Children’s Mental Health Week


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Margaret Trudeau, Valerie Pringle
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
Valerie Pringle and Margaret Trudeau in dialogue about children and youth mental health. Ms. Trudeau’s bipolar condition. Background and history to Ms. Trudeau’s condition. Treatment for depression. The role of serotonin. Consequences of marijuana use for Ms. Trudeau. Ms. Pringle’s experience with mental health through her daughter. No magic pill. Therapy. Public awareness campaigns. The scope of the problem in Canada. The impact of stigma. Treating children. Changes in mental health. Ways to help children. The numbers. Suicide as the leading cause of death in adolescence. Emotional intelligence. The Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health. The work of James Bartleman. A question and answer period. One last message from each speaker.
Date of Original:
May 6, 2009
Language of Item:
English
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

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Full Text

May 6, 2009



A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto



Margaret Trudeau



Valerie Pringle

Broadcaster



Children’s Mental Health Week



Chairman: Helen Burstyn, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto



Head Table Guests



Jo-Ann McArthur: Principal, fisheye, and President, The Empire Club of Canada

Nahla Hanna: Managing Director, Marsh

The Hon. Debra Matthews: Minister of Children and Youth Services, and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

Howard Brown: President, Brown & Cohen Communications & Public Affairs, Inc., and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto

Verity Craig: Managing Director, CV Management, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada

Tony Diniz: Executive Director, Child Development Institute

Glen Newby: President, Children’s Mental Health, Ontario.



Introduction by Helen Burstyn



In 1971, at age 22, Margaret Trudeau became the youngest First Lady in the world when she married Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She was immediately thrust into the limelight, becoming one of the most watched and talked-about women in the country. She led a rich and interesting life, travelling the nation and the world extensively, and raising three sons.



But life in the public eye was not entirely satisfying, or entirely her own. When asked about her role as the wife of the most prominent man in the country, Margaret Trudeau famously said, “I want to be more than a rose in my husband’s lapel.”



After leaving the marriage in 1977, Margaret went on to lead an even more interesting life as she became a photographer, an actress, a television host and an author of two books—“Beyond Reason” and “Consequences.” She remarried and raised two more children. More recently, she became a grandmother—and a very proud one, by all reports.



Though she has led a very public life, Margaret Trudeau has also had a very private life and, for many years, a hidden one. She has suffered from the debilitating effects of bipolar disorder for all her adult life. Now, after receiving medical treatment that has given her life balance and happiness, she is a strong and effective advocate for mental health issues, helping people overcome the stigma of mental illness and promoting appropriate treatment.



She is working with the Royal Ottawa Hospital to raise funds for their new hospital and raise public awareness of mental health issues. And she sits on the Executive Advisory Board of the UBC Mental Health Institute. She is active in other causes as well. Margaret is the Honorary President of WaterCan, a charitable Canadian non-governmental agency dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services.



Our other guest is also a pretty amazing woman.



Valerie Pringle is one of Canada’s best-known and respected media professionals.



She started her career at age 19 as a student reporter with CFRB Radio in Toronto after graduating from Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson in 1974.



Since then, she has moved from one success to another. For many years, she was the face and voice of the CBC TV news and current affairs program, MIDDAY. She went on to co-host CTV’s Canada-AM and then W-5.



Valerie has co-produced and hosted a number of documentaries for Discovery Channel, for CTV Travel and for Vision-TV. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the communications field. She is also very involved in a number of not-for-profit organizations. She chairs the Board of the Trans Canada Trail and is on the foundation boards of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Women’s College Hospital and the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation.



But it’s not because she’s an award-winning journalist or outstanding volunteer that Valerie Pringle joins us today. She is here as a mother and as a family member whose experience with mental illness is very close to home. Her daughter Catherine, now 28, has suffered from severe panic and anxiety attacks, and Valerie has been very public about their family’s experience in seeking help and finding support.



Valerie and Margaret, I invite you both to please come up on stage and share with us your experiences in dealing with mental health issues.



Valerie Pringle



It is a great honour and a pleasure to be here speaking about this topic, which, as you’ve just heard, is very important to both Margaret and me. Margaret and I will be delighted to answer your questions.



I will start by saying we have personal stories, but we do want to get a message across and stick to the topic—children and youth mental health. We will try not to stray off topic too much. By starting, I might say it’s interesting that in the introduction we heard about your bipolar disorder being with you all your adult life. But you say Margaret, as you look back now, it started earlier. Eighty per cent of psychiatric illnesses do.



Margaret Trudeau



I would suspect so. We thought the onset of my bipolar condition after the birth of my second son was post-partum depression. Then it was called baby blues. There really wasn’t very effective treatment. I remember the psychiatrist wanted to get me back to being a good prime minister’s wife. I sort of felt like a broken car that needed something fixed, but it wasn’t the right approach. Looking back because I am working on a book on mental health, I was probably always bipolar. The words that come to mind that my family remembers about me are vivacious, capricious, life of the party, moody, quiet, prone to tears. Bipolar is an exaggeration of emotions for those who don’t understand what bipolar is. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is not enough serotonin and that drives you into a deep depression. There’s too much dopamine and that fires you up into the highest euphoria and for me madness. I’ve been there a couple of times and I never want to go back up there again. I have had to learn how to live with my bipolar condition because it is a lifelong condition.



I was raised in the fifties. I was very lucky to be born in North Vancouver to a fine father and a really good mum and I was raised well. I had four sisters. Remember in the fifties we didn’t have any of the television and the toys that we have now. We were sent out to play. I played a lot. I had to eat a very strict diet of my mother’s food. That was that. But she also gave us every morning (from daylight savings until the next April) a cod liver oil tablet. That’s one of the things that is in my vitamin regime for my mental health. That is one of my supplements—a mega fish oil. It is very important. So I was given fish oil. I was given a balanced diet. We certainly didn’t have junk food. There was no McDonald’s around the corner and I had to play a lot. I was well educated of course being a Canadian girl. The schools were great. I had a good life. I think the balance of my childhood, the way that I was raised, having to do chores, having to work, having to take care of my own world in my family (we had a community in our family, a clan my father called it) helped balance me.



I do remember when I was over-emotional my mother would say, “Margaret, just go to your room. You can come out when you have a better attitude.” Well I ask now what was in my little girlie room that could have helped me deal with these huge emotions that were flooding me all the time—these wild thoughts, these big, big dreams, these small worries. I was always flooded and when you get manic you are racing as well.



My sister called my mum when I first had post-partum depression and said, “Mum, one of us should go to Ottawa. Marg is in trouble. I think she needs some help.” And my mum said, “You mean a psychiatrist? No, no, no. They just blame the mother.” Sorry Mum. My psychiatrist does blame you because while you raised me well and you gave me a wonderful education and my IQ from my genes was very high, you forgot about my EQ, my emotional intelligence, my learning how to deal with these huge emotions that my sisters didn’t seem to have and I had. I was always trying to suppress them. One of my psychiatrists told me that he felt that depression is really suppressed anger that you are not getting out. You just get deeper and deeper into feeling hopeless and unable to fight and anger actually is very good. I was never allowed to be angry. I was always told to be a pleasing little girl.



Valerie Pringle



I remember I was stunned when you told your story and came out publicly in the newspaper about your diagnosis. I was stunned that in this day and age it had taken so long. How did it take so long for you to get the proper help and treatment?



Margaret Trudeau



The head of the Liberal Party in Ontario at the time was also a psychiatrist and he wrote a very kind letter to Pierre after one of my manic kind of totally irresponsible and inappropriate and bad behaviours.



Valerie Pringle



Did it involve singing?



Margaret Trudeau



Maybe with the Rolling Stones, whatever. A lot of singing and dancing. He said that maybe Margaret might be suffering from manic depression. That was followed up with a nice meeting in a garden in Ottawa with a psychiatrist and of course he found a perfectly delightful and lovely mummy and little babies and someone who seemed to be doing just fine. I was very good at masking what was really going on, because I had been raised to be a pleasing person and to not show emotion and to not rock the boat so to speak. When I do rock the boat it is a big rock because it’s not usual. I had that early diagnosis. I was even put in hospital. Pierre put me in hospital when I was his wife. I wasn’t put into a psychiatric ward. It was about the time that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was released, and I said, “If you think I’m crazy then put me in a psychiatric ward, not this executive suite for men executives with prostate and urinary tract problems.”



Valerie Pringle



Or alcoholism. They were probably tucked in there as well.



Margaret Trudeau



I tried treatment, but really the breakthrough came for people suffering from bipolar around 1985, when the first anti-depressants, serotonin-uptake drugs, were put on the market. They provided the one thing that was missing in me when I would get so depressed. I didn’t even know what serotonin was, none of us did, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t get back on my feet when I got knocked down. I just got deeper and deeper into depression as depressed people do, pushing everybody away, blaming everybody else because of my problems. Pierre’s fault. The nanny’s fault. Someone else’s fault. Not mine. Running away trying to escape it. Self-medicating with marijuana. Then alcohol.



Valerie Pringle



You’ve said that marijuana was probably a really huge mistake in terms of really harming you.



Margaret Trudeau



Oh yes. The two times I was seriously hospitalized followed quite a lot of self-medication with the magic herb. I thought I could lift myself out of the sadness, out of the depression, because it is a euphoric drug and has been our drug of choice since the sixties. It was always there.



Valerie Pringle



But it probably made things much worse for you.



Margaret Trudeau



It triggers you into mania. It has a propensity to do so. It is not a direct cause but they do say, and this study didn’t come out until maybe 10 years ago, that there really is a link between cannabis and mania. Obviously there is a link between cocaine and mania because any stimulants will push you up, but we thought that marijuana was a sort of benign happy choice instead of alcohol. It is not a happy choice at all.



Valerie Pringle



Can you take marijuana or alcohol or anything now?



Margaret Trudeau



Oh yes. All of it.



Valerie Pringle



That’s really good news.



Margaret Trudeau



I’m human. Everything in moderation. Alcohol is no problem because I have never had an alcohol problem. The problem is not the alcohol. The problem is not the drugs. Finally they got it right and started putting mental health and addiction together in one place instead of saying, “Your problem is that you are an alcoholic,” not “Your problem is that you have a mental issue that you are not treating and you haven’t faced and you are trying to self-medicate and drown your problems with alcohol or escape it. It’s just your way out.” Some people use food. Some people will get so overweight. They eat until they can’t stop eating. They can never stop eating or taking drugs or alcohol. This is the symptom of the problem, not the problem.



Valerie Pringle



I was listening to you talk about your mum. The person, who has become a poster child for mental health along with me, if I can call myself that, is my daughter Catherine, who is spectacular. She should be here today but she is very busy working. This is a cause that she is championing too. Through her life she would get overwrought for a skating test, for any test. She had a mild eating disorder. At one point she was concerned enough about her mood swings that she said she thought that she needed to see someone. I remember taking her to the wonderful Diane Zak. She had a conversation with her and decided this was a teenage thing.



Margaret Trudeau



But you are advocating for her. You are doing everything right.



Valerie Pringle



Well that was good but it did get to a point that it got worse—the crying through university and exams. I would get her on the phone and start the bromide. I have never really experienced that at all. I can say I have never had a panic attack. Everyone has been nervous but this was just off the charts. Her friends were very good at helping her through it, but when she finally started her first real job, she was living at home then, she fell apart. She was just a quivering crying ball on a bed. I used to say, “You will get better, look at your record, look how good you are, look at how fabulous you are,” but these words were pretty useless. It was like your mum telling you to go and get a good attitude or whatever. So what was interesting is that finally I guess we realized that she had to get some help. She went to a GP. She got anti-depressants. She is on Efexor. This was not great news for her and I suppose it isn’t for anybody. “Great. Crazy pills for me. What is wrong with me?” Some therapy was advised. It was more like counselling that had a lot of questions about mothers. Anyway I did call David Goldbloom at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) whom I knew and he saw Catherine. He talked about cognitive behaviour therapy that has been really helpful with panic and anxiety.



Margaret Trudeau



There isn’t a magic pill. There is a pill that will get you on firm ground like everybody else. At least you can think clearly, or maybe not that clearly depending on what the pill is, but at least you are on firm ground. But then you have got to start therapy. You have got to start talking. You have to get rid of all of the self-loathing that came from the mistakes you made. You have to get rid of your fear of ever being able to contribute. You have to get rid of your jealousy of other people who seem to have such a nice life and you have to get rid of your anger. Why me with a mental illness?



Valerie Pringle



I know and it’s forever.



Margaret Trudeau



Why do I have to take drugs forever? One psychiatrist at a question-and-answer period after I had given my speech said, “Margaret I think that you think you have recovered from your bipolar condition. Don’t you know that there is no recovery?” I said, “Well I guess I’m cured from the fear of my bipolar condition because I know what it is. I self monitor. I know how to deal with my emotions finally. Maybe I’m just finally a grown-up.” That is the problem with our youth and our teenagers. For them to have the maturity to accept the hard choices and take medication and be compliant is a hard one. Most of the medications have side effects that teenagers will be particularly unhappy about, such as decreased libido and fat.



Valerie Pringle



It is something to deal with.



Margaret Trudeau



You have to be so strong. The anti-depressants don’t have to be forever. What is the anti-depressant doing? It is raising your serotonin level and keeping it up. How do we get serotonin? We get serotonin from exercise. We get serotonin from laughing at a joke. We get serotonin from sex. We get serotonin from eating good food, from sleeping well, from being healthy. Most of the people in this room, a third of you, won’t have good serotonin, because a third of Canadians are depressed. Only a third of the third of you will ever admit it and get help. That’s your problem because you can be so much better so quickly if you only reach out and get help.



Valerie Pringle



To finish about Cath, one of the things that I was going to tell you is that her dad and I are so proud of her. After that particularly bad episode, and she could not work during that time, a friend of hers, Heather Armstrong, (we will never forget her kindness), phoned her and said, “Get in the shower, get dressed and call me. Get in your car, call me. I will meet you outside the office.” She met her and walked her into the office. Catherine was wondering what they would say. Everybody was going to look at her. It was so embarrassing to have missed work because of this. She had said to her dad the night before, “What do I say?” And he said, “Tell the truth.” And so she went in and everybody asked her where she had been and what was up. And she said, “Well I have been having panic and anxiety issues.” Then she went to her boss and said, “That’s the issue.” Everybody was referring to people with the same problem. It was gone and it was known. There was no shame in it and that was something we were hugely proud of.



I became more involved with CAMH on the foundation board, and then the campaign cabinet. Mike Wilson, who I think is such a hero, spoke out about his son’s suicide, and that was very brave. James Bartleman, Ron Ellis are really brave, wonderful people and they said to me, “Would you do a public awareness campaign?” I thought, “Lord, in my family—alcoholics and drug abusers, who doesn’t?” This is everybody’s family. It is everywhere. It is everywhere and you don’t hide it. You don’t not talk about it. It is everywhere and it is time we shed some light on it.



I said, ‘Well probably Catherine would agree to be talked about in this ad, but it is sort of lame. Panic and anxiety disorder is sort of low in psychiatrics. There are schizophrenia, other things that are way more serious. Who is not on anti-depressants? Who doesn’t know about this?” I said I would do it if it helped and they put up these bus shelter ads and radio ads and I found I was so wrong. There wasn’t a day that went by that people weren’t coming up to me and saying, “I have never spoken about this. I’m far too ashamed. I can’t admit it.” It is still a personality failing. It is their flaw and kids are afraid to have that label and they don’t want to name it.



Margaret Trudeau



I say the shame is not having a mental illness. The shame is having one and not seeking treatment and not getting better and not being able to be the whole wonderful person that you are meant to be. You are impaired by something in your brain. Why can’t we look at our brain the same as any of our other organs? Yes, it is more mystifying. It is the last frontier of medical research, but it is still an organ that can have its dysfunctions. Be sympathetic to people as equally as you would when someone gets told that they have diabetes and are going to be taking insulin for the rest of their life. When someone says to you, “I’m bipolar and I’m going to be taking medication for the rest of my life,” don’t mock them. Say, “Yeah, good for you,” because they are taking hold of their life. They are taking hold of their problem. We all have problems. We are not perfect. You asked me at the beginning, “How come it took so long?” It was me. I was in a prison. I would not accept that I had a mental illness. I thought I could get through it all by myself. I had every rationale and reason to blame everybody else and that’s what people who have an untreated illness will do and particularly ones who are still very angry about their condition. They will blame everybody else. Ninety per cent of marriages, where one spouse is bipolar and is untreated, fail. My two marriages failed because of the roller coaster of emotions that I led my poor balanced husbands through.



Valerie Pringle



We talked about one in five people suffering from a mental illness in this country. A larger number of people are living with them and caring for them and dealing with them. Was there a support group for your husbands? What is it like to live with bipolar? People who are caring for schizophrenics need that. It is an enormously difficult situation.



Margaret Trudeau



Bipolar is all a question of balance. All the drugs have side effects. Everybody will say, “But I’m so creative in my manic stage, and you are going to take that away from me.” The drugs do. There is no question they put up a ceiling. They bring you down and stop you from being too high and they bring you up from being too low and put you in a nice place where you can be a whole contributing normal human being. We wouldn’t have had a Van Gogh painting, we wouldn’t have had half of the creative work in the world, if all of these people had taken their Prozac.



Valerie Pringle



Having said that, one of my very favourite interviews was with Leonard Cohen. And I said to him, “You have been suffering from depression your whole life.” And he said, “Yes, I’ve treated it with Prozac, alcohol, Buddhism, sex, whatever.” He saw his art as a victory over suffering, not as a result of the suffering. He also said the best thing he ever wrote was that line from “Anthem,” where he said, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything.” And he said, “I think I nailed it.”



Margaret Trudeau



He did nail it because it is in our cracks and in our flaws that we become unique and beautiful and not the same.



Valerie Pringle



How do you communicate that to children though, Margaret?



Margaret Trudeau



This is my concern. I’m working with a doctor Alan Young at UBC in the Department of Psychiatry. He’s working on bipolar in children and I’ve learnt a lot from him. He’s a British psychiatrist, now Canadian. One of the problems is that the Americans are throwing drugs at children. They are now diagnosing bipolar which is good. They used to diagnose bipolar children in their manic phase as having an attention deficit. They gave them Ritalin, which gave them more stimulation, which wasn’t really the solution for those children, and the depression was being ignored. We really need to work at it through diet and exercise and proper play and I mean real play, imaginative play, in the real outdoors. I know we are afraid to let our children outdoors but what a shame. The world is out there for children if they are allowed to be in it and play in nature. This was an important part of my childhood. I did have someone flash me once. Who doesn’t?



Valerie Pringle



I did. It was when I was hitchhiking down Yonge Street when I went to Ryerson on a daily basis.



Margaret Trudeau



There have always been pedophiles, always been flashers, and we should trust that our children can have some play.



Valerie Pringle



Well here is a question. What kind of impact does stigma have?



Margaret Trudeau



I think it comes out of ignorance. Stigma is not being informed and educated and the only way to get rid of it is with education and people becoming aware how wrong it is just to shut off a whole population of people because they have a flaw that you perceive as a character flaw when in fact it is just a physical, mental one.



Valerie Pringle



We’ve seen changes, huge changes, in how we see AIDS and so many things such as cancer. There are changes coming in mental health. There are so many people who have taken leadership roles at CAMH. I’m involved in something called the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health as well.



Margaret Trudeau



Great West Life, the insurance company, has the most remarkable Web site. I can get papers from psychiatrists at the Mayo Clinic through their Web site. It is just an absolutely open beautiful Web site to help people understand mental illness and to get early help. Why is Great West Life, the big insurance company, doing this? It is the bottom line. It’s a huge cost to our economy to have people who stay depressed, who stay in a rut where they can’t function or they are not functioning because of a mental illness that they are too afraid to admit. Don’t call it a mental illness. Call it your brain health.



Valerie Pringle



I was on a panel with Phil Wilkerson a few days ago, talking about mental health and workplace issues. He felt it would be a great leap forward if we stopped saying mental illness. We should start breaking it down. We should say schizophrenia, panic and anxiety disorders.



Margaret Trudeau



Brain health. Even labels are distressing. There are some that are absolutely clear what they are and some that are not so clear. There may be a scattering of different issues. Just talk about having a balanced functioning happy brain that thinks clearly. When you are manic and when you are depressed, you’re not thinking clearly and the worst thing that happens again and again and again, it certainly happened to me, is denial. You just will not get help. You will not accept that you need help. I’m not mentally ill. You are mentally ill if you think I’m mentally ill.



Valerie Pringle



Well this is such a hard thing for parents.



Margaret Trudeau



Well 50 per cent of recovery apparently is in accepting your diagnosis. Then you are on your way. The doctor thought I was so compliant when I had my complete breakdown after Michel and Pierre’s deaths. I totally lost my mind, had complete madness, I was hospitalized and had to start from absolutely the ground up to get well again. The whole essence of it was balance. It was just making hard choices that would lead to a balanced lifestyle. Getting my serotonin out of food and exercise. I’ve got a personal trainer. I hate going to the gym. I have spent so much wasted money. I dieted. I put on so much weight, at different times, up and down. I dieted and diets are distressing in every way to the family, to you, your friends, everyone. No dieting. Just find out how to get your metabolism going, how to get that energy so that you can function at high speed. Well not high speed; high-speed fun.



Valerie Pringle



Speaking just to the stigma issue. I remember my first tour of CAMH down at Queen Street, which they are transforming as you know and we are happily accepting donations. When I went through it I found there was no gift shop. This is a hospital with 600 beds, more than Sick Kids. It is huge. There is no gift shop because there is no economic model. Nobody comes to visit. Nobody buys gifts for all the people in there who are probably feeling worse than most people in any hospital. I was part of a campaign last Christmas called “Gifts of Light” which was a fundraising campaign. Catherine and I did a lot of TV interviews etc. just trying to get money so that everybody in CAMH would get a gift last Christmas—a bathrobe, a blanket, a pair of slippers. I went to the mood and anxiety unit one day. I was delivering some of these. The staff there did an amazing job. We were trying to reduce stigma and also to reach out. Catherine said that it is like a hug. The most important thing, and she would say this too as I’ve learned in trying to get better in dealing with her, is realizing that this is for life and it’s sort of depressing for her to think she would always be like this. I’ll see her face go flat.



Sometimes she gets a little rigid. She is just getting a bit panicky, she’ll say. Or I’ll phone her and she is very weepy. Instead of now just telling her to sing a happy song or whatever, I tell her to come here and see me. We just sit. She just wants to be held. She wants to know people will be there. She doesn’t want to think that they’ll get sick of her. They’ll get tired of this. They’ll get fed up with her behaviour. No one will want to marry her. No one will want to be her friend for the long term because every once in a while she dips down and can’t do anything about it. She doesn’t want to have to feel guilty or ashamed because of that but that’s the fear.



Margaret Trudeau



It isolates you and it marginalizes you as you go deeper and deeper into depression. You know that you’re no fun. You are no fun. You haven’t got the ability to laugh. Nothing is funny. You are not getting enough serotonin. You have no delight. You know that you are a bore and a party pooper so you stop going out and you stop accepting invitations and then you think that you probably can’t work either. You get deeper and deeper into a hole and it gets darker and darker and lonelier and lonelier.



Valerie Pringle



What you hear is that you don’t think you can get out.



Margaret Trudeau



You then reach crisis and that means hospitalization and there is nothing nice about being in a psychiatric ward. Nothing except the good people who are in there helping you. It’s pretty frightening for anybody I think.



Valerie Pringle



Here’s a question. How valuable do you think Canadian youth services are to children and what can a community do to help identify mental issues like anxiety in children? Certainly suicide prevention is one of those things. Aboriginal kids are certainly in crisis. The Ontario government has been looking into Canadian kids and identifying mental health as one of the critical three issues to be dealt with. Having said that, I think Canada is the only country in the G-8 that doesn’t have a mental health strategy.



Margaret Trudeau



We should be so ashamed. Now we have a great mental health commission. Michael Kirby the senator is head of it and it is just gathering information all across the country. It is wonderful. I just hope that we have a government in place when it’s finished that will act on the recommendations because we don’t want to find out what’s wrong and do nothing about it.



Valerie Pringle



We know what’s wrong. We know the numbers are enormous. We know, as I said, that 80 per cent of all psychiatric disorders emerge in adolescence. It is estimated that 70 per cent of childhood mental illness cases can be solved with early diagnosis and intervention, but the issue is so much that of access and treatment. So many people because of the posters have asked me, “How do I get help? Where do I get help?”



Margaret Trudeau



I think we just need to have someone help us navigate the maze that is our health-care system when it involves our children or our friend’s children or ourselves. You have to become an advocate. You have to be informed. You have to go on government Web sites. The Canadian Mental Health Association of course has 165 branches across the country. It is a great grassroots first door to go through and say, “Well what have I got to do? I need help or my daughter needs help or my friend needs help.”



Valerie Pringle



Suicide is the leading cause of death in adolescence, but the attempts outnumber completed four to one so there is such a role there.



Margaret Trudeau



Crying for help again. It comes down to emotional intelligence. Really we have to raise our children with empathy. That wonderful Mary Gordon and her work. She started with roots of empathy and now I see she’s got seeds of empathy—raising children by not putting an expectation on them of how you want them to grow up and be my son the doctor, my son the lawyer.



Valerie Pringle



My son the politician.



Margaret Trudeau



My son the future prime minister. Yeah right, over my cold dead body.



Valerie Pringle



I don’t think Justin has any pressure on him at all.



Margaret Trudeau



No it is my daughter who you should be looking at.



Valerie Pringle



And your fabulous baby son who you say is a treasure.



Margaret Trudeau



Yes, absolutely. We have to identify early on the little characteristics and the shortcomings. We don’t call them flaws in our family. We should help guide parents through the tumultuous emotions, the tumultuous bullying, rejections, all the things that are going to happen to children. They are going to be knocked down. You can’t protect them from everything. None of us can be protected from being knocked down in life by somebody, somewhere, sometime. It is how we get up again that is a measure of how successful our lives will be and many of us can’t get up on our own and don’t even know how to start to get back on our feet after life has knocked us down.



Valerie Pringle



No, you need help.



Margaret Trudeau



You need help. I think your services and any organization that has a compassionate mandate is so necessary and so valuable.



Valerie Pringle



I should just put in a plug for the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health. It has just raised a million dollars this year. The Web site is up, getting out into communities, small communities, and giving the first access point. People can apply for grants, if anybody in this room is interested in that. There is a million dollars to be spent this year trying to get services out there. To hear Moya Greene, the President of Canada Post, who is such a strong advocate talking about “our share health care,” and people who care about this issue or are touched by it, which is almost everybody, marching out of their homes and all screaming “our share health care,” is quite something.



Margaret Trudeau



Well my hat is off to James Bartleman. What he did was an extraordinary pro-active response. There was a suicide a week in our Aboriginal communities and what did he do? He said that we have got to give those children hope. Trucks and firetrucks and police cars just drove up a million books where the roads don’t go or whatever, because he thought if the children at least could read books it would open up a world of hope to them. It would open up a world of possibilities. They might think of themselves in a different way. There was just nothing but despair in a cycle of poverty that wasn’t going to end. Of course the way to end the cycle of poverty is with education and giving the children motivation and hope. Books are such an important part and cannot be underestimated. I know that is another reason that I had a pretty happy and healthy childhood. I read voraciously all the time. I just escaped into this extraordinary world.



Valerie Pringle



With James Bartleman his most serious concern is Aboriginal youth and suicide.



Margaret Trudeau



But this is a real positive approach. A simple thing like used books.



Valerie Pringle



We have got a question from the youth representative. She asks, “How can we as youth leaders explain to teachers and parents that mental health is not a disease and we as youth have a lot of potential?”



Margaret Trudeau



It is mental illness. It is a disease. It is a health concern. The concern is our mental health as much as our physical health as much as our spiritual health. They are all part of our concern so what we have to do is put value on our emotional state as much as we put value on our intellectual state. We may be very, very competent intellectually and have no ability to deal with life and, as Pierre called it, the vicissitudes of daily living, the ups and downs. I think that a kind of progressive approach, a proactive approach, from everybody is needed. Mental health is part of physical health and people in the workplace should be attuned to people and not push them away because they are sad, boring or irritating. We should say, “What is happening to you? Do you need some help? Would you like me to try and find someone for you to talk to?”



Valerie Pringle



Speak openly. You hear that so often. People will say, “I wish people had said ‘How are you?’” If someone were hit by a bus, you would send flowers and all go to visit and keep in touch. If someone jumped under the bus, they wouldn’t even talk to you. They would look the other way. They would think this was so embarrassing. They wouldn’t even ask. No one would talk about it. I think the important message to communicate to kids is that mental illness is a crisis and if it goes untreated it can lead, as you will say, to a wasted life, perhaps a suicide death or just an unhappy, less productive life and intervention can help.



Margaret Trudeau



Well you are impaired from functioning as the best you can be. I don’t mean the best of everybody but just the best you can be and that’s all we can expect of ourselves or our children or our friends. Just to be the best you can be. How can you be the best if you have really bad judgment and are not seeing life clearly or you have a chemical imbalance and you are just so stressed at the idea of having to walk out your front door.



Valerie Pringle



Well I think we will wrap it up there. Would you like to leave with one final message?



Margaret Trudeau



You do that.



Valerie Pringle



I think I was trying to do that by saying that we can’t afford to waste these lives. Everybody in this room obviously knows these issues, some more than others. The minister in charge of this for the government of Ontario is here and people who are advocating for all sorts of groups understand this, but I think we know we have still fallen down, that we are still failing our kids and there is still so much more we have to do in terms of being open and accessible about this and having a more effective strategy.



Margaret Trudeau



I just have one thing to add.



Valerie Pringle



I knew you would.



Margaret Trudeau



I very happily have had the occasion of being able to meet with the Dalai Lama through my son Sacha. He was to have a private meeting with him after some conference he was at and the Dalai Lama’s aide called, when he and I were having dinner. He said that the Dalai Lama would like to have an hour-long conversation with Sacha the following morning.



Valerie Pringle



“Can I bring my mum?”



Margaret Trudeau



Anyway I had a question for the Dalai Lama and I asked him about happiness. We all want the pursuit of happiness. We all want personal happiness. Is happiness possible? Is that something that we can achieve? He said that if you are warmhearted and compassionate you will be happy and that is the truth. If you are willing to give out and put one step forward and to help somebody who you see is suffering, your happiness scale goes right up and of course love is all there is. So warmhearted goes without saying. You get what you give. I will conclude on that one.



The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Jo-Ann McArthur, Principal, fisheye, and President, The Empire Club of Canada.

Children’s Mental Health Week
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Children’s Mental Health Week


Valerie Pringle and Margaret Trudeau in dialogue about children and youth mental health. Ms. Trudeau’s bipolar condition. Background and history to Ms. Trudeau’s condition. Treatment for depression. The role of serotonin. Consequences of marijuana use for Ms. Trudeau. Ms. Pringle’s experience with mental health through her daughter. No magic pill. Therapy. Public awareness campaigns. The scope of the problem in Canada. The impact of stigma. Treating children. Changes in mental health. Ways to help children. The numbers. Suicide as the leading cause of death in adolescence. Emotional intelligence. The Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health. The work of James Bartleman. A question and answer period. One last message from each speaker.