Anita Cenerini's son, Private Thomas Welch died on May 8, 2004. His death is marked as the first death by suicide of a Canadian Soldier after returning home from the Afghanistan mission. As Canada’s National Silver Cross Mother, Mrs. Cenerini shares her thoughts on mental health.
As the conversation around mental health heightens this week, I hope Canadians will think and talk about some important things: the need to fight stigma and the need to support those who face difficult mental health challenges.
I believe we need to remove the language that is so commonplace in our society, which breeds fear and exclusion of people living with mental illness. I hope people will talk about the real-life stories of “real people” living with mental illness – the challenges they face and overcome every day with their illness itself and the public stigma that still accompanies mental illness in our society.
Talk, talk, talk, about mental illness as relative to any other physical illness - talk about mental illness with the same hope for recovery through treatment and research as we do any physical illness.
“Live life” with your loved one who has mental illness with compassion and empathy – it becomes the kindness you extend to others around you – let’s talk about the positive impact of kindness in our homes, schools, workplaces, cities, and our country as a whole.
The conversations about mental illness, the progress in research and treatments, must continue on a daily basis to tear down the stigma associated with mental illness. At all levels in our society, from children to parents, to grandparents, employees and employers, health professionals, teachers and students, and government leaders, we need to all take part in the conversation to end the stigma.
We need to extend compassion, empathy and understanding to those living with mental illness – it could happen to ourselves, a family member, or close friend.
Today and every day, treat others with kindness.