First Nations language recordings about mental illness

This series of audio recordings give basic information on 5 major mental illnesses (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety and OCD), in three first nations languages – Carrier, Tsilhqot’in and Shuswap. They were originally recorded on audio tapes as part of the SMILE project of the BC Schizophrenia Society, William’s Lake Branch and HRSDC. The English text of these recordings is available at the bottom of this page

Tsilhqot’in Language

Shuswap Language

(voiced by Cecilia Rose)

Carrier Language

(voiced by Vivian Cahoose)

English Text these Recordings were Based On

Major Depression (also known as Clinical Depression)

  • Major depression is one of the most common emotional problems. It affects our thoughts, emotions and our behaviors.
  • The suffering that goes with it is very real. Just as physical things can go wrong with the body, things can go wrong in our Brain.
  • Most depressive episodes last between 6 and 12 months.
  • A majority of people will recover but will most likely experience recurrent episodes in the future. Some cases of depression become chronic and can last a lifetime.

Facts about Depression

  • It affects as many as 1 in 8 youth in their teen years.
  • 5% of all adults are affected with depression in a year.
  • It commonly occurs between the ages of 25-44.
  • Affects people of every colour, race, and age.
  • It affects twice as many females as males.
  • At its worst, if not treated, Depression can lead to suicide.
  • Only 1 in 3 people actually seek help fir their depression.

Causes of Depression

  • A chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Genetic makeup or a family history
  • Heart disease, cancer and some medications can trigger depression
  • Stressful events
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Financial stress
  • Legacy of the residential school system
  • Negative or pessimistic view of life

Signs of Depression

  • Women may cry endlessly, become withdrawn, or gain or lose weight.
  • Men may abuse alcohol or drugs, work or eat excessively, and/or become violent to themselves or others.
  • Odd behavior such as doing things they would not normally do.
  • Bad mood, easily irritated.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Young people’s grades falling
  • Trouble concentrating/loss of memory
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feel like crying but don’t know why
  • Mood swings
  • Destructive self-criticism, negative attitude
  • Persistently sad or irritable
  • Sleeping less or more
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Treatment for Depression

Overcoming depression on your own can be very difficult. There are a variety of treatments available to you from health professionals.

80% of people who get help for their depression go on to have fulfilling happy lives.

Treatment can include counseling, also know as Talk Therapy, and medication, or a combination of both.

It also helps them cope with the effects of depression in their relationships.

Counseling with a mental health professional is very effective in treating depression. It helps people understand depression and what they can do about it.

Getting Help

  • Medicine may be prescribed and monitored by your doctor. It can take a few weeks to make sure it is the right dosage.
  • People who are extremely depressed and who may be thinking about hurting themselves or about suicide need help as soon as possible.

Anxiety Disorder

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common of the mental disorders, in which “normal” feelings of nervousness are carried to “extremes” and it disrupts daily living.
  • 1 in 10 people suffer from Anxiety Disorders
  • Over 400,000 people in B.C. are affected.
  • Many individuals or families suffer alone or in silence.

Types of Anxiety

There are several types of Anxiety Disorders:

Panic Disorder – fear for self

Agoraphobia – fear or specific things and places

Social Anxiety Disorder – excessive fear of embarrassment/humiliation/fear of public places

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – excessive worry

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – reliving terrifying events

Specific Phobias – constant fear of specific objects or situation

Stress – can be physical and psychological

Symptoms of Anxiety

Symptoms of Anxiety can be broken down into four major categories:

Emotions – how we feel

Physical – how our bodies react

Thoughts – what goes through out minds

Behaviors – how we respond

Symptoms include:


Trouble falling asleep


Trembling, shaking, twitching, muscle tension

Chest pain, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, feeling lightheaded

Feelings of panic or fear

Rapid heartbeat

Feelings of being detached from oneself

There are many challenges in people’s daily living and coping methods:

  • Extreme levels of creativity
  • Rigid thinking
  • Very “needy” emotionally
  • High expectations of Self
  • Perfectionism
  • Excessive need to be in control
  • Symptoms get worse when under extreme stress or feeling depressed
  • Having excessive symptoms of anxiety and associated symptoms on a regular basis for a prolonged period of time

What can happen if you don’t get help

There are many costs to untreated or poorly managed Anxiety Disorders:

Increased risk of Depression, Substance Abuse, or Suicide

Interruptions in work, school, home, and social activities

Emotional distress and personal suffering

Managing Anxiety Disorders

  • Empowering yourself through education
  • Creating healthy thinking patterns
  • Educating yourself to help build your strengths and overcome physical, emotional and mental symptoms


Effective treatment includes:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Relaxation techniques

Biofeedback to control muscle tension

Anti-anxiety drugs

Talk therapy

Self Care

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (ODC) is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by recurring unpleasant thoughts such as “I am dirty.”
  • Compulsions or compulsive acts such as repeated hand washing become a way of dealing with the obsession and coping with the anxiety.


Further research is ongoing into the causes of OCD and here are two known facts about OCD:

People with OCD have patterns of brain activity that differ from people with other mental illnesses or people with no mental illness.

Other studies of brain structure show that people with OCD have less white matter than normal, suggesting a widely distributed brain abnormality.

2 Kinds of OCD


Cleaning rituals (fear of contamination)

Checking rituals (constant uncertainty)

Less Common

Fear of handling sharp objects

Fear of shoplifting

Perverse sexual or violent thoughts

“Obsessive-Compulsive Attack” that distorts the individual’s view of reality.


Symptoms can consume an hour or more a day, to the point of interfering with daily life:

Rechecking over and over if your door is locked

Checking over and over again to see if the stove is turned off

Washing your hands over and over

Repeated cleaning

Counting steps

Buying groceries in even numbers only

Facts about OCD

  • Affects men and women in equal numbers – approximately 4.3 million adults in North America
  • Symptoms often begin in childhood. One-third of adults with OCD report symptoms first appearing in childhood
  • Full onset by age 25
  • OCD tends to last for years, even decades. Symptoms may become less severe from time to time, but for most individuals with OCD the symptoms are chronic.
  • Checking rituals only bring temporary relief from the anxiety that grows when you don’t perform the task. These rituals can become so consuming that some people with OCD may not be able to hold down a job or carry out normal functions at home.
  • Causes are unclear although evidence shows:

– A deficiency of serotonin (natural brain chemical)

– Genetic (runs in families)

Myths about OCD

  • OCD happens when people set themselves unrealistically high personal standards
  • Behavior Therapy will eliminate all OCD symptoms
  • For many years doctors thought that OCD was a rare disease

A problem commonly confused with OCD is the disorder known as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCP)

People with OCP may have problems such as drug abuse and gambling. They will act on their urges and enjoy them.

People with OCD fear that something is wrong, but don’t act on it.

Treatment for OCD

  • OCD can be treated with medications or carefully targeted psychotherapy also called Talk Therapy
  • Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained Mental Health professional, such as a psychiatrist, social worker, or counselor, to learn how to deal with OCD. This involves slowly and continually changing your beliefs, reworking learned behaviors and letting go of unresolved emotions.
  • There are family support groups that offer education to help understand your family member with OCD
  • Education and information helps the family to understand and support therapy work along with doctors’ recommended medications.

Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as Manic Depressive Disorder)

  • It is a brain disorder that causes unusual and extreme shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.
  • Bipolar is used to indicate the 2 poles. Picture a globe: the North Pole would be mania and the South Pole would be depression.
  • Mania is when the person can not speak fast enough to keep up with their thoughts and they have excessive energy with big thoughts of “Self.” They may occasionally hear voices and see things.
  • Depression is when they are sad and unhappy for long periods of time.

Commonly used words and what they mean

  • Psychosis – a condition that affects the mind, in which there has been some loss of contact with reality.
  • First Episode – when an individual experiences psychosis for the first time. One or two behaviors are being exhibited
  • Rapid Cycling – when you experience Mania as well as Depression 5-7 times a day
  • Slow Cycling – state of either Mania or Depression that lasts for weeks and is not interrupted by the other. You will not have both states in the same time period.

Triggers for the 1st Psychotic Episode

An overwhelming life experience such as:

Graduating from school

Joining the work force or changing jobs

Personal trauma, e.g. Abuse or Abandonment

Divorce or death of a loved one

Financial problems

The disorder is often there already and the use of drugs such as marijuana, crystal meth, ecstasy or cocaine will bring it out.


  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Uncontrolled rages
  • Recklessness
  • Low self esteem
  • Behavior that appears very immature
  • Fear of crowds
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sleep all the time or not much at all
  • Lack of motivation
  • Overly sensitive or irritable

Facts about Bipolar Disorder

  • Affects both men and women equally
  • Typically symptoms appear around the age of 15-21
  • Rare cases have been known to appear as early as 5 years of age
  • Symptoms become more evident later in life between the ages of 40 and 50
  • It is a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects the way they experience moods
  • It can be hereditary
  • Each case is individual and require different medications and treatment

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Many people with Bipolar Disorder do not know they have it. Some do not seek treatment while others are incorrectly diagnosed.
  • Treatment for people with bipolar will not only help them to survive but to flourish
  • There are many medications that help the person suffering from bipolar. Medication can take up to a month to start working when first tried or changed. Doctors will regulate your levels for treatment through blood tests.
  • Counseling or Talk Treatment is often done along with medication. Talk Treatment helps people learn better ways of dealing with their problems such as suicide, alcohol/substance abuse, problems at school, divorces, and hiding from friends and family.

Being Informed and Coping with Bipolar

  • For people with bipolar, no two cases are identical
  • When visiting your doctor, make sure all aspects are discussed, mania as well as depression. It is often helpful to take someone who knows you well.
  • Drinking alcohol or using drugs can cause bipolar symptoms to cycle faster.
  • Have a good support system; this could include family and long time friends and educate them about Bipolar Disorder
  • Learn your triggers and realize it’s okay to remove yourself from a situation that may cause you stress.
  • Have a plan in place as to what to do should an episode start to get out of control, such as taking yourself or having someone take you to the doctor or hospital.

False Ideas or Myths about Bipolar Disorder

  • People diagnosed with bipolar disorder spend their lives in mental institutions.
  • They almost always commit suicide.
  • Seldom can hold down a job.
  • They are dangerous.
  • Bipolar disorder is contagious.
  • People with bipolar disorder have no sense of humor about their disorder.


  • A brain disease that affects all aspects of your life which include spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional.
  • There are many factors that may cause a person to have schizophrenia: if you have family with the mental illness; if you have suffered severe trauma, severe stress, or drug abuse.
  • There is yet no “cure” for schizophrenia, but there is hope. With proper medication, support, and knowing the signs early, recovery is promising.

Facts about Schizophrenia

  • 1 in 100 people can develop schizophrenia
  • This is about 40,000 of our B.C. neighbours and 310,000 fellow Canadians
  • It is more common than you think
  • For men the age on onset is often 16-20
  • For women the age of onset is often 20-30
  • Recent studies show that children under 10 have been affected
  • A person can have one breakdown and never experience it again
  • 50% of persons with schizophrenia will attempt suicide and 15% will succeed if left untreated

Signs of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia signs are seen in three different ways:

Things that are added to a person’s mind, such as hearing or seeing things that are not there.

Things that are confused in a person’s mind such as strange thoughts, forgetting, losing things, feeling lost, and loss of time.

Things that are taken away from a person’s mind such as feelings, memories, caring.

  • Many people with this illness may not be aware of their signs.
  • False fixed ideas
    • Delusions are false ideas held by the person suffering with Schizophrenia and cannot be corrected by reasoning. The person believes that things that he/she is hearing/seeing are real for them.
    • People who are ill may have ideas that are strange and out of touch with reality, such as one’s thoughts are being taken out of the brain or are being transmitted by radio or TV

· Added unwelcome senses

    • Persons suffering from schizophrenia will hear things such as bad, awful, ugly, loud voices
    • They also see lights, colours, shapes, and rapid movements that are not there

· Big Thinking

    • The person believes he/she can control the weather, or that they are God, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary
    • People with suspicious thoughts think they are being controlled by other people.
    • People with schizophrenia may believe they can fly and try to act upon this belief


· Keep in regular contact with your doctor

· Talk with a psychiatrist

· There are many medications that help the person suffering with schizophrenia

· It is very important to continue with the right medication

Help for Families

  • The BC Schizophrenia Society has many resources such as books and videos which are available to the public.
  • The BC Schizophrenia Society has a program called the Strengthening Families Together Education Program. This program helps families cope with mental illness.