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Photos by Yasin Osman

I’ve been meaning to write up a little something about that big something I did last week, but I think that big something took so much out of me that I ended up spending majority of this week in bed with a brutal cold. It’s interesting, how the body reacts when the mind is detoxing. The mental side of health often manifests in very physical ways, a lot of which we discussed on the Dais x State of Mind panel on Bell Let’s Talk Day.

For those of you who couldn’t attend, you can catch the full discussion on Dais’ Facebook page:

Words cannot express how honored I was to moderate this particular panel. Representing The Sad Collective along such incredible speakers as Tara Muldoon of The Forgiveness Project, Bryan Espiritu of The Legends League, Michael Stroh of Starts With Me and Jesse Bigelow, who is living proof that mental health stigmas are bullshit, the conversation was raw, enlightening and inspirational.

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But I want to take a moment to talk about walls — literal and figurative.

We started the day of the panel at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Joined by Craig Currah, CAMH Recreation Therapist, we walked over to the western edge of the facility where there stood a long wall. Now this wall didn’t look like anything special to the average passersby, but its historical significance is undeniable — once you learn about it.

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This wall was built just two years after CAMH (back then an Asylum) was opened in 1850. It was largely constructed (and reconstructed) using in-patient labor. Deemed dangerous to the public, they were essentially tasked to build their own “prison.”

I can’t even imagine what these “inmates” had to endure nearly two centuries ago. But over the decades, the wall was periodically demolished and replaced by (wait for the oxymoron) more open confinement with the remaining structure preserved as a symbol of heritage.

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But what’s left of the wall is a symbol of so much more. It represents not only the walls in our physical space, but also our mental. It represents the breaking down of stereotype and stigma. It represents the strength of the in-patients and the community CAMH has built now. The wall has been reclaimed over the years to symbolize a positive movement and the more we embrace it and what it stands for, the more we support each other with love, acceptance and understanding.

It’s a constant reminder that we can’t shut each other out; that we have to open up our hearts and minds. The Sad Collective will continue the conversation started last week, last year, last century, with the knowledge that change does happen.

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