The Truth About Mental Illness

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The Truth About Mental Illness

Frustration-a photo series

Frustration-a photo series

Summer Sharma

Frustration-a photo series

Summer Sharma

Summer Sharma

Frustration-a photo series

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Frustration: a photo series

“Mental health is a state of being. Your self-esteem, your level of stress, even your distress. How you feel about yourself and other people. These are all part of your mental health. And mental health is key to your overall health.”

-Canadian Mental Health Association


You may have heard the terms ‘mental  illness’ or ‘mental wellness’ recently, but what relevance do these buzzwords have? As stated by the CMHA, an estimated 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder– the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide. This goes to show that it is important, and incredibly relevant, to be discussing them.

However, simply raising awareness can come with a cost, as misinterpretations often follow closely behind recognition. In this current pursuit for the collective greater understanding of mental illness, those suffering can be left unheard or victims to harmful stereotypes. Consequently, conversations are needed in far more situations than simply behind a desk at a psychologist’s office. We need to be educating employers in workplaces and students within schools. What is needed more than ever is factual and empathetic education, not only on mental illnesses but also on mental wellness.

This project is a way for students to anonymously express what they wish the world would understand about their experiences with mental illness, and the social stigmas that come attached.



What does mental health/ illness mean to you? How would you define it?

– Mental illness is something that is becoming so focused on nowadays, that the concept is missed; it gets romanticized and celebrated. In my mind, it is a private health matter [that] close family and friends may be aware [of], but it is not the focus of your life. For example, a quote I love is, “you aren’t a depressed dancer, you are a dancer who deals with depression.”

– Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain caused by either genetics, stress, environment, or trauma. Many people who don’t understand mental illness would only think that the person is just sensitive and always sad, but it’s so much more than that. Having a mental illness affects a person in almost every aspect of life. It gets to a point where you can’t even get out of bed and [you begin to] question your worth and [you] start pulling away from friends and family.

– [Mental health is the] status of the brain and the heart (I think it has to do with the heart too) which affects our behaviour. It is the wellbeing of the mind.


What stigmas or false ideas have you noticed others have about mental illness?

– That having a ‘mental illness’ is a shame, a weakness or a sign of  being “unfit” in the society. That it’s not normal.

– I think a stigma is that there is a cause for [mental illness]. Yes, it can be due to trauma, but also can be passed within generations and [can] just grow in a mind chemically. Additionally, some people may feel pressured to “have a mental illness” or want to due to feeling it makes them strong or worthy. It is something that should be better educated but not on the emotional side, more the physical medical side.


Do you think mental illness is portrayed accurately in the media?

– No, not at all; media only describes mental illness from the perspective of “mentally healthy” people, never from the perspective of the “mentally ill.”

– As there are so many sources in media, at times it can be shown realistically, but [mental illness] can widely differ person-to-person. I do believe that it shouldn’t be a “voodoo topic,” and nobody should be shamed for scars physical or emotional, but we also shouldn’t ‘celebrate’ them.



Do you think it’s important to teach about ‘mental health/ wellness/ illnesses” in schools? If yes, why?

– Teaching more people when they are young about mental illness is so important, and something I think should be a program incorporated in every school…We must better our knowledge and understanding for those around us in order to help the ones we care about. Everyone has either known someone dealing with a mental illness, or is dealing with it [themselves]. The more we educate, the more we can look for early warning signs and triggers. Suicide is becoming one of the top causes of teen death, which is so sad, because numbers are rising as we speak.

– Mental health should definitely be taught or given awareness at school. If students don’t recognize mental illness, they may feel as if someone is acting a certain way for attention or acting in a bad mood; kids need to realize that we are all dealing with a struggle in life and not everyone’s okay!


Do you think society is changing the way it views mental illness? Have we made any progress?

– I believe we have made progress with accepting it to be a real issue that needs to be dealt with. I don’t believe we have found that line of education and awareness between denying and celebrating it. My worst fear would be for someone to feel horrible, see some of the messages and stories that are online, and [then] feel the need to…[self-harm] from seeing those acts of despair.  It has changed, but we need more change.

– Yes, definitely, or else we wouldn’t have mental health week or assistants at school.


What do you wish others would know about what it’s like living with a mental illness?

We are not emotional savages who try to ruin our relationships. That’s something we can’t help but do when we think we don’t deserve anyone treating us well in our lives. Media has portrayed us as just antisocial, depressed homebodies, but it’s not our fault that we can’t experience enjoyment as well as others. This is just a symptom of having a mental illness. It’s something we cannot control… I want people to understand that anyone you could have walked by today could’ve either been dealing with a mental illness or have attempted suicide. Be kind. We are all just humans.


If you or someone you know needs help, it’s always okay to ask for advice and guidance:

Kids Help Phone

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Canadian Mental Health Association – British Columbia Division
Toll free: 1-800-555-8222