“Mental illness stigma affects us all, especially as the statistics state that one in five Canadians has mental illness. That’s actually a large segment of the population when you think about it. Just look around the room. Count out five people and consider the fifth one as a person with mental illness. It’s not to say that that person has mental illness, but it’s a visual to be sure. And actually, did your view of that person change briefly based on my suggestion?
That stigma is there and, to speak bluntly, it sucks.
Once I became mentally ill, I even stigmatized myself.”
An important contributor to Sarasvàti Productions current community-based Mental Health Project is the Special Events Administrator for the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, Katrina Tinman. As a person of lived experience with mental health issues, and also as someone who grew up with a parent who had mental illness Katrina spoke to us about stigma at our season launch in August.
Her powerful speech highlighted how pervasive stigma is in our lives, and how it constructs walls between people—even the people we love.
“The reality is that stigma seeped into my life as a child and stole my mother from me in many ways and it wasn’t something she ever deserved to suffer…and this realization didn’t even hit me until recent years as I started to come to terms with my own mental illness and walk in her shoes in ways I never before considered.
In the past year, my father and I finally spoke where I admitted to him how I stigmatized my mother. He just simply said yes, you did. There were ways he did, too.
The reality is my mother was an exceptional woman. She even home schooled me through my kindergarten year because I couldn’t attend and, by the first grade, I was the top of my class. She always loved me dearly, was proud of me and helped me in all the ways she could. She had a marvelous sense of humor with a great laugh to go with it and was a kind person who always did her best to do the right thing.
Consider how stigma affects you, really, and what it steals from you. It steals the beauty of knowing someone for who they really are on the inside and separate from the mental illness in their life, effectively burying that person further into their mental illness.
It keeps most of those ‘one in five’ with mental illness in the shadows instead of in the light where there could be further support for those who are yet discovering their mental illness.”
Katrina advocated for public education, and initiatives like Sarasvati’s Mental Health Project, in order to help shift our perspectives on mental health issues and begin to see mental health as everyone’s health.
“If you consider the full societal calculation of mental health it’s everyone’s health at stake. We are all part of a greater whole. We all impact each other with all of who we are, even if it’s with the societal illness of stigma.”
We encourage everyone to work with us to breakdown this stigma. Come share your experience, help work towards acceptance of mental illness, and learn about theatre with Sarasvàti!
On November 28th we are facilitating a workshop that is open to anyone and everyone. Anyone with a story to tell, or who is interested in Mental Health issues are welcome to attend. There is no cost. The open workshop will take place from 1-4 pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street) and will use theatre games and exercises to explore the topic of stigma.
There is also a session for caregivers who have a family member or loved one that has experienced a mental illness on Saturday, Nov. 21st. Full details can be found at – http://sarasvati.ca/mental-health-project-sessions/
The project is funded by the Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Arts Council and is being undertaken in collaboration with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, as well as multiple community organizations such as the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. Together through research, workshops, and discussion we are creating a play script that will culminate in presentations this spring.