If your adult child had an unexpected heart attack what would you tell your friends? If he was frequently sick with asthma, what would you say? If she were admitted to hospital with psychosis, how would you explain that? What is the difference?
Our understanding of heart attacks and asthmas is much clearer than our understanding of mental illness. We know roughly what the first two mean; we know where to get help and we have a general idea of what the future holds. A strong heart and clear lungs are signs of good health.
We generally know little about illnesses of the brain and less about treatment and recovery. And if you have been following the media lately you know that mental health services are underfunded and sometimes hard to find. So we lack the words to explain to others, and we sometimes face an uncertain and frightening future.
Where to begin
The more you know about an illness and where to get help, the more hopeful you will feel. Read, and ask questions. When you have information it is much easier to talk about it. And when you meet another person with the same fears you will feel good about offering helpful suggestions. Connecting with each other is what makes a community healthy.
Connecting with each other is what makes a community healthy.
In the beginning I read a lot because that is how I learn best. I joined the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia and I learned about other organizations that had meetings, books and videos. I found a psychiatrist who took an interest in the well-being of the whole family. I asked endless questions. I talked and talked to a respected friend as we shared an early morning walk. I subscribed to mental health magazines. I acquired a huge number of friends who knew a lot about mental health; many had been ill themselves. I felt supported. All of these things made me a better mother and a healthier person. Knowledge is key.
Get started learning!
- Visit the library at the Hugh Bell Building at the Nova Scotia Hospital Site.
- Visit the Healthy Minds Cooperative at Bayers Road (next door to the mental health outpatients clinic) in person or online. Or call 902-404-3504 and ask for the navigator. She will help you find your away around and through the available services and programs.
- Check out magazines like Schizophrenia Digest, and Moods Magazine. Ask if they are available at your local library or if they can order them for you.
- Call the Schizophrenia Society at 902-465-2601- or visit them online - for general information on mental health, courses, workshops, and support groups.
- Visit Canadian Mental Health offices in Dartmouth at 63 King Street or call 902-466-6600, and in Halifax at Bloomfield Center, or call 902-455-5445. Ask about the services they provide.
- Call the Empowerment Connection at 902-404-3445 and ask about their services. They're located at 260 Wyse Rd., Dartmouth.
About Sheila Morrison.
Sheila is an accomplished freelance/creative writer, community volunteer, and public speaker. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The mother of an adult daughter who lives with mental illness, Sheila is a passionate advocate for mental health initiatives which respect and support individuals and families. Sheila calls her daughter her hero.