March for mental health initiative aims to tear down stigmas
Published Thursday, May 23, 2019 12:11PM EDT
The third annual March for Mental Health will kick off in Toronto this weekend with participants from every walk of life.
At noon on Sunday, the front lawn at Queen’s park will be filled with people who share a passion for raising awareness and helping those living with mental health issues.
Mental health advocate and co-founder of the March, Courtney Taylor, says the purpose of the event is to shatter stigmas.
"This is what depression looks like … we are not all crying all the time."
Taylor says the March is also a call to both the federal and provincial governments to improve accessibility to mental health and addictions services.
Taylor has been living with anxiety since she was just five years old, saying “at times I couldn't leave the house.” She describes the symptoms of her anxiety attacks as “a stomach ache, heart pounding, sweating, shaking, and shortness of breath.” Taylor was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at eight. She started anti-anxiety medication when she was 13, and has lived through six major bouts of depression.
Taylor tells CTV News Toronto it was a Bell Let’s Talk event that inspired her to take action. She says she realized more needed to be done.
“We need to do more than just talk now -- there is no action being done." Toronto's first-ever March for Mental Health began in 2017 and included only a few dozen participants. This year, more than 500 people are expected to attend.
Quinn Kirby, manager at the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction’s Gifts of Light program, says this is a cause that impacts a “staggering number” of Canadians. According to CAMH, one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction. By 40 years old, one in two will be diagnosed with a mental illness.
“There was a time, not long ago, where many of us were hesitant to be involved in the mental health conversation. This event represents a movement - our commitment to supporting and prioritizing the mental health needs of all Canadians,” Kirby said.
For Taylor, she hopes to one day live in a stigma-free society.
"We found that by sharing our stories it has given people a license to share theirs."