Karim Mamdani

Ontario Shores

Karima Velji

Sanaz Riahi

MIAW21 - Compassion for Yourself and Others

Mental. Illness.

Two simple words that pack a punch. When said separately they seem easy for most to swallow, but together they can cause quite a stir.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week and we need one. Mental illness has been shrouded in stigma and shame for too long and it has to stop.

I know this first-hand. I have lived with mental illness (more than one) for most of my life and have experienced the ups and downs that go along with that. For many of those years, I blamed myself for my condition. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t capable enough to overcome my disorders. It’s true. That’s what stigma does. It puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the person suffering from any kind of mental health issue and it’s wrong.

When I was first diagnosed at 19 with major depression, I didn’t feel much relief. In fact, I felt scared. I didn’t want to take medication and I certainly didn’t want to tell my friends. Even though I grew up in a household with a father with major depression and I knew the drill, it was completely different when it was happening to me.

I feel ashamed of that thinking now. I mean, I never thought of my father as not strong enough, not smart enough or capable enough to overcome his illness. He was just dad doing the best that he could. And his best was enough. Why couldn’t I afford myself that kind of compassion?

That’s a key message that I want to make sure I am always getting out there. Compassion. Compassion for self if you’re living with mental illness and compassion for those around you that may be struggling. Mental illness, like many things in life, is not a choice. We don’t get to choose which illnesses do or don’t fall upon us. We end up with what we get, and we have to just get along.

I’m happy to say that I’ve become an advocate whose passion it is to spread the word and stomp out the stigma and shame that is associated with mental illness and to shine a light on the good that can come from it. Good you may ask? Yes. That compassion I’ve been talking about? It comes more easily to me now. I want people to understand that those two words; Mental. Illness. Can go together in harmony and hopefully change the hearts and minds of those in need of a little understanding.