While president of the Toronto Port Authority in 2004, Lisa Raitt began to experience sadness following the birth of one of her children that didn’t go away.
Afraid to tell her boss, she tried to tough it out and work through the pain, but it wasn’t until she saw a doctor that she was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
“You can diagnose a physical ailment very easily,” Raitt said at a Brandon Sun editorial board meeting. “For a GP to diagnose something to deal with a mental disorder, or even postpartum, it can take many sessions. How many doctors have 40 minutes to spend with their patients these days? You are in and out in six minutes.”
Raitt speaks openly about her experience with depression as a way to show others that it can happen to them and encourages them to seek the help they need.
“The prime minister recognized mental health as an issue many years ago, before I came to Ottawa and put significant funding into the Mental Health Commission of Canada and their work is finally coming out now,” Raitt said. “We have an aspect of mental health in the workplace really can be seen. So the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has developed a tool that’s available on websites for employers to help recognize issues and problems related to anxiety and depression.”
Raitt’s partner, a CEO in a firm, had a an employee commit suicide. She said natural questions will arise, such as what could anyone have done to prevent it, but the key is not being afraid to talk about the situation or the depression issues someone may face.
In Raitt’s case, it wasn’t until she heard Olympian Clara Hughes speak about her own battles with depression that she decided not to hide from her own situation. While suffering through her depression, she continued to work and now says that probably prolonged her illness when she should have focussed on her health.
“If I was ever asked, I couldn’t say I was the minister of Labour and this is important,” Raitt said. “I have to share. It’s my responsibility to share. Does it cut both ways? We’ll see. It doesn’t affect me in my role as a member of Parliament. When this job is over, will it come up on Google that I had postpartum depression and they will think twice about giving me a position in their company? I don’t know. But it’s okay.
“Our job in government is to make it unacceptable to have that kind of attitude by breaking down the stigma.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 2, 2012