For some students, happiness is hard to find

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem


Being happy is an important part of life. However, those who have a mental illness may be unable to be happy because of the daily stress and sadness they experience.

Mental illnesses differ for each person. Some people may have depression or an anxiety disorder, while others could have a dissociative or personality disorder. Whatever the illness may be, a common factor is that a mental illness may keep someone from doing things that seem easy.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 70 per cent of mental health problems start during childhood or teenage years. 34 per cent of Ontario high school students show signs of moderate to serious levels of psychological distress as well. Jason Blue, 28, from Brampton was one of these students. He has suffered from a severe mood disorder since his time in high school. He is still battling the symptoms today.

Jason Blue, 28, has had a severe mood disorder since Grade 9. (Photo courtesy of Jason Blue)

“Some days it’s honestly hard to even get out of bed,” Blue said. “It’s pretty hard for me to find the drive to do anything outside of the house, and even then I feel very bored at home all the time.”

Mental illness makes doing most things hard. Things that may seem easy to do for some people may be much harder for others who suffer from a mental illness. “Even the things that I used to like to do are hard for me,” Blue said. “Going out with friends, making meals for myself, and even playing video games feel like a chore.”

Mental illness makes it very hard for those affected by it to hold down a steady job as well. Unemployment rates can be as high as 70 per cent to 90 per cent for people with severe mental health problems. It is also estimated by CAMH that 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental illness every week.

Blue has been unable to work since 2013, when his mental health got to a point where he could not be in a workplace. “The last job I worked was pretty easy for me because it was like a warehouse job, but even that just became too much,” Blue said.

In order to support the people across the province who are unable to work, the Ontario government has the Ontario Disability Support Program. ODSP gives a form of income every month to those eligible to apply. However, while this money does help it may not be enough to completely support a person.

“It’s honestly about the same amount I would get working a minimum wage job, which is not nearly enough for me to live comfortably if I were to move out on my own,” Blue said, “I live with my family right now, so for the moment, it’s fine for month to month spending, but for anyone living on their own I don’t see how it could be enough.”

While financial support is needed, medical help is also very important. Seeing a doctor for help is the first step for people to get better. However, it is not as simple as seeing the doctor and getting medicine or counselling.

Medication is often prescribed to patients suffering from mental illness. It helps to lower symptoms the patient may experience. (Photo by Dylan Olley/Sheridan Sun)

In the past year, one third of Canadians aged 15 or older who have a mental healthcare need, state that their needs were not fully met. There isn’t a specific cure to mental illness, and while many medicines exist to help, it is hard to find the right ones for each person.

Samantha Brown has had trouble with finding the right medicine for years. Brown has schizoaffective disorder, a condition which may cause hallucinations and trouble thinking in addition to erratic mood swings. “I have constant mental breakdowns and anxiety attacks,” Brown said, “I see and hear things sometimes and get confused on what’s real.”  

While there is no true cure for schizoaffective disorder, symptoms can be treated with medication. Finding the right medication is the real challenge and most of them have many side effects. “The medicine I take has multiple side effects, including spasms that can be damaging or permanent if left untreated,” Brown said adding, “It is hard to find the right pills that work together at the right dosage.”

Mental health has become a very serious issue. It is import for people who may suffer from mental illness to not be afraid to be open about it and seek help. People need to also be accepting of those who suffer, and not treat them like there’s something wrong with them. The stigma around the issue still exists, with surveys showing that many people still don’t talk about their mental health problems openly, due to a fear of being judged.

“While I think people are starting to understand that this is a real issue, there’s still room for improvement,” Blue said, “A lot of people think it’s as simple as changing your attitude and looking at things differently. I think that really hurts the feelings of people who suffer with mental illness, and may keep them from being taken seriously. People have said that to me a lot and I’m sure it happens to others. This is a serious issue and I think we all need to realize it’s not the same as being in a bad mood.”