Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada.
One of MIAW’s major initiatives is the Faces of Mental Illness campaign, a national outreach campaign featuring the stories of Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Thousands of pieces of MIAW materials featuring the Faces are disseminated to hundreds of organizations across Canada in an effort to raise awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness.
Faces of Mental Illness 2019
Connections define us – connections to loved ones, our passions and communities. For 1 in 5 Canadians living with mental illness, connections can be the difference between struggling alone and recovering together.
We are strong, we are connected, Jilian Brown, Anita Manley, Donovan Taplin, Onika Dainty and Mélissa Néron are the Faces of Mental Illness for 2019. Let’s work together treat mental illness like any other illness and forge the connections to ensure everyone can get the help that they need to move forward with their lives.
To hear their stories of hope and recovery see below:
Jillian is an adventure photographer who lives with PTSD. She dealt with numerous traumatic experiences, but through counselling, fitness, and nature she was able to heal and now shares her story to help others. Jillian has shifted her mindset from thinking of PTSD as a stigma to using it as empowerment. Perseverance – Trust – Strength – Determination has now become the words of Jillian’s PTSD.
At 43 years old, Anita lost contact with all of her friends and family and found herself living in her car. Anita struggled with schizo-affective bipolar disorder for many years and was hospitalized seven times beginning in her early 20’s. Since receiving the right treatment in 2011, Anita has volunteered with the Women’s Resource Centre at The Royal and co-created a writing group to support other women. She is also a patient advisor for mental health issues and speaks to many audiences to help reduce the stigma surrounding psychosis.
Raised in a rural island community, Donovan struggled with depression and anxiety since they were a teenager and had limited access to mental health care. The most crucial element to Donovan’s successes in recovery has been finding a sense of belonging as a queer person. In 2013, Donovan became the youngest, and one of the first openly queer people to hold municipal office in the province and lead their Town’s first recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week and Pride Month. Donovan also served on the Prime Minister’s Youth Council and is currently Vice-Chair of the committee developing Canada’s national standard for post-secondary student mental health, the first of its kind in the world.
Onika has spent a total of one year of her life in psychiatric institutions due to psychotic episodes brought on by Bipolar Affective Disorder 1. Growing up in a household that did not discuss mental health, it took Onika years to seek out the right treatment. Today, she hosts a podcast, DaintyDysh that discusses mental health issues and aims to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Since childhood, Mélissa knew she was different. Her emotions were very overwhelming and to the extreme. As she grew older she made several suicide attempts and it was not until she was in her mid-20s that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with exacerbation and ADD. She is currently studying to become a nurse and wants to show others that even with a mental illness, anything is possible.
Support Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW)
Mental Illness Awareness Week runs exclusively on funding from their sponsors, partners and contributors. You or your organization can make a difference by making a contribution to the MIAW campaign by going to Camimh’s website.