Monday, 26 January 2015

Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness

One in five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Nevertheless, fighting the stigma of mental illness is an ongoing battle in which victory is long overdue.  Research shows that:

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds. Sadly, Canada has the third highest suicide rate for youths in the industrial world.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.
 (Statistics are from the Canadian Mental Health Association's "Fast Facts about Mental Illness" at

We can start to help those affected by mental illness by debunking the myths associated with it. For example, many adolescents (and adults) think that depression is just part of “growing up” and will disappear on its own, but we need to appreciate instead that depression may be a life-long challenge. The Kids Help Phone helps youths who are suffering from depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns or who just need someone to listen to them. The telephone number for the helpline in Canada is 1-800-668-6868. 

One of the underlying causes of depression and suicide in adolescents is bullying (especially cyber-bullying).  This topic is finally receiving national attention, and there are numerous resources available.  The Kids Help Phone website at has extensive information on this subject and also has a bullying forum where teens can post questions. In addition, many websites now provide resources to combat bullying, including incident reporting for schools.  See, for example,

In Canada, there are also numerous other Internet and local resources for those of all ages seeking help. For a list of crisis intervention resources in the province of Ontario, please visit For further information and to locate the chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association nearest to you, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at

This Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Bell Canada is sponsoring its fifth annual “Let's Talk” Day. The four pillars of the Let's Talk initiative are anti-stigma; care and access; workplace health; and research. To download a complete copy of the "Let's Talk" toolkit, please visit

Mental health is a global concern.  Please check your internet and local resources if you live outside Canada.

Let's help put a human face on this suffering and end the silence.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Winter in the Limerick Forest

Winter is a time for writing. It keeps me busy and warm on these short, cold January days. I've been working on something new, The March and Walker Crime Novel series. Set in eastern Ontario, it features homicide investigators of the Ontario Provincial Police. The first novel, Sorrow Lake, has been completed in manuscript and is being read and evaluated. The second, Burn Country, is on my mind every morning when I wake up, and I expect it'll keep me busy until the snow is gone.

While the snow's here, however, I bundle up each day and take the dogs for a walk in the back forest. Our property is a long, narrow strip extending into former pasture that's now busily reforesting, if that's a word. The other day we were watched by a large barred owl as we meandered along my home-made foot path. We often startle ruffed grouse and cross the tracks of deer as they travel back and forth along their own trails. It's a great place to get out and clear my head, breathe the cold fresh air, and, yes, daydream.

Foremost in my daydreams these days is a plan to create an oval back there where I made a small clearing in the fall. It's a place where I've put a chair and bench for sitting when the weather's warmer. You can see the spot here, on the right. In the foreground on the right is the trunk of a white pine that fell a few seasons ago; it'll become another bench for sitting. There's a dead tamarack just out of the frame to the left that will provide logs for raised beds filled with wild flowers. When I cut it down, of course.

Meanwhile, we wander and daydream. My retriever, Charley, noses around beneath one of our tall white pines. If you look up, you may spot a porcupine who's spending the winter in this particular tree. He's something of a problem, because he's stripping the tree for lunch, and I don't want him to kill it. So far, stern warnings and cuss words have had little effect. Next I suppose I'll try a few snowballs. It's worked before on his cousins. Porcupines are shy and don't like people, particularly noisy ones like me, but this fellow's being stubborn. They really don't like snowballs, though, so I think I may change his mind about hanging around.

Back inside, at the keyboard, I'm in complete control of the world in which my stories are set. As much in control, I suppose, as any of us when it comes to the universe of the imagination. But out here, in the forest, control isn't an issue. I'm a participant. A partner. I've noticed in the snow that the rabbits and deer like to use my paths when I'm not back there.  I hope they find my oval beneficial, when it's done. On the other hand, I still have a bone to pick with that porcupine.......!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Upcoming Let's Talk Day for 2015

On January 5, Bell Canada launched its Let's Talk campaign for 2015. The official Let's Talk day when you can talk and tweet in support of mental health is January 28, 2015, and this will be a subject of a later post. In the interim, here are some suggestions from the campaign launch on how you can help in ending the stigma of mental illness:

  • Language matters - pay attention to the words you use about mental illness
  • Educate yourself - learn, know and talk more, understand the signs
  • Be kind - small acts of kindness speak a lot
  • Listen and ask - sometimes it's best to just listen
  • Talk about it - start a dialogue, break the silence 
For the full text of the campaign launch, please see

And please stay tuned for a future post on supporting the January 28 Let's Talk day.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Anne Tyler: Fifty Years of Writing

The British Broadcasting Corporation, in its online list of novels to look forward to in 2015, indicates that Anne Tyler will celebrate her 50th year of writing with the release of her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, a family saga set in Baltimore. Ms. Tyler, whose understated writing style, quirky characters and family dramas, and ability to use symbols to convey complex layers of meaning and emotion, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Her previous novels include Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist.

The BBC interviewed Anne Tyler in 2013 when she was in the process of writing A Spool of Blue Thread. She was 71 at the time and speculated that this would be her last novel. Ms. Tyler obviously has a keen sense of humor as she jokes about her decision to put aside her pen. To listen to the interview, please click here.

For the full text of the BBC article, including other novels that will appear in 2015, please click here.

A Spool of Blue Thread will be released on February 10, 2015.