Help to Remove the Stigma

Today, I would like to invite all members of Guiding, to talk about the realness of Mental Health.

I suffer from severe depression and anxiety. I have been fortunate to have found reassurance in attending my Pathfinder meetings and comfort in sharing in the sisterhood of Guiding. For a long time, I denied that I had an illness, telling myself to ‘just smile’ or ‘suck it up’, too embarrassed to even talk to my doctor about my inner suffering. My illness affected my day-to-day life – from my job to my relationship with those closest to me, especially my husband.

Coming to terms with my illness has not been easy. I have heard several painful comments, that add to the reason so many people go without seeking help, from “Just grow a thicker skin” to “Just pull yourself together”.  Dealing with the negative stigmas associated with my illness has set my healing back. Fortunately, I have been surrounded by amazing friends, many who I gained through Guiding, and an incredibly patient and loving husband, who has taken the time to learn about mental illness and get support for himself – as dealing with my illness has been far from easy.

Many people have commented that if I had cancer they would know how to help me. But I don’t have cancer. I have depression. And just like a person suffering from any illness, I just need those close to me to love me and support me and be there for me – even when it isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty. That’s all the help I need from you.

So I invite you, to talk to your girl members, talk to your sisters in Guiding and especially talk to someone who you might suspect is suffering in silence. And if you need someone to talk to, I’m here.

Some statistics from the Canadian Medical Association taken from www.letstalk.bell.ca

  • 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness in their lives.
  • 2 in 3 suffer in silence, fearing rejection or judgement
  • Only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with friends who has a serious mental illness
  • At any given time, almost 3 million Canadians have serious depression
  • For those who seek help and get treatment, a difference is made in 80% of people with depression, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
Guest blogger Amber

Guest blogger Amber

By guest blogger Amber Wiegand. Amber  is an active and passionate member of Guiding. She works with Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers. She is currently a District Commissioner and Area Program and International Advisor. She just received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal from Girl Guides of Canada.

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Are you a girl or adult member who would like to share a post about an  important topic? Pitch us your idea and write a guest blog post for GirlGuidesCANBlog. We’re also looking for writers for these upcoming special days:

  • The International Day of Happiness
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13 Responses to Help to Remove the Stigma

  1. Anonymous says:

    Amber, thank you for sharing your story! Thank you for also commenting on Guidings positive impact on your quality of life! We tend to forget that amongst the many positive things that Guiding is, it is also about community and friends – and healthy communities mean healthy people! DB-

  2. Emily Di Milo says:

    In 2008 I was hospitalised with depression. It changed my whole life and brought me on a very different path than what I initially planned for myself. When I was sick I left GG because I didn’t want people to think of me as ill. When I returned to a general event, I had very mixed greetings. As nobody knew why I had gone, I couldn’t be upset with anyone for not asking if I was okay but what did hurt was that after 15 years of being a GG, people thought I had abandoned them. To this day, most of my GG family don’t know what happened. In retrospect, I should have voiced it but for some reason I just didn’t want them to know. The severity of my depression made me a different person and it was not someone that my GG family knew…it wasn’t someone I wanted them to know. I think it’s incredibly important to talk about mental health because as you said, you can’t see the pain but I can assure you that it is there.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am a Guide guider and a district commissioner, and yet somehow, with the help of an amazing team of women, find the strength to continue in those roles, despite being agoraphobic. People need to open up about their mental illnesses otherwise how are people to know? How are they to understand what we’re going threw if we don’t tell them. The more we share, the more light we bring to it, the more help we can bring to those who suffer in silence. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Jazmine says:

      , we do this because we beileve in Guiding and what it can provide for the girls, we want to avoid having the girls lose interest because they are bored. We need to know! Talk to your guider, but before you do, talk to your daughter and ask her more questions: What do you find boring? What could make it more interesting? Bring that information to your conversation. Also, consider helping to prepare and/or participate in a special activity for your daughter’s group. It may be just what your guider needs to help kick things into the next level.

    • I am a guide guider, and district commissioner as well, and i could have wrote your post! I have severe panic disorder, agoraphobia and depression. And yet, we still find support in those around us. Like you, I am not afraid to talk about my illnesses, because they are a part of who I am, but they do not define me. I am a wife, a mother, and a community volunteer. I am a face of mental illness.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am a guider with a ranger unit and we’ve had two girls from our group hospitalized in the last few months with anxiety/depression issues. They are both doing well and the support they have been given by the other rangers in our group and the courage the girls have shown in sharing their personal experiences with these issues has probably made them all grow as individuals more than any single activity we have shared together. I am amazed at the understanding and the consideration that the girls are showing towards each other. Tough times, tough topics, but as usual the girls take the lead and show me they are strong, resourceful young women that will surely make a difference in their communities.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story. I wish more people felt comfortable sharing their stories and experiences; or just lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on to those who need it.

  6. Joyce Braumberger says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your story could be mine. During my 7 year struggle I always knew I had the greatest friends from Guiding who have seen me struggle thru this fight. I find everyday a struggle and want to win. I have still not found medication to work that does not have serious side effects I have just finished 5 years as Area Commissioner, now deputy. area Commissioner and have the best women to work with plus a great Alberta provincial council who watched me struggle. Thank you for sharing your story. Everyone must remember not all disabilities are visual.

  7. Tonya Moreton says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Amber; now I have another reason to admire you! I am a Guide/Pathfinder Guider and as a result of a very horrible childhood and genetics, I have suffered severe depression, anxiety and even bi-polar/MPD disorder for a period that saw me suicidal and hospitalized. I still battle this disease everyday (suicidal thoughts are few and far between thankfully, though not gone forever) and probably always will. These are things that I never want to share with anyone as I fear they wil never regard me the same way again. My greatest fear is to be seen by others as the huge failure and disappointment that I feel myself to be. Or perhaps they will judge me unfit to be a mentor to the wonderful girls in Guiding. Or worse, what will my disease do to my own beautiful daughters? What if my girls knew the real me? Would they still hold me in such high regard? I can only try…and try harder…to be the best person I can and Guiding helps with that. Now knowing that fellow Guiders are suffering too, maybe I can help other Guiders and girls with this struggle as well, which will help me too.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am a sparks/brownie leader and I too have suffered from severe anxiety which brought on an onset of mild depression. For a while it was a huge struggle to get through life’s most simple tasks. Many of us can relate that there is no “cure” and it will never go away but how we manage it is the key. It is encouraging when you read stories from a brave person such as yourself “who put it all out there”. The one positive note is that we more often than not we can recognize when someone is experiencing symptoms of depression and or anxiety because sure enough we have had them ourselves. I have kept it mostly to myself and very close friends and family but your right that we need to start spreading the importance of the message. I have never told any fellow guiders but I think it is time that I start. Chances are there will probably be someone else who has experienced it too but hasn’t said anything either. Time to open up the lines of communication

  9. I grew up in Halifax Nova Scotia and got the chance to join Brownies. Due to my mother walking out the door when I was 8 and my sister was 3 I had no choice but to leave Guiding and help dad.
    I’ve always wanted to be treated as an equal , but find that I’m not. WHile others are getting recognition and awards in front of their peers mine were either mailed or given to me in a vehicle.

    My ex told me I was never good enough and it started sinking in this went on for 18 years until my kids were old enough to understand and I left him and my beloved province and moved out west.
    Just trying to belong and not thinking I was better than anyone else 6 years ago I found myself in a new area and the ladies there had their own group and didn’t like outsiders coming in to their Guide area.

    I sat for 3 years not belonging to any group and had depression and constant crying for no reason happening asking myself *WHAT DID I DO WRONG* It was my inner strength and the ladies in another area of Saskatchewan Guding that said nothing wrong with me but the others who didn’t want you around.

    I’m with a GUiding group that I have to drive 50 minutes after work one day a week and don’t get tto have supper ubtil about 9 pm , but at least I’m starting to come back..

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am a new spark leader this year. I wont say I suffer from bipolar disorder, but I am surviving it. I am new to our group and haven’t shared my illness with anyone. I do find that guiding helps me so much, I look forward to every part of it. I thank you all for sharing your stories, makes you feel your not alone.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am a Trefoil Guild member,with 50 yrs service in the Guiding movement,in many different roles. The comaderie and friendship of the girls and adults that I was involved with,and still am involved has been a very important part of my life. It is an organizationthat,no matter where you travel you have an affinity with other members. it truly is a sisterhood.Through the support of my husband ,my family and the trefoil Guild members I have learned to deal with a Bi-Polar type 2 disorder. During the mood swings,of depression and mania( Which I prefer to call Euphoria) I receive understanding and support.,because I finally decided not to act like everything was fine..
    I finally realized that speaking out about my illness not only helped me ,but helped other people come to terms with theirdepression and other mental illness issues. Now I seldom have a bad day and in my euphoric mood I get a lot of work done , I enjoy life to the fullest and with my flight of ideas,I am very creative. After all it was in such a mood that Mendal wrote the Halliluheh Chorous! Don,t hide,Talk to a friend or a sister guide and you will know you are not alone.One of the greatest things you can do for yourself and others is volunteer or belong to such a great organization.

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