Words Matter

If you suffer from a mental illness, are you a victim or a survivor? Conventional wisdom suggests that the latter is better. But what if neither word quite fits your experience? What if 'suffer' doesn't quite sum it up either? People experiencing mental illness have long felt the power of semantics used against them, from being identified by their diagnosis to the outright loss of their freedom because of it. In some cases, words used to support or motivate can have the opposite effect, as Jowita Bydlowska, argues

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#BellLetsTalk: Reducing Stigma or Corporate Self-Promotion?

As you undoubtedly know, January 28th was the day for tweeting, texting, and calling in order to raise money for mental health. Bell Canada, one of Canada’s largest telecom companies, has run their Let’s Talk campaign since 2011. For every #BellLetsTalk hashtag tweeted, or image posted in Facebook, Bell donates 5 cents for mental health. Five cents is also donated for every local and long distance call and text that Bell customers send. It doesn't sound like much, but this years total amounted to more than 6 million dollars. Great right? Some people are not so sure. I’ve grappled with this question myself.  

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What is Normal?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have pretty well cornered the market on abnormal. It has been defined and codified in a dizzying number of ways and indeed, each edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published between 1952 and 2014 has added dozens of new mental health diagnoses. These diagnostic labels are used to categorize symptoms that are outside the bounds of normal human affect, cognition, and behaviour and there is no doubt that these different ways of classifying abnormality carry immense weight for individuals and society.

But what does normal*  look like? Is it the absence of mental illness? Is it perfect mental health? Is it feeling great all the time, or merely good enough? For that matter what is abnormal? What separates normal states of distress from mental health disorders? 

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