Is Community Based Participatory Research Actually Research?

At a talk, a researcher discussed a community based participatory research project where individuals with mental illness were involved from start to finish. In the next row, I heard a delegate say “it’s just the new macramé.” Ironically the talk was being presented at an anti-stigma conference. Go figure. But perhaps due to the history of tokenism, skepticism is justified.

What I Know for Sure about People with Mental Illness

11 Things I know to be true about those of us in the mental illness tribe.

Bipolar Coming Between Brothers

It's hard to watch a relationship become estranged. And even harder when you don't know what the future holds. I cannot predict the future, but I have seen horribly wounded relationships return to loving caring ones (including my own). Here are four tips that may help start the healing journey.


A new documentary by Phil Borges and his team portrays psychosis in a wider, more inclusive perspective than I've ever seen. It is unusual and doesn't apply to everyone who experiences psychosis. But for those it does, it may be refreshing and a relief.

I’m a Bipolar Love-Child. What About You?

I already felt like an alien amongst my own kin, not to mention uncomfortable in my own skin. Then when I was hit with bipolar disorder, well, talk about feeling like even more of an outsider. Now I wasn’t just that weird artsy kid of Jack and Velma Maxwell’s, I was the CRAZY weird artsy kid who been in the psych ward. Like icing on the cake I was a loony tunes times two.

What’s Your Psychiatric Super Power?

What’s your psychiatric super power? What’s the strength of your bipolar bicep? The power to...persevere in the face of tall challenges...unearth humor from painful places? The power to be vulnerable and brave simultaneously?

Finding Your Light

Recently, I've had a string of ‘feeling-pretty-bitter-resentful-jealous-nasty-and-down-right-ornery-look-at-everyone-else-who-is-doing-better-bigger-more-creative-things-how-come-they-get-recognized-for-it-and-not-me' kind of days! Yup - that about sums it up.

Ride Don't Hide

At this time there may be no cure for the collection of emotional/cognitive afflictions known as ‘mental illness.’ That said, the medicine to cure the social disease of mental illness stigma has been discovered. The medicine is community mental health awareness events.

The Path to Liberty is Openness

Andrew Solomon is very clear: “There is a sense of it, depression being shameful. And the only way it will to cease to be shameful is for people to be open and to talk about it.”

The Bipolar Aesthetic

After living in ashamed secrecy for 17 years, artist Missy Douglas, who lives with bipolar disorder, uses painting to expose her true identity.

Healing Caregiver Collapse

The more we feed our soul, the more we can feed others. Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Medicine and Miracles, issues 'creativity prescriptions' to his patients. "Every single day it's critical that we create something." he emphasizes. The very act of creating is healing. It's not about skill or talent, quality or quantity. It’s about engaging in meaningful expression.

Misery Needs Company and Compassion

We are not isolated in our suffering. We all suffer from the vulnerability of the human condition. We all have imperfect and messy parts that can lead to dysfunction and despair. And we all desperately need kindness, connection, and compassion to make it through. As American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once said, “I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”

Talking About Suicide Is an Effective Way of Preventing It

In a month, Mr. Williams’ death and the conversation of depression and suicide prevention no doubt will be trumped by frenzied entertainment news deemed more current. But we can help continue the conversation. Talking about suicide doesn’t cause it to happen, in fact just the opposite. Talking about suicide is the most effective way of preventing it.

Robin Williams' Death is not in Vain

Driving home from grocery shopping I heard the news. My heart cracked open and I cried. Like most people, I knew him through his wonderfully quirky humour, his comedic and dramatic roles in film and of course, as the 'nanoo-nanoo' alien 'Mork'. Through his acting, his authenticity, and his audacity he left a mark in my heart (and millions of others’).

Let’s Be Rational When It Comes to Mental Illness

The truth is that people with mental illness commit about 5 percent of all crimes. So that must mean that so-called “normal people” commit the other 95 percent. Yet the media never goes out of their way to tell us that the perpetrator was considered to be sane and well-adjusted.

Sleeping Is the Balm!

Commonly referred to as "sleep hygiene" (good sleep habits), here are some tricks for getting consistently good rest. For the record, I never thought my sleep was all that dirty. Who knew? OK well maybe the occasional dream, but still...

Hope for Mental Health

It's important to recognize that there's a difference between managing your illness and trying to cure it. A mental illness isn't curable, despite what anti-psychiatric proponents would argue. Realistically we have to face that we may be ill for periods of time during our lifetime. But that doesn't mean there isn't hope.

How Family Kindness Can Help Heal Mental Illness

Although I railed against my parents' help for years, all those years that they did support me, even while I was refusing it, made a huge positive impact. Their consistent presence, kindness and support was the reason why I felt safe enough to go to them when I realized I did need help.

Eating Disorder Stereotypes Hurt

Quick! What do you think of when you think of eating disorders? Bulimia? Anorexia? Women and girls? There are other shapes and characteristics to eating disorders – ones less well known, less stereotypical, perhaps more hidden but just as destructive.

Depression, Chemistry and Circumstance

Given the potential for sadness to morph into major depression in those of us blessed and cursed with a certain genetic disposition, it’s critical to distinguish between the two in order to prevent the former emotional state from progressing into the latter medical disorder.

Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities

On-going dialogues about mental health and mental illness on campuses are crucial so stigma is lessened. And in doing so, students can be propelled from the fear of disclosure and requesting support to the freedom of accommodation and academic success.

Crazy Not Deaf

In Andre Picard's article about the practice of restraining patients who are in acute psychosis, I explained “I may be crazy but I’m not deaf. Good caregivers can be forceful and still respectful.” This is at the crux of my open letter: compassion is as healing as the medications we take and the services we receive. More so at times.

An Open Letter to All Hospital Emergency Ward Staff

Dear Hospital Emergency Ward Staff, Please remember this: I may crazy but I can hear. I may be mad but I can see. I may be insane but I’m still smart.

Troubling & Disturbing

Is our collective fear of mental illness stopping us from using our rational minds? Ms. Jackson was going on a ‘March of Dimes’ cruise. Does this sound like someone who is going to be a threat? No to me it sounds like blatant discrimination. And stupidity.

I Ate a Baby

"What's the scariest thing that ever happened to you?" I was recently asked & I lied. Because the truth is really scary. On Halloween 8 years ago, a farmer called my dad to say he'd come home to find my big sister rummaging through his drawers, her body smeared in mud from the creek outside. She was wearing his wife's bathrobe. She had lost her mind. My sister was gone

Revealing I’m Bipolar To My Boyfriend: Is That Crazy?

I’m on my second date with this hot guy I met on set and I think I've swallowed my tongue. Any moisture in my mouth has vanished and seems to be making my nose run. Oh god, oh god. Just spit it out: "I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder quite awhile ago." I freeze and wait. And he says…

Banana Seat Bikes, Bruised Knees and the Road of Recovery

Wellness is like riding a bike: you have to keep at it once you get going to stay balanced.

Are You Insane if You Think True Love Is Possible? Prt 6

After breaking up with Mu for the next three years I jerk back and forth, up to under, in the door, out the door of the psych ward. From shrink to shrink, from meds to meds, from guy to guy, bed to bed and job to crappy job but nothing ever pans out. Until I meet this guy, this really really HOT guy named Gord.

Do You Know These Three Solutions to Heal Mental Illness?

Stress is relative. It’s all about context. When I was involuntarily committed to the psych ward, my stressors were unlike any I encounter today. So were the solutions.

Does Mental Illness Have to Destroy Your Relationship?

I’m in my boyfriend's apartment babbling about extraterrestrials hovering overhead ready to beam us up; dancing, arms wild, head back in a ‘pre-beam up’ ballet. I am passionately paranoid and uncomfortably compassionate. He sees this and his protective boyfriend instincts kick in. He somehow gets me into his car, gets me to the hospital.