Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire talks mental health in Hamilton

Romeo Dallaire speaks to a crowd at Michaelangelo's in Hamilton about PTSD on Thursday. Diocese of Hamilton

Retired general and senator Romeo Dallaire was in Hamilton on Thursday to speak about his experience with PTSD.

As a part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, St. Joseph’s Healthcare presented A Mental Health Morning, and Dallaire was the guest speaker.

“Mental health to me is a reality of my life and profession,” Dallaire said. “We save lives from suicide through peer support and we save families.”

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Dallaire is recognized internationally for his distinguished military career and as a dedicated champion of human rights.

After witnessing mass genocide in Rwanda, Lt-Gen. Dallaire suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was medically dismissed from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2000.

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He shared his personal story and struggle and what needs to be done to end the stigma around mental illness and its treatment.

“Families are an integral part of our work. They are part of our life and our mental wellbeing,” he said, adding that: “medication is not a crutch. There should be no stigma for taking medication.”

As part of the breakfast, the 2017 Spirit of Hope winners were announced.

Bridget Flatt was the recipient of the Youth Award.

She was diagnosed with anxiety disorder at the age of nine. Since starting high school last year, she has reached out to peers and younger children who are struggling with mental health issues.

READ MORE: Guelph teen gets his meeting with Justin Trudeau about mental health

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The Spirit of Hope Individual winner was Harrison Wheeler.

He had a 15-year struggle with Bipolar Disorder and has self-published a young adult novel titled Jester Incognito, where he tells his story of living through suicidal lows and euphoric highs.

The award for Organization or Group was presented to Good Shepherd’s Barrett Center for Crisis Support.

Over the years, the Barrett Center program has grown to a 24-hour crisis line, face-to-face counselling, support groups and 10 crisis beds to help people who struggle to find the care they need.

Every dollar raised from the event will support the Mental Health & Addiction Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

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