In the spirit of Mental Health Week, I’d like to share a couple of interesting books on the subject of women and mental health/mental illness. The first week in May is earmarked by the Canadian Mental Health Association to raise awareness of mental illness, offer practical ways to maintain and improve mental health, and support recovery from mental illness and addictions.
In Open Heart, Open Mind, Olympian Clara Hughes tells a fascinating and inspiring story of her life so far, from her hard-partying teen years and life with an alcoholic father, to her entry and immersion into the world of sport, and on to the present day. Throwing herself into training, by 2006 Hughes became the only athlete ever to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter games, for cycling and for speed skating. But behind the intense training and continued partying, Hughes was in the grip of a severe depression. With the help of her husband, she managed to throw her energy into her own healing journey and into volunteerism. She is committed to raising awareness and fighting the stigma attached by some to mental illness, using her celebrity to make a difference as the national spokesperson for Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Initiative.
I used to love to read Jan Wong’s funny and surprising “Lunch with Jan Wong” series of interviews with attitude, in The Globe and Mail. She had been a well-respected journalist for many years when an article she wrote about a Montreal school shooting resulted in a huge backlash against her. For the first time, her newspaper failed to stand behind her and, also for the first time, Wong found her herself falling deep into a clinical depression. Out of the Blue is Wong’s memoir about these events and the total lack of support she received not only from her employer, but also from the disability insurance company. Her newspaper fired her for supposedly faking illness and her insurance company’s dealings with her depict almost a textbook case of how someone with an illness should not be treated. Her journalistic skills and her sense of humour are evident throughout the story and make for a worthwhile read.
Wishing everyone wellness and support in this Mental Health Week and beyond.
5 thoughts on “Books and Mental Health Week”
I did not know the Wong story — just Googled. They really put her through the wringer, unfairly, it seems to me. What did you think about it? That sounds like a really interesting book.
Her article had talked about the possible alienation of three separate mass murderers in terms of attitudes in Quebec against those who were not of “pure” descent. According to her, her article was vetted before publication, and yet she felt she had been hung out to dry. When she spiralled into depression, she really didn’t understand what was happening to her. Being depressed, she couldn’t write and therefore couldn’t work. I do think she was treated unfairly, also by the insurance company. There is a lack of understanding about depression and also both companies are necessarily motivated by money and for the paper preserving readership. It’s a really good book and is well researched (on depression etc) and well written. Apparently, after it was published, she even lost the settlement she had received because the terms had said she was not allowed to speak out.
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yeah, that’s what the wikipedia piece said, too.
As an outsider, based on what I read, my reaction would be — Quebec politics too hot to handle and she was unfortunately herself of the wrong racial background to be allowed to make critical comments. And her editors folded, which is also lousy. Ridiculous that Harper weighed in, too. But I wasn’t there.
Yeah she grew up in Quebec herself. The thing is, she had always been outspoken and was valued for that, but this time there was too much backlash from many sources. This book is of course her perspective and I’m sure the other parties might see what happened differently.
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I don’t know about Quebec specifically, but Asian (Hmong) people who were born and raised around here aren’t really considered natives. (Although, to be fair — my father has lived in this town fifty years and isn’t considered “from” here either). I’d have to read more, but the book definitely has me intrigued.
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