What If We Treated Cancer Patients Like A Person Diagnosed with a Mental Illness?

There is so much good talk about seeking help if you think you need it. Talk to people if you’re down. Find professional help. Even Instagram is jumping on with their new feeling down flag feature. And all of this is good. It’s great! But we are still facing one major problem; it doesn’t look like it is going to be fixed any time soon.

So what if we treated cancer patients like a person diagnosed with a mental illness?

I need to add in a very important disclosure here. I’m going to be sounding like a #%+ (I’ll let you fill in your own word after you finish reading this). The intent of this is not to bring down cancer patients, or any other illness, I am simply just using it to illustrate.

With that out of the way, let’s lay down some similarities between cancer and mental illnesses;

  • Everyone is at risk.
  • Could hit at any point in your life. Young or old.
  • Tough to cure.
  • Is draining on the patients and family.
  • Depends on you to go seek help if you think you are at risk.
  • Could be deadly, regardless of if it is treated or not.

The similarities roll on, but for those main reasons I am comparing the two.

But back to the question at hand. Let’s pretend you just found a lump, a tumour on your body. Anywhere. It doesn’t matter for this purpose. But you have this lump. You think it may be cancer. How long would it take you to go seek medical attention? Likely not long.


What if – let’s just say what if – you did go, the doctor runs some tests, weeks go by as you wait for your results and finally they come back positive. You have cancer. It is not easy, but you know you are going to have to tell family and loved ones. Maybe even friends, coworkers and acquaintances.

As you begin telling all these people you have cancer, imagine if they started isolating you. They stopped being around. They stopped calling. They talked behind your back about it. Even worse they single you out, ostracize you. They go as far as calling you crazy.

If this was what happened when you got diagnosed with a cancer, would you really feel comfortable seeking help for that lump you are concerned about or telling people about it?

Well it is far too often what happens when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, rather it be depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, psychosis, the list goes on.


The time is now for change. Let’s treat the person you know, that friend, that coworker, that family member, that loved one struggling with a mental illness just as we would if they were struggling with anything else. Support them. Be there for them. Help them out when they need it. And let’s face it, you know someone with a mental illness because it effects one in five Canadians.

Once this happens, once we get through this wall, things will change. Progress will be made and mental illness may take fewer lives.


1 comment

  1. AJ Reply November 21, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Your words ring true for so many reasons John, and I agree with all of them. Mental Illness is looked at with such a stigma that many don’t seek out help for the reasons you listed. Hopefully we can all help to end the stigma and let those people affected feel safe in asking for help.

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