Well, dear readers, it has been quite a while since I published a post. A lot has gone on in the past while, I stumbled across a job as a journalist and all seemed great but unfortunately the magazine that I worked for was defunded, leaving me wondering what to do.
I had come across this magazine through a post online (I strongly recommend any writers out there who are just starting out, subscribe to submission mailing lists and go through them carefully, some of the things I have found there have been my bread and butter). I wrote something for them and they were really impressed. I had actually just completed a very cool course through the University of Alberta and an American University on writing personal essays. I had a few things published, including getting a short article into “The British Journal of Psychiatry”. Things really seemed to be going good. What was odd was that I asked about my pay for the article and they said they paid ‘x’ amount for oped articles, and until then I hadn’t even heard of oped articles. To educate myself, I found a website called “The Oped Project” and applied for a scholarship to take their course.
This was a fantastic course to pair with my personal essay course. They taught me how to write short opinion articles, edit them and send them to newspapers and other news agencies. I ended up getting four or five articles into newspapers and though they weren’t paid gigs, they led to a lot of great stuff. I wrote one about mental health and police response and the next day I was interviewed on a mainstream news radio station. I wrote some others, and have had a lot of people contact me for different things, including buying my books.
The reason I think this is so important and why I think any writers out there who read this blog should take notice is that people with mental health issues are an unpopular voice. Newspapers and news shows need to hear our stories, need to hear what we go through and what could be done to help. My big thing is to look at psychiatric hospitals like the one in Edmonton where I now work and ask some tough questions. First of all, it bothers me that the place is hidden far away from the city and to get to it you need to go through unimproved back roads like they want to hide the fact that people have mental illnesses. I would really like to see a psych hospital in a more centralized location for many reasons. First of all, it would make it easier for long-term patients to find part-time work, attend school, or engage in normal activities like going to a movie or shopping. It would also benefit the communities because a lot of what is strictly done by institutional staff such as food services could be contracted out to local people and businesses.
I have this other idea that there should be a great deal more education and efforts at inclusion for people with mental illnesses. Then, when the public is ready (I don’t feel they are now) something like putting in an in-law suite in a private house that could be rented out to someone with a mental illness. This would allow people to become a part of a community and even help pay the landlord’s mortgage. I do feel though that there is too much ignorance and stigma around for this to be effective. It is being done on a small scale, but there is so much need.
A lot of what I have to say with regards to the mentally ill has to do with housing. If you can’t house someone, it becomes nearly impossible for them to be treated properly by psychiatric and medical staff. Their conditions grow worse and all too many times these people die from exposure or drug overdose and way too many by suicide.
There is much to be said, and much more to be done. I hope you, my dear reader will continue to follow me as I try to speak out and encourage more people to speak out. 1% of the world population have schizophrenia and another 1% suffer from bipolar disorder. These are horrible illnesses that are not the fault of the person experiencing them, and sadly often the bad results of these illness are the fault of things like stigma and ableism.