Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A Satisfied Single by Sarah Evans

Sometimes it's lonely to be single, but not in the way you think. I usually like being single and having my freedom. Unfortunately, the world is definitely not set up for single people. You only have to turn on the radio to hear tons of songs about love and heartbreak. This is why I don't listen to a lot of music - I mostly listen to talk radio.

I think the bigger issue is how society views singleness. I realize that many people want to be in relationships and that society has changed its views in the past few decades.

Still, I feel like being single isn't completely accepted. I think that for many people, being single just means waiting for the right person. It's more about what a person is not and does not have than it's about what a person is. Even if someone wants to be in a relationship, it's important for us all to be happy and satisfied with ourselves first.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sharing My Story by Sarah Evans

On August 5, I was on a panel about mental health and disability. It was hosted by Healthy Minds Canada, a charity that raises awareness about mental health and addictions and supports research and education. The panel was the second in a series of Lunch and Learns hosted by the charity. I was one of two panelists, and the panel was moderated by Paul Rosen, a Canadian Paralympic athlete and motivational speaker.

I was pretty confident about sharing my story because I had done it a couple of years before at the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy's conference. The first time I shared my story was a bit scary. It was hard for me to know what to include since I wanted to be honest without getting too personal. People showed me how to balance this, which helped me to gain confidence in my boundaries. 

Although it wasn't planned, I ended up being on the panel with a really good friend. We used to be neighbours, and she was there for me when I was going through my worst mental health crisis. It meant a lot to me that we were able to do this together. 

The presentation was well received. People seemed to be very interested in what we had to say. I am very grateful to the people who organized the event and am hopeful that this will be the first of many opportunities to get the discussion of disability and mental health going. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Legacy of the Parapan Am Games

The Olympics are an exciting time. Everyone cheers and shows their national pride. Unfortunately, I think the Paralympics sometimes take a back seat. They are not as televised like the Olympics and sometimes they seem to fall off people's radar.

I thought that this is what might happen with the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

All along, the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games have been promoted together. I have heard radio sports updates on the games. This morning I heard an interview with someone who created a website documenting the accessibility of places in Toronto. I think that people are talking about the ParaPan Am Games in the same way they talked about the Pan Am Games (and not complaining about them as much). It's exciting that the ParaPan Am Games have raised the profile of people with disabilities in Toronto and I hope they leave a legacy of accessibility long after the athletes have returned home.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Depression Isn't the Only Mental Health Issue by Renée Cormier

The most often overlooked demographic in mental health circles may surprise you. As mental illness slowly becomes de-stigmatized, those who live with disability still struggle to find the support they need. According to some studies, more than half of people with disabilities also live with mental health issues. It's easy to understand how depression could affect someone with a permanent disability, but make no mistake about it; depression is not the only mental health issue we are talking about.

People who live with either intellectual or physical disabilities are susceptible to all the same mental health problems as everyone else in the free world, only the risk is actually higher for people with disabilities. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20% of Canadians will experience some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. Since this statistic does not exclude people with disabilities, it is safe to assume that those who are not living with disability are much less likely to experience mental health problems.

The challenges faced by people with disabilities needing support for mental health problems are considerable. It is actually quite difficult for people with physical disabilities to find accessible group therapy, yet the need for social support among the physically challenged is critical to their well-being. Sarah Evans, a mentor and mental health advocate at AbilityOnline, once told me about an experience she had trying to join a group therapy session. She was told by the organizers that she could not participate because her presence made others uncomfortable. Sarah lives with cerebral palsy which affects her speech and mobility. You would think that people who are so interested in helping others and who passionately battle to de-stigmatize mental illness would be more compassionate and inclusive.

Many people diagnosed with intellectual disabilities also suffer from mental illness. Who helps them? Virtually nobody. It seems the professional community considers the mental health needs of the intellectually challenged impossible to address.

I contend that nothing is impossible where desire to change exists. Making the professional community aware of the mental health needs of people with physical and intellectual disabilities is the first step. Advocacy is important. Aligning with organizations like Canadian Mental Health Association, Healthy Minds Canada and CAMH is also important. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so when you are spreading the word through social media about mental health awareness, please put a plug in for those who live with disabilities. Their mental health is important, too.

Renée Cormier is a Public Relations professional who works with She is passionate about helping people who live with disabilities find the social support they need in order to thrive and live meaningful lives.