Vancouver, share your mental illness stories and raise awareness

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Those who struggle with mental illness battle an invisible disease. For most people, they aren’t noticeably sick when you see them walking down the street or eating in a restaurant. They aren’t sent home from work when they’re feeling sick. On the surface, they appear just like the rest of us.

There are no daffodils or pink ribbons distributed to millions of people to show support for those with a mental illness. There are seldom walks or runs in their honour.

Today, why is it so much easier to say “I have cancer” than it is to say “I have depression”?

That is a question that cannot be answered simply. But we can try.

The common conception of mental illness in Vancouver is the dishevelled man talking to himself on the street corner, or the woman with an uncontrollable twitch on the bus. Eyebrows are raised and these people are avoided, not because they are bad people, but because their behaviour invokes a certain amount of fear.

We fear they are unstable, or dangerous, or on drugs.

And while mental illness takes many shapes and forms, and some do become dangerous to themselves or others, the majority of us struggling with mental health are the people sitting opposite you in class, your bus driver, your boss, your friend, or your brother. And there is a fairly good chance you had no idea.

Increasing awareness of mental illness is the first step to solving this medical plague that affects one in five Canadians. And that is where you come in.

To celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 4 to 10, Vancity Buzz will be publishing stories from readers who have struggled with mental illness either currently or in the past. Submissions are now open until October 2, 2015.

Why are we doing this?

Creating awareness for mental health is a complex issue which is so often targeted on a broad level – national campaigns, celebrity endorsements, books and movies. While more and more people are becoming aware of the realities of mental illness and the stigmas related to them, for someone suffering, there is always the constant feeling that they are alone in their battle.

In the age of social media and over-sharing, it is no surprise that most people don’t use those platforms to broadcast the negative aspects of their life. They don’t post tear-stained selfies or honest tweets about how they really feel. The internet is their shield in which they can pretend they are living a happy, normal life. Even though we are all guilty, it gives those who are suffering the impression that they are alone.

If we are able to publish stories of relatable people struggling with mental health and living right here in Vancouver, people whom someone might know or share a community with, we can show those who are struggling that they are not alone and help is available.

How to submit your story

  • Stories must be real life examples of the contributor’s battle with one of more mental illness, including but not limited to:
    • Alcohol or drug addiction
    • Eating disorders
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Phobias
    • Schizophrenia
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Multiple personality disorder
    • Tourette’s
  • Between 300 to 1,000 words
  • You can submit your story anonymously; please let us know whether you would like your story to be published anonymously.
  • Although it is not required, we encourage you to include your age and occupation so that readers can more easily relate to your experience.
  • Please email your story to tips[at]vancitybuzz[dot]comwith “Mental Illness Story” as the subject title.
  • We ask that you do your best to submit your stories by no later than Sunday, October 4 at 11:59 p.m. The earlier, the better!

Note: Not all submissions will be chosen to appear in our series.

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About the author

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
@jillslattery

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