I believe that no matter how much wealth we have, we can always give back to our community. Whether it is through volunteering our time or making a monetary donation, we can make a difference in other people's lives. The cause that I am most passionate about is raising awareness for mental health since I have experienced first-hand of loved ones living with mental illness.
"One in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life" - Canadian Institute of Health Research.
There are 5 simple ways to help:
1. Language matters
2. Educate yourself
3. Be kind
4. Listen and ask
5. But most of all, let's talk about it
Growing up, my mother struggled with mental health since her early adult years. Being incapable of holding a full-time job, she became a homemaker while my father worked in the restaurant industry to provide for our family.
I still remember the day, when I was eight years old, watching a cartoon show on TV and my older sister was pointing to the characters and trying to explain to me that our mother had a mental illness. Being so young, I didn’t fully comprehend it all but as I grew older I began to understand what it was like to live with a parent who suffered from several mental illnesses. Sometimes her mental health affected her daily routines and made simple tasks very challenging. It was unpredictable, for at times it lasted a few days or for several weeks where she would be monitored in the hospital.
Although medications helped to subdue the symptoms, it would only be a matter of time until the treatment became ineffective. I know she did her best as a mother to prepare meals, help me with my homework and take me to swimming lessons during my childhood. Of course, as her daughter, I was there to support her through her ups and downs.
Unlike other illnesses, it doesn't always show physical signs but it can cause a strain on relationships with loved ones. I encourage each of us to take the time to talk and understand each other so that we can have each other's backs instead of turning them away from those who need us the most.
When she passed away in 2008, I took the time to see a social worker on a weekly basis for several months to help cope with the loss of my mother and to take time to heal. I firmly believe that self-care is important and shouldn't be neglected. It was not an easy thing to do, but opening up about my feelings really helped me to put everything into perspective. The one lesson I learned is that it was my mother’s mind that controlled her body and her actions. Ultimately, I want her to be remembered for her joyful personality and her perseverance as she fought through her life’s obstacles.
I hope by sharing my story, that others will be open to discussing and sharing their stories too. I firmly believe that no one should go through this alone and we should all be there to support each other.
For every book purchase, $2 will be donated to CAMH: Centre of Addiction and Mental Health to support mental health research.