Saturday, January 15, 2011

Your Recession is My Depression

by CY

It may not be unusual for those who are mentally ill to have run-ins with the police. Nigel Elder suffered from schizophrenia and life was confusing for him. On January 12, the police were called because someone saw a man waving a gun from a moving vehicle. 50 officers, including police negotiators and tactical squad officers, soon chased Nigel. 

Nigel was confused. He didn’t have any gun, and he just wanted to get a slice of pizza. It may very well be that his unusual behavior partly caused by schizophrenia, in addition to the fact that he is black, contributed to the police standoff. 

Nigel was eventually charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and driving without a driver’s license. The mother, Maria Elder, believed her son should have been treated as someone with a mental illness, not a criminal. 

Even though I do not suffer from schizophrenia, I know the last thing a person dealing with mental health challenges needs is to go through a traumatizing experience with armed police officers.

I also know the outside world is a cruel and painful place to live in for someone who is considered a visible minority and experiencing mental health and employment difficulties.

We also know from research that mental health issues like depression, anxiety and psychosis are linked to discrimination based on a person’s race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex.

Many immigrants and former immigrants, including myself, struggle everyday to find or work at low pay and highly stressful employment. According to psychiatrist Kwama McKenzie, our risk of developing mental illness increases every time we experience discrimination, feel threatened or attacked by our employers, police authorities, or suffer verbal/physical abuse.

According to Steve Lurie, the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, people living with serious mental illness are likely to die 25 years earlier.

Even though I have a university education, I accept whatever job is thrown at me, despite the fact that I have never had a full time job and all my jobs have been of extremely low pay and temporary in nature. As a result, I have accumulated a huge load of debts and I live in fear when I am unemployed.

Lately, I notice my mental state is worsening everyday as I realize that no one has called me for an interview or a job offer.  Even though I am regularly taking my anti-depressant pills, I am becoming paranoid, and unemployment is eating away at me that I found it increasingly difficult to cope with daily life in a healthy way.

Maybe, just maybe, my situation is partly due to the fact that Canada spends only 5% of its health budget on mental health share services, less than most OECD countries, and the province of Ontario, where I reside, spends less per capita that most other provinces on mental health.

We have enough pundits trying to convince us of an economic recovery. When are they going to start talking about our mental recovery?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hellbound Call Center

by CY

As a part time telemarketer, I often notice people ranting online about how much they hate telemarketers, brainstorming ways to annoy us for revenge. I tend to empathized with those who take out their frustration on the relatively innocent telemarketers.

I admit I was rude to telemarketers several times too. I once loudly yelled, “Good Luck!” to a telemarketer trying to sell me credit cards.

Despite what telemarketing companies claim, I believe nobody becomes a telemarketer selling credit cards over the phone by choice.

I have been underemployed or unemployed for long periods of time. On top of my credit card debts and student loan, I have to confront my worsening mental health. Being underemployed or unemployed makes me feel even more clinically depressed, anxious and hopeless. The last thing I need to hear is someone telling me how I need to get a real job instead of bothering him or her with my phone calls. Yeah, tell me something I don’t know already...

Is it Any Wonder?

by CY

We all know life is unfair. Life is particularly unfair for many who suffer from mental health issues or other disabilities. While we often hear public lip service about the need to respect and treat mentally ill people, I believe one of the biggest problems facing many people suffering from mental health issues is related to employment, or the lack thereof.

Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are not qualified for disability benefits. We are forced to work, but what happens when nobody will hire us?

I want to work and be a productive member of society, but employers do not hire people who don’t appear “normal” or “ideal," particularly during periods when there is a scarcity of jobs.  We are caught in a Catch-22. We can’t find work because of our depression/anxiety, which worsens our mental health condition. We have no income, and our mental health is further worsening but we have to wait until the point of severe mental illness or physical disabilities before we become eligible for disability benefits.
Is it any wonder that the Canadian Addiction and Mental Health Centre states that depression is the most significant cause of suicide for both younger and older Canadians?