Margaret Trudeau shares insight on mental illness at Carleton event

By: Caitlin Hart
“I don’t know why I’m bipolar, maybe like Lady GaGa I was just ‘made this way,’” Trudeau said, singing the last part.

Margaret Trudeau spoke to students after her speech at Carleton on Oct. 3. Provided

By: CAITLIN HART

Margaret Trudeau spoke to students after her speech at Carleton on Oct. 3. Provided

Margaret Trudeau (left) spoke to students after her speech at Carleton on Oct. 3. Provided

The audience laughed as Margaret Trudeau admitted she took to marijuana “like a duck to water.”

Trudeau’s guest appearance at Carleton University on Oct. 3 began with anecdotes like this. She started things off by detailing her life growing up in British Columbia, to being a flower child, and eventually, the prime minister’s wife.

But this was not however a talk about the life and times of the former Mrs. Trudeau. This was a talk dedicated to the struggles Trudeau faced in dealing with bipolar disorder.

The event was organized by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Psychology Society of Carleton University (PSCU) to kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 6-12.

After a few funny stories, Trudeau delved into the many ways she has dealt with bipolar disorder throughout her life. In her breathy and exuberant voice, she explained that for most of her life people simply thought she was odd. Even when she did seek help, it was often brushed off. When she experienced a severe depression after the birth of her second child, one doctor told her it was just the baby blues.

“It’s almost like going into a cave but finding that the cave is a bottomless pit,” Trudeau said about her depression.

Eventually the depression lifted and everyone around her said, “You’re back!” But a pattern began to emerge. Trudeau experienced periods of depression triggered by stress, followed by phases of mania.

“I don’t know why I’m bipolar, maybe like Lady GaGa I was just ‘made this way,’” Trudeau said, singing the last part.

Trudeau says she is grateful for seeking help; it is one of the key reasons she has chosen to speak about her experience.

But oftentimes, this help is out of reach, she said. While OHIP covers visits to a psychiatrist through a hospital, many psychiatrists lack resources and time. An appointment with a psychologist can be easier to get, but are not covered by OHIP and often cost well over $200 an hour, Trudeau said.

While it took Trudeau until her 50s before she received help for her mental illness, she says the only shame is “having a mental illness and not getting help.”

At the end of the day, Trudeau said, “no pharmaceutical is going to heal you.” As her doctor once told her, only she could save herself.

This is why it is important to discuss mental health with students, and to “nip it in the bud,” Trudeau said.

She said she tries to advocate awareness about mental health by initiating the conversation.

Instead of sitting around the dinner table discussing hockey scores, she said, we should talk openly about subjects like bullying and mental health.

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