Helping to ending mental health stigma, one step at a time

By Janet MacLeod, Executive Director

A culture of stigma around mental health issues is not something you will find amongst Community CarShare’s staff team. Instead, we embrace talking about our mental health, and recognize it’s just as important a consideration as physical health to employee wellbeing. This evolution of a supportive mental health culture started out with one small step many years ago (‘sick’ days became ‘wellness’ days), but that was before I was even able to talk openly about my own mental illness.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was 17, but I’ve had symptoms since I was 11. At the time, I had no idea that the random (and sometimes disturbing) things rolling through my thoughts was actually a mental health issue, however after learning about OCD during a high school class, I put two and two together. It wasn’t until I was in crisis and couldn’t focus on my homework one night that I talked to my parents and went to see the doctor.

The public mental health conversation thankfully has changed significantly over the past fifteen years, and that shift has helped me to no longer feel shame about having a mental illness, and getting to a place where I can now talk about it openly, and use my experiences to help others.

Part of this work is participating in events such as Lutherwood’s Steps for Kids, which my colleague Heather Bigelow and I are walking in on Sunday, May 7. Heather first signed up for the event when she was looking for ways to support local mental health programs, and she immediately got me involved too. Our team is called Sharing is Caring, and coincidentally, another colleague had already been in touch with Lutherwood about having Community CarShare sponsor the event.

For Heather, her journey around mental illness also began as a teenager, when she lost a friend to suicide. As suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24, not to mention all the other ways mental illness impacts the lives of young people, the importance of work that organizations such as Lutherwood do towards ending stigma and providing support for young people has never been more clear.

To support Lutherwood and team Sharing is Caring, please consider making a donation.