Stigma and shame kill more Canadians than your worst nightmares can envision.
Their deaths leave anger, guilt, frustration, grief, sorrow, hopelessness. Broken dreams. Broken hearts.
What’s enraging is their deaths were preventable.
So that’s why I am writing this. To ensure that my granddaughters or grandson or their friends never get to a place in their lives where stigma or shame speak louder than truth and love.
Addiction and Depression
Addiction and depression are just two examples where stigma and shame hold far too much power.
My cousin Dr. Mark Tyndall was the deputy provincial health officer for British Columbia. His work with safe injection sites and overdose prevention was ground breaking. His “impatience” and speaking truth to power recently brought about a transition in his role.
The Globe and Mail reported, “Dr. Tyndall freely criticized politicians and decision-makers if he felt their responses to the province’s overdose crisis were inadequate.”
Canada, we have a problem.
Eleven Canadians die every day from causes related to opioid use, leaving their friends, families and communities behind to pick up the pieces.
The leading cause of death in Canadians ages 30-39 is overdose from opioid use.
Researchers from B.C. and Alberta, along with advocacy groups from across Canada, launched “See the Lives,” a series of powerful videos aimed at publicizing the real human cost of addiction – featuring parents of children who died either directly or indirectly because of drug use.
See the Lives
Petra Schulz, from Edmonton, is featured in one of the four videos. Her son, Danny, died of an accidental overdose in 2014 when he was 25 years old.
“I wish I had known about harm reduction. About keeping people as healthy as possible without judgement or shame,” she says in the video.
“We are really losing a generation. The victims of this crisis are important. They matter. And what I have learned in the time since Danny died is that their deaths are preventable.”
In each video a parent sits, listening to the audio of a letter they have written to their child since their death. The videos end with a call to action for increasing harm reduction efforts to provide a safe drug supply, and to end the shame that prevents people from speaking out and getting help.
Sharing the family stories of those impacted by addiction is a powerful way to challenge stigma and advocate for policy change. Please join me in sharing and speaking up.
Mental illness is hard enough to face, let alone having stigma and shame associated with it. Often addiction and mental illness go hand in hand. Self-medication is a result of stigma and shame.
Bell Let’s Talk is just one social indicator that people having some form of mental illness find silence to be a better ally than vulnerability.
The economic cost of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life. The stigma of mental illness makes us sicker.
Stigma is the biggest barrier to mental health care.
Praying Mental Illness Away
You can’t pray mental illness away. This is especially true in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian community. I’ve faced it as a pastor. No single issue has caused me more heartache than facing the outspoken against medical support in bringing hope to sufferers.
“Pastor, don’t you believe in prayer and deliverance? Don’t you believe Jesus heals?”
I do. That’s why I am a pastor.
You can’t pray anxiety away.
It’s not about having more faith or better prayers or shouting louder at the Devil. It’s not whom you know or what you know.
Ask anyone who struggles with chronic anxiety how he or she feels when someone advises him or her to just “pray it away” – someone like my friend Sarah Ball.
“All well-intentioned advice but from someone who has overcome a very severe anxiety disorder this is probably the worst advice to give and can keep anxiety suffers in a perpetual cycle of fear.”
Sarah is an author, speaker and mental illness survivor. She inspires others to live fearlessly by sharing her humor, vulnerability and wisdom on overcoming anxiety.
“Anxiety was never something I struggled with in the past, I was a mom of five, a ministry leader, a mentor and I was a self proclaimed ‘suck it up princess’, ‘gett’r done’, ‘I can do all things through Christ’, ‘hustle hard girl’ and then after years of mental, emotional and physical neglect I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, Panic disorder, Depression and OCD – and my faith-filled friends, I couldn’t just pray it away.”
Anxiety is not just a spiritual issue; it’s a body, mind and spirit issue. Healing needs to take place throughout the whole person.
“The most powerful phrase that gave me power over my anxiety was ‘Oh, hi anxiety, It’s JUST you.’ When I learned to accept the sensations and thoughts and not try to fight or run from it my life changed.”
What Can You Do?
- Break the stigma. Break the silence. Reach out to a loved one or friend. Be their advocate. Become a social media advocate. Speak up.
- When someone reaches out to you with his or her battle, your first response should be: Talk to me. I’m listening. Your second response should be: Do you have a support system? Have you seen your doctor? Are you in counselling?
- Share Sarah’s work. She offers fearless hope to many through her blog – saraheball.com, online courses, speaking and book – Fearless in 21 Days, A Survivor’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety.
- Join Jocelyn and I along with Edmonton’s business leaders at Award Winning CRESCENDO. See the Stars May 4th 2019 at The Winspear Centre and May 24th at Jack Singer Concert Hall. Raising Funds for Mental Health in Edmonton and Calgary. Be a part of lasting change. Purchase Edmonton tickets here. Purchase Calgary tickets here.
APPLICATION: Let’s work together, pray together, break the stigma and shame together. Share the resources listed below. Please leave a comment. Thank you for joining the fight.
Edmonton and surrounding areas resources:
— Edmonton crisis online chat line
Call “211″ — In Edmonton for mental health information and referral services
(780)-482-4357 — Edmonton distress line
(780)-342-7777 — Edmonton Crisis & PACT team
— Alberta health services, Addiction & Mental health
— Youth peer support chat line
— Cornerstone Counselling Centre in Edmonton
— resources for children’s mental health
— Sexual Assault Centre for Edmonton
— Child and family services for child protection
- Hope grows here. Stories that inspire people, build faith, and offer lasting purpose.
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There is nowhere to respond to anxiety crisis, etc.
Thanks for that blog post, Pastor Bob. I look forward to each one. I know of no better advocate for helping those who suffer with mental health issues in our faith community. Full stop.
Safe injection sites are another issue of interest to me. It goes against the grain of all we grew up with, but goodness knows our current approach is not worth a pinch of salt. Some years back at Teachers Convention, I listened to a couple of sessions put on by Dr. Gabor Mat’e, a gentleman who was at the heart of Vancouver’s first safe injection sites. Fascinating stuff. I believe you would enjoy his works.