Mental Illness Won’t Stop My Family From Fighting The Stigma

quinn greene

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My name is . I am mentally ill.

My mother, Roxie. My father, Dave. My brother, Kane. We are all mentally ill.

Reading those statements alone, I know you already have questions. What kind of mentally ill? Do you hear voices? Do you think about killing yourself? Do you think about killing other people? Do you need medical help? How much of that medical help are my tax dollars paying for?

We hear the words “mentally ill” and we immediately conjure stigma.

He all have our ideas of what it means. How it affects the people who suffer from it. The media perpetuates an idea of illness. These words are bandied about every time an unexplainable or non-political act of violence occurs. It is the unofficial backdrop of poverty and drug abuse.

Mental illness lives in the corner of all of our lives, the elephant in the room so unobtrusive, you’d swear it wasn’t ever there at all.

It hides itself.

It hides itself by its very definition. When your feelings, the psychological and chemical impulses that guide you through every decision, every moment of your life, feel wrong, to control. When your feelings feel broken… You feel different. Apart. Apathetic. The last thing you want to do is reach out, connect. It is an illness that further isolates you with each passing second. And even when you do reach out, what will “they” — the functional, happy, productive “normal” world — what will they think?

It hides inside our perception of it. Do you feel today? We all feel . Eat better, buy more, date more, live life to its fullest and dance like no one is watching. Do you feel anxious? Stress is part of life! Being an adult means responsibility, means strife, means stress. Being a productive member of society is hard. That’s the deal we deal with every day. Do you feel suicidal? That is weak, absurd, selfish! Are you trying to get attention? Are you trying to give up on the miracle of life? How dare you? HOW DARE YOU?

We are also working hard, fighting back, finding health and in each other, and we are full of hope.

It hides itself by omission. When you feel broken and as though out to others, others who will judge you, villain-ize you, victimize you, dismiss you… Why ever reach at all? We stop talking about it. We ignore it altogether. We put on big, plump smiley faces and change the subject. We would rather talk about anything else. We push this difficult disease, this dangerous, destructive major world issue aside and put our cultural blinders up.

And it silently kills. Every. Single. Day.

This is a reality I can’t help thinking about.

But my reality is also full of wonderful things.


I am an actor, a writer, a comedian. I love geeking out over comic books, writing about other imaginative universes, and making people laugh their hearts out with my sketch troupe, H.U.N.K.S.

My father is an Elvis tribute artist. He is a brilliant , a wild, effervescent, great ape of a man decked out in all of the King’s sequined glory.

My brother is a musician, a beat boxer. He is a beacon of light in any room, shining ever bright with nothing but a song, his voice and an old harmonica or two.

My mother is a writer, a thinker, an inspiration. She is compassion personified. A loving, caring person who can find beauty and humour in even the darkest moments.

I don’t want to ignore the conversation. I want to shout it, loud and clear, for everyone to hear.

We are actor, entertainer, musician, writer.

And we are anger, hoarding, anxiety and .

We are both things. We strive for art and happiness, what it brings to us and others to directly contrast the pain and fear we experience every day.

We are poor, we are struggling, we are addicted, we are afraid.

But we are also working hard, fighting back, finding health and strength in each other, and we are full of hope.

We are all of this, and because of this, I wanted to tell a story about a family who strives for hope and love despite our mental illness.

greene family

I don’t want to ignore the conversation. I want to shout it, loud and clear, for everyone to hear. If a boisterous comedian, an eccentric Elvis, a man with a mouth made of beats, and a venerable wise woman scream into the abyss, does it make a sound? You’re damn right it does!

The CBC Firsthand documentary is that sound. The documentary filmmaking team at Nüman Films had faith that we could make that sound. They believed that with our unique voice, our unique perspective on mental illness, we could start a real, profound conversation.

I don’t want to allow mental illness, one of the most prevalent, world-wide health threats of this generation, to hide any longer. This is my fight, my war with my own mind, with a commonly held belief that mental illness is reserved for the helpless, the hopeless and deranged.

I believe mental illness affects all of us. That we should have the courage, the faith in each other, the strength, to be honest about our feelings, about our day-to-day battle waging within ourselves.

I believe this conversation, a conversation about togetherness, openness, healing and hope is the beginning of a world dedicated to peace and universal love. I believe love and acceptance is the foundation of a better world.

All of this may seem like I am reaching for the stars. How could one film about a small, ridiculous, troubled Winnipeg family be that important? It is my belief that every life is important. That everyone in the world affects everyone else. That every time anyone aspires for greatness, works towards the greater good, that it makes the world a better place, no matter how infinitesimal the effort. This is my life. This is my story. A Canadian story. A universal story. This is my effort, my aspiration at the greater good.

I am Quinn Greene. I am mentally ill.

Ask me anything you want.

This is where the conversation begins…

Please find Being Greene on CBC Firsthand premiering October 13 at 9:00 p.m. or on their website.

If you or someone you know is at risk please contact your nearest Crisis Centre or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor.

Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their , teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email [email protected]

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About Quinn Greene