Editorial on Disability Employment Month

It’s an annual opportunity for Canadians to recognize the challenges individuals living with disabilities face in the work force.

B.C. declared September to be Disability Employment Month. It’s an annual opportunity for Canadians to recognize the challenges individuals living with disabilities face in the work force. It’s disheartening to hear that the employment rate for people with disabilities is 18 per cent lower than the employment rate for individuals without disabilities.

A disability can be classified in several different ways. It refers to an individual that lives with an impairment that may be cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, physical or a combination of any one of these.

Mental health and emotional disabilities are increasingly gaining more and more media attention, from the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign to Clara Hughes’ campaign against depression.

I followed the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign on Twitter very closely and was intrigued that musicians, such as Matthew Good, spoke about their own experiences. I felt like this helped give a voice to depression, and likely influenced others to speak up about their own experiences.

But despite the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign raising $67.5 million to mental health initiatives in Canada since 2010, I still think we have a long way to go.

I find it extremely irritating when people misuse the term depression, whether they use it after ending a brief relationship or simply as a synonym for a feeling of sadness or melancholy.

The other week I saw a sign that read, ‘Stressed or Depressed?’ I found it rude and slightly ignorant to have this on a sign. You can’t classify stress and depression on the same level. I feel like doing this belittles the seriousness of the illness, an illness that has the power to take someone’s life.

Just a few months ago famous actor Robin Williams took his own life after an ongoing battle with depression. His death came as a shock to many of his fans from around the world and I can only hope that it will open up a global conversation about the dangers of addiction and mental health disorders.

The truth of the matter, though, is that even after someone lost their life to this illness, people were still quick to make light of the situation. I saw several posts on my Facebook and Twitter accounts that turned Robin Williams death into a joke, one of which being a photo of the Genie from the Disney Film Aladdin (who was voiced by Williams) and the cutline, ‘Genie, you’re finally free.’

I feel like when it comes to an open discussion about mental illness, people need to be more sensitive.