The light at the end of the stigma


I have always been interested in perception. As a professional photographer I am fascinated by how I could look at that same person, place or thing as the photographer standing next to me, and how  the outcome of the image was totally different. The way we view the world is influenced by many factors. Our experiences, environment, internal dialogue, friends, family, colleagues, and our spirit influence our decision-making, relationships, fears  joys, and our judgement—Judgement of ourselves and others.

People’s perception of me over the years may have sounded like this:

Cara is an optimistic and outgoing person. She is an author, a speaker, an award winning filmmaker, an artist, an intuitive, a healer, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. As a professional she continually strives for success and helps others see their potential when they can’t see it in themselves. Cara sees the light in everything, even in our darkest experiences. Cara is happy.

These perceptions are not false, but many times we don’t see what lies beneath our experiences, what follows us home after work, or what goes on behind closed doors. I often see people not being their authentic selves for fear of judgement, or of being bullied or discriminated against. I was one of those people who lived with this fear. I was afraid people wouldn’t understand. I was afraid that they would handle me with kid gloves, or worse, that their perception of me would change. But now I can tell you that I am not afraid of people’s perception of me.

Mental illness, like depression, are  more common than you may think. Did you know that:

  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.

Furthermore, there are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self.

For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater. Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior. (Parent’s guide to teen depression, Oct. 2014)

The conversation needs to continue, and we need to be aware that through support and awareness, and by embracing mental health advocacy, we can save lives by changing stereotypes, discrimination and the stigmas associated with mental illness. Let’s change the world together, one perception at a time.

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