The IWK’s Mental Health and Addictions Program entered a tree in this year’s Festival of Trees hosted by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. This year, the IWK Awareness/Anti-Stigma Committee decorated the tree. Here is a blog by Nicole Fraughton, coordinator of the committee.
This year the IWK Mental Health and Addictions Anti Stigma/ Awareness Committee submitted a tree to the RBC Forest of Trees. These trees are auctioned off with all the funds going to support mental health initiatives in our community, more than $3 million has been raised by the Festival of Trees events since 1991.
The committee members are youth, staff, and families from many different backgrounds. One thing we all have in common is our passion and commitment to reduce stigma faced by those affected by mental illness so when we were asked to submit a tree, we all agreed on one thing – the theme had to have meaning.
We chose a Winnie the Pooh theme. This may sound strange but when you actually analyze the characters of the A.A. Milne story you realize that many of these characters display classic signs of mental illness.
Our own Dr. Sarah Shea with Kevin Gordon, Ann Hawkins, Janet Kawchuk and Donna Smith published an article in which they diagnosed the characters of this much-loved classic: “Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne”. (CMAJ. DEC. 12, 2000; 163 (12) 1557-1559)
The authors diagnosed the characters mental health profile as follows: Pooh, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD (inattentive subtype); Piglet, Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Eeyore, chronic dysthymia (on the lighter end of depression spectrum); Tigger, ADHD (hyperactivity-impulsivity subtype); Owl is obviously bright but dyslexic, etc..
As you can see in the attached picture we decorated a beautiful sparkly tree with all the characters of Winnie the Pooh and have included each of their diagnoses as their “gifts”. We want everyone to realize that mental illness is just that, an illness. We love the characters of Pooh for all of their “quirks” such as Pooh’s inability to concentrate or Piglets anxiety, so why is society so intolerant of real people with these illnesses?
I’ve been an advocate of mental health for a long time but since bringing together this amazing committee, I’ve learned so much more about the fear and misunderstandings surrounding these illnesses. But I’ve also seen firsthand how education and awareness can change people’s perception.
That’s what this tree is all about. It is one more way to show that people with mental illness should not be feared; they deserve the same understanding and compassion as any other illness.