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Margaret Trudeau fighting to end stigmas attached to mental illness
Feb. 12, 2007

VANCOUVER (CP) - Margaret Trudeau says she has chosen sanity and that's the choice she wants other Canadians suffering with mental illness to make.

The former wife of the late Pierre Trudeau is using her profile to bring attention to mental illness, which has affected her for 35 years.

"Acceptance. . . is the biggest thing for people to do, just to accept that there is a problem, to accept that they need help," Trudeau told a news conference Monday.

"With mental health issues we're reluctant to accept it because of the stigma that has been played out in the media and the movies."

Trudeau, 58, first experienced depression after giving birth to her second son, Alexandre. That was the first of three times she was hospitalized for her illness. The second time came after the death of her son Michel in 1998 and then after her ex-husband died two years later.

She said she was in such dire straits at that time that she was forced to accept her bipolar disorder and get the help she needed.

"I've chosen sanity, I've chosen to be well," Trudeau said.

She has also distanced herself from marijuana, one aspect of her life that was well-documented when she was thrust into the Canadian spotlight as a 22-year-old flower child and bride of the former prime minister.

She said she's since found the enlightenment she felt from drugs in the form of spirituality. Trudeau is interested in Buddhism and follows the works of the Dalai Lama.

Trudeau said people should treat mental health as they would their physical health, taking days off when they feel unwell.

If Canadians start to talk openly about mental wellness, the stigma will diminish and people help will get the help they need, she said.

"It should be a conversation at the kitchen table, it should be a conversation on the way to work," Trudeau said. "Because recognizing depression in the early stages, you can change the course of the disease."


Thanks Nancy,
Good article. Isn't it great that she is doing this public education campaign?

"It should be a conversation at the kitchen table, it should be a conversation on the way to work," Trudeau said.

This is a good point. I sat with a group of strangers at a one day conference last week and starting talking about why I was there. I was attending on behalf of the Schizophrenia Society. It has been so long since I have not been with other people who know about mental illness that I forgot about stigma.

I was quickly reminded, however, by the discomfort of the people I was sitting with. Even though I had some of those twinges of bad feelings, I was perfectly comfortable talking about the topic at hand because that is why we were all learn and talk about mental illness.

One thing that really stood out for me was that trying to explain schizophrenia to someone who knew nothing, was not an easy task. The basic information about what each mental illness is, is still very much needed. Depression is leading the way for the rest of the illnesses. I can't imagine anyone who has not heard of depression or has a good idea of what it is.


Hi HeartArt,

I did think that it was a great article and I also liked the part that you quoted. I truly hope that someday depression (or any mental illness for that matter) is a topic of conversation that does not have a stigma attached to it that can be discussed as openly as diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc. That would be a huge step forward in society.

I can't imagine anyone who has not heard of depression or has a good idea of what it is.

Although most people have heard of depression and have a good idea of what it is , it is still my experience that many do not fully understand it and that is probably because they have not been affected personally themselves or within their own family and therefore have no drive to know anything further. My belief is that the stigma is still there for many even with the increased knowledge. Much the same as HIV is. There is so much more knowledge about this disease but the stigma still sticks to it. Sad but true :(

This of course is just my opinion and observationl. Anyway, yes I agree that the article on Margaret Trudeau was a good one and hopefully it will start to open up the doors to the stigma that is still attached to all mental illnesses, not just depression and bipolar.
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