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Margaret Trudeau visiting Petrolia

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Margaret Trudeau has been a public advocate for mental health over the last 12 years. She’s coming to Petrolia this Saturday to continue spreading her message. (File photo)

Margaret Trudeau has been a public advocate for mental health over the last 12 years. She’s coming to Petrolia this Saturday to continue spreading her message. (File photo)

Margaret Trudeau is coming to Petrolia on Saturday, and the mental health advocate said in her travels across the country spreading her message of love and optimism, Southwestern Ontario stands out.

“I love being in Southwestern Ontario… there’s good, kind, hardworking people, everything that Canadians are so proud of,” she said. “Our best values are always seen there and I’m looking forward to it.”

She’ll be speaking at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia at 8 p.m.

The mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former wife of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau said she considers herself one of the proudest Canadians around.

“I get to travel across the country with my work… I have met so many wonderful Canadians, it’s like being on a campaign but not asking anyone to vote,” she said.

Trudeau said she finds the women of Canada to be most inspiring of all when it comes to the nation’s mental health landscape. She’s been working over the years to promote discussion, education and understanding.

“It’s through the mothers, the women, the sisters, the friends, that we’re going to break through and really reduce the stigma,” she said. “We know we have to get real about our mental disorders.”

Trudeau was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in 2000, but her experience with mental health dates back to her time in Ottawa after moving in to 24 Sussex Drive with former husband Pierre Trudeau. She was in her early 20s, living in the public eye, and had her personal suffering splashed across newspapers without understanding what was happening in her own mind.

Traumatizing experiences, including the unexpected death of her son Michel in 1998, would trigger her disorder and leave her in a state of complete psychosis. She said she went deeper into her mental illness before reaching out and asking for help.

“I lost any ability to reason and subsequently was hospitalized,” Trudeau said. “Fortunately I have a great doctor, and he got my will to live back.”

Trudeau said she didn’t pay attention to her own increasing mental anxiety at the time, and doesn’t want others to go through the same pain that she did. That’s why she chose to be an advocate.

“My story is very real, it’s authentic and I talk honestly without shame about what I went through,” she said. “I chose to come back into the public eye after what I called a very small ‘e’ exile from public life.”

Trudeau said it was not just public curiosity, but a sense of genuine love she felt from Canadians who had watched her struggle in her early years, that pushed her to tell her story.

“I do believe I can change people’s minds about their mental health,” she said.

Trudeau said the process hasn’t been easy, but she’s learned how to live again. This has meant learning how to read her emotions and live life in a balanced way. She said she doesn’t want others to be ashamed of their experiences, because the help is out there.

“I don’t know why I had to go through such heartache… but I’ve come out the other side with a message that I think is true and real,” she said. “I have such gratitude because I have the most wonderful life now, with eight beautiful grandchildren and a very busy and purposeful life.”

Trudeau said while things have changed for the better, she knows there is work still to be done in the field of mental health, including the need for secondary housing and group homes for people on the road to recovery.

“That’s really number one on my list,” she said.

As for future plans, Trudeau said she can see herself writing another book; she said she would like to concentrate her research on the bigger issue of suicide.

“It’s just inevitable,” she said with a laugh. “I love the process and I love doing books... I’m going to commit myself as I have been for some years to trying to understand, so maybe that’s the next one.”

 

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IF YOU GO

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

WHERE: Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia

TICKETS: Tickets $45 for seniors, $46 for adults. Available online or at the box office at 1-800-717-7694

 


mschilz@postmedia.com