Mental illness touches everyone: our friends, co-workers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters…and even our children.
We need to do more than just talk about it, we need to invest in programs and services that will make a difference in people’s lives. The stigma is huge and until we accept people with a mental illness we won’t be able to move forward and make a real difference.
‘Superhero’ – A visual poem by Laura Burke
It is true that I no longer feel bereft
but without your reflection
of the person I could not see
I probably would have left
so hold your loved ones
and take in their suffering
don’t make them be heros
with their distant gaze
and the few words they
have to say
maybe we are heros
but not in the way
you might think
even the intrepid among us
to hold them
At the age of 25, Laura was completing her last year of undergraduate study in Montreal. She was pursuing a degree in theatre performance when she began to experience unusual symptoms. Strange sounds filled her mind and soon she was having visual hallucinations and hearing voices. When these symptoms became unbearable she left her studies and moved home to Nova Scotia to seek the support of family and friends. It was almost six months before Laura was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During this time she contemplated suicide several times and was in and out of hospital.
Once she was properly diagnosed Laura was able to access medical treatment. Her symptoms were still difficult to manage at times and she often faced bouts of serious depression. Laura sought support from those closest around her but was sometimes rejected because of her mental illness. She joined a local clubhouse for people with mental illness and gathered personal strength from others who shared similar challenges.
Laura began healing by assisting others around her. She found work through the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia as a peer support worker and helped facilitate the delivery of the Your Recovery Journey Program – a program developed by the SSC.
She is now able to embrace her creative talents once more, and finds comfort in writing poetry about her experiences. Laura makes several public presentations on mental illness every year. She still experiences the effects of stigma from time to time, but believes that being open and honest about her illness can help to dispel the myths.