19:53 PM

You Never Know Who Is Suffering

Petrella, Nick


A Journey of Mental Illness

Mental health exists 24-7, 365 days a year.

We all have mental health and a lot of us live with mental illness. In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness, and by the time Canadians reach 40, 1 in 2 have or have had a mental illness.  On average, eleven suicides occur everyday.

In Ontario high schools, 39% of students indicate moderate-to-serious level symptoms of anxiety and depression. The stigma around mental illness is the most significant barrier to receiving help. In a 2019 survey of working Canadians, 75% of respondents said they would be reluctant – or would refuse – to disclose a mental illness to an employer or co-worker. 

But talking about mental illness will help reduce the stigma and continue to shift the pendulum. Mohawk College Professor and Field Placement Coordinator Nick Petrella knows this all too well.

“I remember when I was first diagnosed with mental illness, depression, and anxiety and where we were 10 years ago versus where we are now. There has been much improvement and so much progress. We have come such a long way. And although there is a long road ahead to continue to see change, we have come so far over the years. There is help available; we just need to ensure that we are constantly fighting and working towards that goal.  To continue to progress so that fewer people feel alone and like there are no options. Recovery is possible.”

“There is always going to be stigma; we are dealing with hundreds of years of the traditional line of thought where it wasn’t okay, to be honest, it wasn’t okay to not be okay, where we felt like we had to hide and because we are dealing with years of that stereotypical stigma it is going to take decades to break through it.”  

Nick speaks openly about his struggle with mental illness, in part to heal and in part to help others heal. He speaks for himself and for those who aren’t ready to speak, yet. He emphasizes how important it is to openly talk about mental health and how talking about it to show vulnerability opens doors and windows for change.

“Once we have taken that step where we are talking about it, the vulnerability and the honesty can come through. The more vulnerable we are comfortable being, the more significant the progress. Being vulnerable in general, makes us authentic, makes us human, and shows us that it is OK to have challenges and difficulties; it's okay to have bad days, months, and years. It is okay for things not to be good or perfect always.  All we need to do is just listen and pay attention to the signs that people show. If something seems off or wrong, it probably is. This is the biggest and most important step in helping people. The average person waits 8-10 years to receive help for mental illness. If we can reduce that with generation after generation, we are more likely to save lives, and live more satisfying and fulfilling lives.”

This is a reminder to always be kind, empathetic and aware and let others know you are there to listen, that you hear them and that they are not alone. To continue to have impact and to make change, Nick did a TEDx talk at McMaster University. 


 Note: Statistics and facts from www.camh.ca