Montreal

Fighting the stigma on mental health through film

The reality that he was bipolar was a terrifying realization, and it took him a long time to accept. His family was very supportive, but many of his relationships began to fall apart.

Filmmaker shares his battle with bipolar disorder to help others with mental illness

Costa Moshopoulos says the waterfront in Dorval is where he goes to relax and de-stress. (Dennis Cleary/CBC)

You'll often find Costa Moshopoulos walking along the waterfront in Dorval.

It's his favourite place, where he comes to think, to breathe and to de-stress. It's also where he made peace with his bipolar disorder.

After fifteen years of going back and forth to doctors, Moshopoulos was finally diagnosed in 2006 with a mental illness.

The reality that he was bipolar was a terrifying realization, and it took him a long time to accept. His family was very supportive, but many of his relationships began to fall apart.

Costa Moshopoulos teamed up with Beverly Hanck at Friends for Mental Health West Island, joining their stigma committee to create awareness about mental illness. (CBC)

"People kind of saw me differently, whether it's relationships or friends, even work," says Moshopoulos. "You have a battle with the illness itself, then there's another battle, which is stigma."

Moshopoulos teamed up with Friends for Mental Health West Island, a centre in Dorval that supports loved ones of those who are mentally ill. They've created a stigma committee to build awareness.

"It's brutal. It's rock hard discrimination against people," says Beverly Hanck, the executive director at Friends for Mental Health West Island. "We are so easy to judge, which is so wrong."

Beverly Hanck, the executive director at Friends for Mental Health West Island says over a thousand people come to the centre for help each year. (Kristin Falcao/CBC)

Hanck says more than a thousand people in the West Island and across Montreal, turn to the centre for help each year.

When someone is living with or caring for a person who has a mental illness, the illness often affects the whole family.

The counselling sessions are free, but the centre relies heavily on funding to stay open. West Island Community Shares takes care of paying for one of their four full-time counsellors.

"We worry that somebody will cut us by a few thousand, or 10 thousand or 20 thousand," says Hanck. "Even that small amount of money will really rock the boat."

Friends for Mental Health West Island on Dawson avenue in Dorval has been helping people affected by mental illness for 35 years. (CBC)

Hanck recently invited Moshopoulos to share his story with a group of parents, whose children are mentally ill. He says getting family and friends to understand what someone with a mental illness is feeling, is essential in helping them cope.

With a background in film studies, Moshopoulos came up with The Rise Up Project. He creates short documentary films, where people talk about how mental illness affects their lives.

Moshopoulos wanted to share his own story as well as giving others a voice. He hopes to help eliminate the stigma on mental illness, and to help those affected find ways to cope and find peace.

Costa Moshopoulos hopes by sharing his story about living with bipolar disorder, it will help others with a mental illness. (CBC)

"No matter what you suffer from, there's hope, you can overcome," says Moshopoulos. "It's an illness, bottom line, mental illness is an illness."

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