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Stan Oliver: Thoughts of Silence

Stan's Stance
Stan's Stance - Submitted

For many, the very thought of talking about stressful events such as: deaths, job loss, relationship break-ups, children leaving and other- life changing happenings-, is not discussed or recognized. Any, inkling of this conversation was regarded as “being weak”.

It was not tolerated around the kitchen table and was considered to be a nuisance. People kept things bottled up, to their selves! You were told “to get over it and move on”.

By personal characterisation (as I am no phycologist), of this and complete lack of care on- “How People Really Feel”- led to a society of silence/quietness. However, my current assessment, this is finally shifting. The philosophy of, how we deal with this as a community of people is changing.

 Much to my liking, I believe us, may have turned a corner and are we starting to better understand and appreciate the culture of mental illness? Between Bell Let’s Talk Day and the provincial Government’s commitment to dealing with this disorder, I have confidence and it is safe to say” we are heading in the right direction”.

The Department of Health and Community Services through their strategic document titled “Towards Recovery-The Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador” has set the wheels in motion to begin to lessening and eradicate the negative stigma associated with mental illness.

Minister John Haggie hit the nail on the head, when he stated “Stigma kills, pure and simple. It keeps people from seeking help when they need it. We need to open up our minds and hearts to the concept that mental illness is like any other illness. We need to talk about our experiences and the services available. So that people know they can seek treatment and begin the road to recovery”!

The stigma associated with mental illness has sometimes driven people to suffer in silence.

Recent research by creditable medical organizations and associations, report that one in every five people are affected by mental illness. Just about everybody knows somebody who is or has been undesirably treated for some kind of mental illness. Why then do we continue to discriminate against mental illness as a disease?

Yes, it is a disease and should be treated as one. A very basic definition of disease is: “a particular quality habit or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person”. If a person is diagnosed with an ailment such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and cancer; doctors will prescribe a course of treatment and medications and attempt to deal with the sickness. This is not always the case when we are dealing with mental disorders. We need to do a better job. Perhaps a way to accomplish this; is not only reducing the stigma associated with mental health challenges but continue to increase the government funds to address this. Although we have seen in Government’s “The Way Forward” document and increase in support of $ 475,000.00, will the money be spent in the place in where it is best?

The document clearly identifies fifty-four recommendations. Theoretically, this is great news. From a Labrador perspective, approximately only five of those recommendations are for this region. One though; is an excellent idea and is very much critical. That being “to ensure a Psychiatrists provide regular visits to Labrador coastal communities, as needed”. This is supposed to be implemented by March 2018.

Although as most government strategic documents outline recommendations that will be eventually implemented, allot of times, it may not happen because of a host of reasons such as budget limitations, I feel cautiously optimistic about this plan. We know this will not be a simple task.

The only way this will be successful and achieved is through sincere collaboration and to be frank “put your money where your mouth is”! A support letter doesn’t mean anything unless there is a check and an actual action finished. The changes made will have a more positive impact and support those living with mental health challenges. 

Thanks for reading my column and if you have ideas and or comments please feel free to e-mail directly at

Cheers from Central Labrador

Stan Oliver lives and works in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

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