Bringing attention to mental illness

One of my favourite memories from growing up in the 1970s is of watching Robin Williams on the TV show Mork and Mindy.


One of my favourite memories from growing up in the 1970s is of watching Robin Williams on the TV show Mork and Mindy.

I still remember noticing at the time, that other than saying “nanu nanu,” nobody could impersonate him. He broke the mould and was one of a kind.

I’ve heard people say they hope his passing will bring attention to the problem of mental illness. I hope so too.

Myself, by the time I had quit school and left home at 16, I had experienced every definable type of abuse there is. After several failed attempts at keeping a job because of drug addiction and several years living on the street, I finally went to detox and treatment. The battle didn’t end, though.

So, after losing my driver’s licence for five years, claiming bankruptcy and separating from my wife, I sought help again.

By the time I was 32 I had been to detox centres 11 times, treatment centres seven times and many shelters and recovery houses.

With all the 12 step meetings I had also been to, I estimate that I had been in various forms of treatment settings for about three years.

Then at the age of 32 I was diagnosed with a mental illness called schizophrenia and given a disability pension, that whether or not I need to claim it, I will have for the rest of my life.

I didn’t like the diagnosis but saw it as an opportunity to look at myself from different perspectives.

With the assistance of many caring doctors and social workers, I was able to piece together my life.

A couple of years ago, a doctor I was seeing told me I don’t have schizophrenia.

That he has more than a thousand patients and I’m one of his star patients. That I’m a success story and he doesn’t see many in his line of work.

Also, that I don’t need to see him anymore and if I want to keep taking the prescription meds, I can just go and get it filled by my family doctor.

You may be wondering what I think about all that. Honestly … I don’t know.

If I was to guess what I learned to be most important, from my life so far, it would probably be that there is always help and hope out there somewhere if you keep searching.

I dedicate this letter to Mork. Nanu Nanu.

Garth Verhaeghe

Williams Lake

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