Lost in the abyss. That is what life is like with a serious mental illness. The doctors, nurses, and health care providers, do all they can for the patients. But they can’t live for them. They can’t snap a finger and make everything all better.
Being someone who has experienced serious bouts of depression for over a decade as a adolescent and young adult I hope to shed some light on the real problems young Canadians with mental health issues face.
I have been fortunate with my illness. I have had outstanding doctors, nurses, therapists, and support staff. They have helped me immensely. I also have had extraordinary support from my mom, dad, brother, and sister, who, for these past ten years, have demonstrated an unbelievable amount of love, compassion, empathy, and respect towards me and for what I am going through. Without them I don’t know where I’d be. I probably owe them my life. Having loving and devoted grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins has been supremely important.
And last but certainly not least my friends, who have stood side by side with me through the good times and the bad. They have provided me with immeasurable love. I wish there was a way to tell them all how much they have meant to me. They could have deserted me when things got rough. But they didn’t. That speaks to their character, their humanity, and their compassion. It is truly remarkable, and thinking about all the times they helped me, it almost brings me to tears each time I do.
I have been very, very lucky. Others in my situation are not so. And I wish to devote this post to them, to those that have nobody, who suffer without an ear to talk to, who walk aimlessly on the streets in the heat of summer, and in the frigid temperatures of winter.
They are the voiceless. They have seen it all.
Young people whose parents choose not to deal with them anymore, kick them out of their homes and force them out on the street, or jumping from friend’s house to house until they run out of places to go and are destined for subway stations and bus stops where they can get some escape from the torment that is their life. They don’t have love in their life. They don’t know empathy or compassion. All they know is pain and agony.
Because statistics on the percentage of youth with mental illness who are homeless are difficult to pin down, the numbers vary greatly. But, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s annual report in 2009, 50% of homeless people have a mental illness and 1/3 of Canada’s homeless population are youth between the ages of 16-24.
I could have been part of that statistic.
There are young people who can’t afford medication and turn to drugs to treat their illness. They get lost in the underworlds of Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. They are just faces without people to turn to for help or guidance. They look around at where they are and feel hopeless, in despair.
In 2012, 227 people between the ages of 15-19 committed suicide. I could have been one of them.
In 2012, 291 people between 20-24 took their lives. I could have been one.
In 2012, 273 people between 25-29 ended their life on this planet. I could have been one.
I was lucky. I escaped the worst because of family and friends who loved me, cared for me, and to this day do all they can to support me and make me feel loved. But others are not so lucky.
They are the ones who turn into statistics and numbers.
The forgotten ones.