkhttp://letstalk.bell.ca/en/community-fund:
“Since 2011, Bell Let’s Talk has supported 344 organizations with $6 million through the Community Fund. The 2017 Fund will provide grants in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 to projects that improve access to mental health care, supports and services for people in Canada living with mental illness.
The 2017 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is now open for applications. (Deadline to apply is March 31).”
It’s the elephant in the room. For all our advancements as a society, the stigma associated with having mental illness is pervasive. I have heard people refer to those with mental illness as having a weak character. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is many who are mentally ill have been strong for far too long.
I know. I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). For the benefit of those who haven’t read any of my blogs, my PTSD is the result of the physical and emotional abuse by my schizophrenic father and others. It was too painful to look at for 46 years and still is painful, but thankfully not as much. The simple ringing of a phone can trigger terror in me when I’m deeply involved in an absorbing task such as doing research. A song, conversation or writing about my experiences bring those gut-wrenching memories back as if I was experiencing them for the first time. I still have nightmares about my child abuse. I have been in counselling for it for over six years with counsellors to whom I feel safer about expressing myself without fear of being emotionally shut down. All this talk therapy has helped me heal inner agony I buried for too many decades. It doesn’t go away if you bury it. It just gets worse.
My first counsellor did a lot of the tough work in helping me understand my father could no longer harm me. In one of our sessions, he said, “Kevin, your father is dead. He can’t hurt you anymore.” It took a long time before that message began to sink in.
As a child, I was afraid to go to sleep. I was terrified my father would come into my bedroom and smother me with a pillow. When I’m ill, the messages from my abusive past are particularly bothersome. “You’re not as sick as you think you are. If you tried harder, everything in your life would be just fine. You’re stupid. Do you work at being stupid? Your brother is smarter than you’ll ever be. You’ll always be a failure.”
There are many fine psychiatrists. You need to find one by asking them questions about their views on your situation. You need to interview them to find the one that is right for you. After all, the psychiatrist will be working for you.
I was struck by one of the twitter messages from a previous Bell Lets talk day. One in five children with a mental health issue in Canada doesn’t get access to care. That’s a shocking statistic when you think about it. That means 20% of children in Canada are not getting the mental health care they desperately need. We can do better than that.
In northern Ontario, according to people I have spoken with in the mental health field, people are waiting two years or longer to see a psychiatrist. That’s not acceptable. These people are suffering. They need help now.
The crisis of many young people in the small northern Ontario community of Attawapaskat making suicide attempts through drug overdoses has brought this situation to national attention. Since September 2015, there has been 100 suicide attempts and almost 30 in March alone. 1
The situation of those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces and experienced PTSD has put a long overdue national spot light on the problem. How many more Canadian soldiers with PTSD will have to commit suicide before they get proper access to mental health care? Former Canadian Armed Forces soldier, Lionel Desmond, is the story of a tragedy that will linger in our minds and hearts for some time to come. He experienced PTSD as a result of serving in Afghanistan. On January 3rd, 2017 he killed himself, 31-year-old Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter and his mother Brenda Desmond, 52. It remains to be seen how adequate the mental health care he was receiving was. Sadly, no investigation will bring back the lives of Desmond and his family.
Rev. Elaine Walcott, a relative of the Nova Scotia family, said in a Globe and Mail interview concerning Desmond seeking help at St. Martha’s Hospital:
“What kind of courage, what kind of stamina, what kind of fortitude did it take Lionel to bang at that door, after he’d already been losing hope that the country he went to defend and the service he gave… didn’t count for anything when he needed help.” 2
More mental health services are being provided through the government of Canada. This is a start but it doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is the attitude and culture of the military. In combat and in times of peace, soldiers who have served or are on active duty are expected to be strong. When they have completed their service, they are expected to return to civilian life as if their military experiences did not happen. They often gunny sack the suffering that is destroying them and their families. The initial treatment for soldiers in battle who were too afraid to fight was to brow beat them by saying they were weak. They would be told they were spineless cowards. They were treated like children who needed to be punished. Thankfully, mental health care treatment for soldiers has come a long way since the First and Second World Wars and the Korean conflict. However, we have a long way to go in addressing the stigma that having any mental illness such as anxiety or depression has on those who suffer it. Mental illness is just as important to treat as physical illness. These soldiers with PTSD are every bit as much casualties of war as those who have lost limbs. Those who are mentally ill need effective treatment. Their families need treatment as well to help them to help their loved one.
You have an opportunity on January 25th to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer mental illness. Think of how each of us can add our nickle to promote mental health care programs. All our nickles together are like ripples in a pond. That first nickle adds to others in the water until the ripples created by all those nickles are many.
A nickle still goes a long way.
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. Kevin is studying to become a chaplain and professor of Psychology specializing in Pastoral Theology. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.