CMHA Hawkesbury raises mental health awareness

Par Christopher Smith
CMHA Hawkesbury raises mental health awareness

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CHMA) opened its annual Mental Health Awareness Week on October 5, a province-wide initiative to promote physical activity and raise awareness for mental health. Supporters gathered at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex in Hawkesbury to view various presentations from partner organizations and hear the guest speakers. Geneviève Desrochers spoke on what the CMHA hopes to achieve with the program, which was established by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) and coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).

“Mental Illness Awareness Week is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The goal of this awareness week is to educate, raise awareness, and connect people with community services,” said Desrochers. “Seventy per cent of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence, but 75 per cent of children and youth with mental health disorders don’t access to specialized treatment services. In any given year, one in five Canadians experiences mental illness, and mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common types of disorders in Canada.”

Following her speech, Desrochers invited Kandy-Lyn Bartsch to display the painting of her experiences with schizophrenia.

A Powerful Painting

“I experienced early onset schizophrenia when I was about 5 or 6 years old, but I did not know this, and neither did my family. As years went on my illness progressed, and I ended up self-harming because I believed whatever these voices were telling me inside my head were going to come true, and my family would be harmed,” Bartsch said. “They weren’t pleasant things that were being said or done, but I was diagnosed when I was 17, and it turned out that the voices were full of B.S. It took years to understand that the voices in my head couldn’t harm my family, to overcome the fear of what would happen if I didn’t follow through with what they were telling me to do.”

“From the time I was 17 to about 28 or 29, those years were a living hell because the voices and paranoia got really bad, but by the time I reached 30, my psychiatrist noticed I was improving. I refused to stop taking my medications, because I didn’t want to go back to that hell. When I was 33, I was told my schizophrenia was in remission, and I will remain there as long as I keep taking my medications. I insisted I was going to be okay, and I remain okay at 41.”

”One thing I can turn around and say is that, my life was hell at the beginning, but it’s been heaven ever since.”

Bartsch explained that her painting is for herself and all mental health sufferers everywhere. The cage around the brain represents that people feel trapped and can’t escape what’s happening mentally. The zig-zag line represents how some people feel torn apart, and the steam coming out the ears represents the anger issues that mental illness causes. The person inside the cage shows those who are still trying to escape, and the open door shows that they can.

Spiraling Feelings

Finally, Danielle Renaud spoke on her experiences with depression and anxiety since she was a child in school. She faced depression, loneliness, and a total lack of trust that culminated in suicidal thoughts. “I hated everyone, and it seemed that everyone hated me. I hated myself most of all,” Renaud said. “It was a mistake. My life has changed since then, and I have learned how to deal with my emotions.”

After the speakers finished, the gathered crowd proceeded outside to begin the march. The crowd walked through the streets of Hawkesbury, promoting mental health awareness and the positive effects of outdoor exercise. Afterwards, they returned to the Robert Hartley Complex to continue perusing the booths.

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