Mr. Dave Bona and Teresa Untereiner talked about mental health awareness at Banglar Gaan O Kotha.
These days we take our health very seriously. We consult a specialist for a small fracture in our body or even for something as minor as a cough and cold, but we tend to overlook “how we feel mentally”, and move on with our lives thinking “it would be OK”. A visible fracture on our limbs doesn’t get OK without a doctor’s intervention.Similarly, our feelings/mind when fractured, doesn’t get OK without the involvement of a therapist (counselor and/or psychiatrist), but the only difference is that despite being so health conscious, we ignore our mental fracture because they are invisible.Unfortunately, even today, talking about mental illness are heavily stigmatized in our society. Thus, last week we at BanglarGaan O Kotha (BGOK), had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Dave Bona- a three Commando of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Also served with the first and third battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Deployed to Cyprus with UN, Saudi Arabia for first Gulf War, and Somalia—and, his partner, Ms. Teresa Untereinerto talk about mental conditions such as PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety. Mr. Bona battled PTSD and severe depression for years, which was an outcome of being a war veteran, and now they help several people suffering from such conditions in their community. Both of them informed that anyone feeling mentally unwell should take the same initiative to visit the therapist as they would for their physical problem, to prevent it from getting more severe.They said, “Don’t shush or try to self-diagnose it. Visit the therapist to help and save yourself.”
The guests also cleared numerous misconceptions and stigma about mental health treatment. Personally, I have been battlingpost-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and depression for eight years now. Initially, like many of us, I lived in denial about my mental condition thinking that it was a taboo, unless one day, my professor, Dr.Gagne took me to a therapist and I can’t thank her enough for putting my life back on track. However, when I shared about my PTSD, some people very doubtfully questioned me about my diagnosis, since I was not a war veteran. PTSDis very common amongst the war veterans. Mr. Bona, a war veteran himself, clarified while war veterans get PTSD, but it can happen to anyone under any circumstances and irrespective of their status in the society. Panic attack, which is an outcome of PTSD is extremely painful in nature and the patients don’t use it as a tool to manipulate someone, get attention or play truants from work. Contrary to the general belief, it is entirely possible to have kids, job, and carry on with a normal life with any mental condition just like any other physicalcondition, if treated on time. Finally, they highlighted that no amount of prayers or listening to a spiritual guru on Youtube could help to fix any of these conditions without consulting a therapist. If only prayers and listening to spiritual gurus could treat any mental conditions, then Cancer could be treated without going to a specialist.
BGOK host Srijita Sarkar Interviewed Mr. Dave Bona and Teresa Untereiner
The overall message of this episode, aired on the Mental Health Awareness Month was that it is OK to have a mental condition and one doesn’t need a particular reason to get depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. It can come to anyone irrespective of their social, marital, economic, educational status in the society. But, it is extremely treatable and with the help of therapists and psychiatrists one can carry on with their normal lives if treated soon, otherwise it could get worse like any other physical disease, if not treated on time.
In conclusion, being someone who lives with some of these conditions, I can proudly say that mental illness is not a sign of weakness, rather it shows that we have been strong, and compassionate for very long. We are troopers and deserve to pat ourselves on the back. But, sometimes even we need self-pampering and self-care, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Host of Banglar Gaan O Kotha, CFCR community radio and
PhD Student in Sociology, University of Saskatchewan.