“Imagine that your child has been diagnosed with diabetes. But, before the doctors can give your son or daughter the insulin they need, product name is luvox, you have to attend cooking classes and have a dietician observe your family’s eating habits as though you are to blame for your child’s condition. If the dietician deems you uncooperative because you are unable to comply with their instructions, then your child will not receive the insulin they need”
-Sarah Cannon, Keynote Speaker
-describing the harsh realities faced by many families when it comes to mental health
United Way Oakville, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, STRIDE and the YMCA of Oakville presented You, Me & Us: A Symposium on Mental Health & the Family this past Thursday, May 8. Over 100 leaders and front-line service providers joined this half-day workshop, which featured a series of speakers, activities and performances discussing the implications of mental health and the family.
Welcome remarks were made by Brad Park, CEO of United Way Oakville, that highlighted the need to engage the community in an open discussion. Minister of Labour and MPP Kevin Flynn also spoke towards generating additional awareness, and students from Oakville Trafalgar High School performed a sketch for the audience focusing on how to support individuals with mental illness.
Sarah Cannon, Executive Director of Parents for Children’s Mental Health, delivered the keynote address that focused on creating awareness of mental health issues. She noted that while physical ailments are treated immediately and with sympathy, mental illness is practically ignored.
“Somehow, we’ve come to this sense that mental illness isn’t as serious as physical illness,” Sarah commented. “But mental illness should be treated with the same seriousness and urgency as physical illness.” If you look at the stats, suicide is the leading cause of non-accidental death among youth in Ontario. Of these deaths, 90% had a diagnosable and treatable mental illness.
Sarah went on to remind the audience that mental illness is treatable. Once diagnosed, it can be managed. The difficulty lies in the fact that many people see mental illness as a result of poor parenting skills or a bad home environment, where in fact, mental illness is an illness.
“We have set the achievable goal of our children growing up happy and healthy, and participating in society,” Sarah remarked. “By creating awareness of the situation, the stigma can be removed, bringing the severity of the situation to the forefront.”
To complete the workshop, the audience was invited to write down questions that they would like Sarah to answer. Nearly every table had great points and questions for discussion, and the attendees left with a deeper understanding and appreciation of mental health issues and the family.