The topic of mental health and especially mental illness has been mostly taboo for centuries. Fears of being ostracized or invalidated have prevented people who struggle with mental illness from admitting that they were having a hard time. These fears are justified because mental illnesses have been associated with things like attention-seeking, weak-mindedness, lack of faith, and in some cultures, being possessed by spirits. This leads mentally ill people to internalize their anguish and live a life of suffering, and in extreme cases, take their own lives.
Janine Joseph is a first-generation Canadian who has gone through agonies that shook her to her core. After losing her husband, Janine fell into a dark place where her mental state completely deteriorated and she had to be hospitalized. Grief coupled with survivor’s guilt encompassed her mind and she pushed everyone away. It crushed her to let her loved ones see her in a state of such vulnerability. She decided to face everything on her own but it was not working out because day by day as she took more and more medicines to numb her pain, she seemed to fall deeper into the dark hole of despair.
It didn’t help when she lost her best friend to suicide later on. It was a shock to her family and those who loved her to see her in such a fragile state. To them, she had always been a strong-willed, always smiling woman. Little did they know, she was carrying the pain and burden of mental illness all by herself for twelve years.
When her family finally found out, they were beyond shocked. Soon, however, they regained their composure and assured Janine that they would remain by her side no matter what. They helped her get back on her feet, both literally and figuratively. Literally, because she lost the ability to walk for a while after the accident that took her husband’s life. She had to have physiotherapy for a long time to just walk again, as her accident had left her with the fear that she would never be able to walk without crutches. She had her family’s support, but due to cultural restrictions, they had their own internalized bias on how to deal with grief. This left Janine in even more anguish than before. The misinterpretation of her religion and culture was causing her to fall even further rather than help her up.
One day, Janine finally admitted to herself that she would never get free from her suicidal thoughts unless she took charge and turned her life around. She resigned from her well-paying job and dedicated her life to challenging and eliminating the stigma around mental illness.
Janine studied to become a mental health professional so she could help others who were suffering like she was, and extend to them a ray of hope, and a helping hand when life seemed bleak and clouded with misery.
She also started advocating through her Instagram account named “the.fragilemind” and blog “thefragilemind.life” where she openly talks about her story, how her life changed because of it, and what she did to get her life back on track. She shares the advice and knowledge she has gathered through experience in hopes of reaching out to someone going through a rough patch in their life and to hopefully help them through it. Janine recalls an instance where a young girl reached out to her and opened up about how she was afraid of the way her parents would possibly react to her having a mental illness. Janine encouraged her to open up to them and advised her on the best way to do so. Soon afterward, the girl informed her how supportive her parents were being now.
Janine has a simple yet noble cause, and it is heartwarming to see survivors of mental illness advocate for and assist other people in need. Janine’s motto is to never give up and fight your mind whenever it is clouded with dark thoughts, even though it is an everyday struggle for her. It is because of people like her that the taboo surrounding mental illness will slowly be replaced by a healthier culture.