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I stood in line at the mood disorder ward for what felt like a long time, looking at the back of another patient's head.
Some of those people were nurses and other staff — those who could go home at night, who could lock doors, who could use everyday items like scissors and knives.
When I reached the front of the line, a nurse placed a small pleated white paper cup on the counter.
I expected the time I spent in the hospital to be difficult, but I hadn't given thought to the ways I might feel unsafe. Much to the staff's admonishment, I wouldn't get to know anyone.
I hid behind books, spoke monosyllabically, looked at the ground. One day, as I was waking up, I turned over in bed and found the man who would follow me standing in my room. I demanded the nurses do something, but I was made to feel I was overreacting.
I owe much of that to my network of support — my family and friends — but not everyone has that good fortune.
The way we grapple with who is being left out of the conversation when it comes to mental illness is of major consequence. I hope that one day soon, more people like me can point to our formalized mental health systems as a source of healing.Let's talk about prejudices that affect whether people are treated with dignity and care.Let's talk about individuals who are precariously employed and can't take "mental health" days or afford costly medications.But at the end of the day, do intentions matter when the ways in which I was vulnerable were overlooked and unacknowledged?Until we recognize the ways some of us are more vulnerable when it comes to mental illness and poor health interventions, we're not having a meaningful conversation.Many Canadians may feel we've made a lot of progress when it comes to talking about mental illness.But I think we need to ask more questions about this progress and who benefits from it.Until our support extends to those who are in greatest need, we're only scratching the surface when it comes to talking about mental illness.Today, my mental health remains a journey, but I am living a life beyond my expectations.Looking back at that moment 10 years ago, I see a young woman who was terrified and shielded her vulnerability with anger.And while I can't know what the nurses saw, I have to assume they didn't see someone who needed protecting.