“There is more to me and more to my community than suicide, sadness and hopelessness.”
(I did not pursue anything beyond this letter because I deemed it not worth my time. My next experience with the Ryersonian was much better!)
My name is Kristen Bellows and I’m a Mad social worker, Research Coordinator at Young Ones Breaking Barriers, a researcher with a mental health group called the Madvocates, have spoken at mental health conferences and have written about mental health stigma.
I was an interviewee in the feature by Katherine in volume 66, number 7 of the Ryersonian. While I understand the intention of the feature article on my experience of depression while going through university as spreading awareness on the issue when I read the article I became extremely upset over how I was portrayed. This also stems to how individuals with mental health issues are portrayed in the media. It was mentioned in the article that stigma surrounding mental health issues can be isolating and doesn’t help in seeking treatment. I feel this article did not create the proper understanding and hope that I had discussed or wanted to discuss in the interview.
Instances such as the opening observation of “no glaringly visible scars” on my “bare wrists”, the placement of my positive message of strength in the middle and a negative, and I feel hopeless, closing paragraph describing my relationships, alcohol consumption and cutting, and finally the overall sombre tone help create the stigma you are supposed to be breaking.
The interview questions were all about symptoms, suicide and treatment. There was little to no thought on where I am now. I mention in my interview that I no longer have depression but this was not said in the article. Talking about recovery is extremely important in reducing stigma and creating hope for those experiencing the hopelessness of a mental health issue. I also mentioned that I joined groups that portray mental health positively and that was not included. There is more too me and more to my community than suicide, sadness and hopelessness. The article focused on the negative when it is the positive that is so important. When I have told my story at other events this has been the focus.
I would like a more positive rewrite where I am actually shown as the happy and successful woman that I am in the online article or have the article completely removed online. I am very upset by this article and feel that future articles on the topic should consider a more positive approach.
Thank you for your time and for beginning to pursue mental health awareness at Ryerson.