Mental illness no joke

Hello and welcome to the Mental Health Hot Line.

If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

If you’re schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.

If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter which number you press as no one will answer you.

Oct. 2-8 is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada.

This is an annual national public education campaign designed to raise awareness and open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness.

Why do we even need a Mental Illness Awareness week, you might ask?

One out of five Canadians is affected by mental illness. For too long, Canadians with mental illnesses have been in the shadows. Too few Canadians know about the burden of mental illness on our society, and too few sufferers and their families seek help when they need it.

Though some do reach out, their story is often a tragic one.

One such person is local, successful businessman Gord Bylo, who has experienced the stigma of mental illness first-hand. For the past 10 years, he and his family have lived with the nightmare of having a son with schizophrenia and addiction issues, or what is known as a concurrent disorder.

Frustrated by his journey to help his son, Gord is motivated to tell his story in his desire to help erase the stigma of mental health and addictions.

“People need to know they are not alone – our society would be a much better place if we judged ourselves based on how we treat our most vulnerable,” says Gord. “Our citizens with mental  health issues and addictions need to be respected and cared for.”

With this goal in mind, Gord has collaborated with JOY TV (part of ZoomerMedia) to create a 26-episode television series called State of Mind.

As a former healthcare manager of addictions, I was approached to help produce this series. Our first 13 episodes – which will be taped Oct. 11-14 – will cover not only Gord’s moving story but other timely and relevant topics.

We have some amazing guests who will appear in studio, including medical experts and professionals in the field of addictions and behavioural psychology.

One of our episodes will feature the story of a teenage alcoholic. At the opposite end of the spectrum we have a wealthy senior who was a “closet” drinker and has now been sober for 25 years. Both of these people have turned their lives around and will share their stories.

A “perfect” young married woman who will speak openly about her depression and who now “blogs” about it. A man addicted to technology who went “offline” for a year and wrote a book about his experience.

Real people with real stories.

Mental illness doesn’t just affect the people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It affects everyone from all walks of life and from every socioeconomic strata of society.

That means you and me, our family, our friends, our colleagues and our neighbours.

I invite you to be a part of the audience on Oct. 11-14 inclusive, as we tape State of Mind live in our JOY TV studios at 204-5668 192 Ave. Contact me for more information at or 604-536-8717.

Because mental illness is no laughing matter.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.


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