October 16, 2016 3:46 pm
Updated: October 16, 2016 8:01 pm

‘We can have a great life even with a mental illness’: Montrealers walk in support of mental health

WATCH ABOVE: In spite of the heavy rain, hundreds of participants walked in the 8th annual MONTREAL WALKS for mental health event. As Felicia Parrillo reports, the goal is to increase awareness and reduce the stigma on mental health issues.

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For Stéphanie Fontaine, Sunday’s walk is a cause close to her heart.

She’s celebrating her 15th year in recovery from bipolar disorder and she gets to do that alongside her husband and 8-year-old son.

“This year, I celebrate my 15th year of recovery,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t have any symptoms, but I can function, I can have a great life, I have a beautiful kid and we walk as a family here to say to everybody that we can have a great life even with a mental illness.”

Fontaine was one of around 1,000 people who gathered in Montreal on Sunday morning to demonstrate against the stigma surrounding mental illness.

She hopes both the walk and her story will convey a message of hope.

“It’s tough for both those people affected and for people who are watching them,” she said.

“But there’s hope. There are little gestures that need to be done on a day-to-day basis, step by step and they will get there – they will recover.”

One of the keys to recovery is asking for help.

READ MOREHere are the three groups at ‘high risk’ of mental health issues in Canada

Mimi Israël, Chief of Psychiatry at CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, said one of the goals of the walk is to get people to understand that those who suffer from mental illness shouldn’t be ashamed.

“Through this march, we have started walking for mental health, showing people that people with mental health problems are like you and me – in fact, they are you and me,” she said.

“1 in 5 Canadians suffer from mental health problems and we want people not to be ashamed.”

According to the Montreal Walks for Mental Health foundation, 18 per cent of Quebecers are currently suffering from a mental health disorder.

Singer-songwriter and spokesperson for the walk, Jessica Vigneault, said the event aims to overcome discrimination against people living with mental illness.

“I think it’s important to get together, talk about it to raise awareness and compassion,” she said.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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