A Journey towards Integration
Dr. L (my wonderful psychiatrist) once told me that most people with psychiatric disorders develop them as a result of things that they experienced while young — under the age of 20. There’s a massive body of evidence that what happens in our formative years stays with us forever.
Sadly, too many children live in poverty, which is an extremely stressful way to live, for everybody who has to do it. (I can vouch for the truth of that: I’ve had to live on “Ontario Works” — the province’s lovely propagandizing name for welfare — since my “Prince” was arrested for domestic assault. And it’s ridiculous — I struggle with every payment, go to food banks to make ends meet, account to the government for every single penny I spend, and still I get a form letter every month telling me my “benefits” — all monies, including drug, medical, and dental — have been cut off until they can determine whether or not I’m still eligible. It’s systemic intimidation, designed to get people out of the system, to bully us, to make us afraid. And it works — I hope you appreciate the “Ontario Works” irony here. My young son gets distressed because I’m distressed, exacerbating any mental health issues he may have or develop. My cheque is late every month, so I’m late paying my bills, which negatively affects my credit rating, making the climb out of poverty that much more difficult. Oh, Ontario, why the systemic discrimination against society’s weakest, most vulnerable members?)
CBC Hamilton recently released a series of five articles on Kids, Poverty, and Mental Health. The statistics are evidence that ignoring the problems of children and youth only serves to create a terrible burden of illness, heartache, and expenses in the billions of dollars for health care and the criminal justice system.
Many of the comments to these articles are instructive as well, and echo my own experience in the mental health system, such as threats by staff (nurses and doctors) to call Children’s Aid when you seek help for mental health issues, prescriptions for pills but no follow-up or links to community organizations that can help (they DO exist!), and pervasive stigmas and examples of discrimination against both the poor and the mentally ill.