Manitoba health minister shares her own mental health story

For Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady, being a mental health advocate comes naturally, since she experiences a depressive disorder.

“It took a while for me to realize what was going on and to seek out a diagnosis"

Manitoba health minister, Sharon Blady, at her office in the provincial legislature. (Kaj Hasselriis/DNTO )

When Sharon Blady heard about the disappearance of Reid Bricker, the Manitoba health minister said reaching out to his family was the "most natural response" she had.

"In another time and place, I could've been the person they were looking for, or God forbid it would have been my son," said Blady, who has been living with mental health issues for over 20 years. "We don't know when this is going to happen to any of us, when that chemical switch is going to flick."

After Reid Bricker went missing following several suicide attempts, Blady reached out to the 33-year-old Winnipeg man's mother, Bonnie Bricker, to discuss possible changes to Manitoba's mental health system. She even invited Bricker to a high-level meeting of health-care officials to share her story.

Blady said she first realized she had mental health issues after the birth of her first child in 1992.

"There I was with a baby a few months old, hanging out with friends," she said. "I was in the early throes of postpartum depression, and I didn't know it."

"It took a while for me to realize what was going on and to seek out a diagnosis," Blady continued. "I would come to realize over the years that I did actually have something that was a depressive disorder, and that I've gone through a range of experiences ever since."

Every day, Blady takes steps to keep depression at bay, like working under brighter than average lights in her office at the Manitoba legislature.

Whenever possible, Blady said she tries to help others who are dealing with similar issues. "I've tried to take the lemons that the universe has given me, and to make lemonade for other folks."

"When you're in that place where the disease has taken over, and you're not necessarily 100 per cent you, you are sometimes in need of more support," she said. "Sometimes you're able to articulate what kind of help you need, and other times you're not."

While more supports need to be in place, Blady said there is less stigma about mental health now than when she was first diagnosed.

"After 23 years, the world is very different. We couldn't have the kind of conversations we're having now 23 years ago."