Written By: Dawn Rzepka
Originally Posted on LV Cares Blog
I grew up on a little street just off of Queen St. West, when it wasn't the second hippest street in the world....think drugs, prostitution, 999, the mental hospital, second hand stores (not cool vintage shops), used appliance shops....you get the picture. I grew up in what I would now call an eclectic neighbourhood. It wasn't unusual for me to see people walking around outside in pyjamas during the day, or to watch our drunken neighbours fighting on a regular basis.
It was a part of my daily life as a child to see people walking around in a zombie like state in pyjamas on Queen St. when I was going to the corner store or somewhere else in the neighbourhood. These same people were regular customers at my local store too, and would come in to buy single cigarettes or a can of pop. They were our neighbours from 999. I was never afraid, unless it was someone in pyjamas who I wasn't familiar with seeing, who was acting erratic and running at high speed up our street. My friends and I knew to tell one of our parents (usually my dad) if this occurred, that a patient was on the loose again. My dad would call over to the hospital to advise the staff of the direction that the patient was headed, and they would send security guards to retrieve them.
On our little street there were two houses side by side about two blocks up, across from the school yard known as the "Drunks House". There was always someone sitting out on the front steps drinking and smoking, and at least once a week, usually on Friday night there'd be a big fight amongst the "Drunks" that lived in the two houses. The evening usually ended with the police and ambulance being called. This was a regular occurrence, especially in the summer time. The "Drunks" were always friendly, but we knew to keep our distance when they had a little too much.
The Queen Street Mental Hospital recognized and worked hard in the mid 90's to create a plan that would change the stigmatization. The plan would allow people with mental health and addiction issues to receive assistance and the proper care they required. It would also work with patients on treatments that would allow them to live in society, instead of ignoring them, doing nothing, or just sedating them. My father was a member of the CAMH committee as a community representative, and participated in a lot of the meetings that introduced and integrated CAMH into the community as it is today.
I have always been surrounded by addiction and mental health my entire life, even if I didn't realize it. Friends, family members, neighbours, co-workers...depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, alcoholism and drug addiction. The world has changed a lot over the decades, and with it so has our view on mental illness and addiction. Never before would people be so open to talk about their challenges...think Howie Mandel, Clara Hughes, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, and let's not forget #BellLetsTalk days, the annual initiative that was designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.
I am who I am today because of my upbringing and where I grew up. I am comfortable around all walks of life and wish I was able to give to or help every individual who requests it. One of my ways of giving back is being a part of Liberty Village Cares and participating in many of the initiatives that the group participates in.
You can join our team in support of CAMH's One Brave Night (http://give.camh.ca/goto/LVCares), and participate in our Yoga Event and Social earlier in the evening on April 7th, join us at Williams Landing later, host your own virtual event with friends, family, or co-workers, or do a combination of the above. CAMH is one of our neighbours from Queen St. West and we know mental illness and addiction affects all communities, so please join our team and make a donation today to help us reach our fundraising goal and support a great initiative!