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Victoria woman changing the stigma around Borderline Personality Disorder

Baylie McKnight was diagnosed with BPD when she was 18 years old

After being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) when she was just 18 years old, Baylie McKnight would travel from Victoria to Vancouver to get treatment every week.

“There wasn’t a lot of accessible services,” McKnight said, who decided to make a change.

In 2010, McKnight established the BPD Society of BC in Victoria, which has since expanded to Nanaimo, Vancouver, New Westminster, and online.

Her dedication to creating a save space around the disorder has not gone unnoticed as in May, Coast Mental Health in Vancouver nominated her for a Courage to Come Back Award.

“I really saw the stigma that was surrounding BPD and the gaps in service in communities. And I wanted to change that,” she said.

BPD is a psychiatric disorder characterized by difficulties in regulating emotions and controlling impulses. Individuals with BPD often display intense anger, self-injury, or suicidal behaviours as a result of these challenges.

“10 per cent of people with BPD end their lives,” she said.

There are nine symptoms associated with BPD. If someone has five or more of them, they can be diagnosed with the disorder. For those with the disease, efforts need to be made to avoid abandonment, unstable relationships, impulsive behaviour that harms oneself, suicidal tendencies, mood regulation difficulties, chronic feelings of emptiness, inappropriate or uncontrollable anger, and paranoid thoughts.

Before McKnight’s diagnosis at age 18, she had noticed mental health symptoms at 11. By the age of 14, she was living in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and using drugs. She decided to get clean after her father told her she would be a big sister.

“I decided to get clean,” McKnight said. “Be a good role model for her.”

She would start volunteering, doing street outreach and talking to high school students about her experiences. Then, she would go to a post-secondary education.

“I went on to get my Masters in clinical social work, which was a dream of mine,” said McKnight. “Last year, I opened a private practice providing dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to folks living with BPD, primarily complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s my passion.”

“DBT was developed to support highly suicidal individuals specifically. It has four modules: emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, and distress tolerance are generally 24 weeks.”

Stigma and misunderstanding around BPD can lead people not to seek help.

“Part of it was also because it has been seen as a wastebasket diagnosis, or untreatable, which again isn’t true,” added McKnight.

If a person with BPD can get treatment, they can recover and live a healthy life, and this is the message that McKnight and the BPD Society of BC would like to promote.

“That is a huge reason why I started the support group because it is by and for people living with the disorder and their loved ones. And so it’s a place where people can talk about similar shared experiences and recognize that they’re not alone.”

To find out more, please visit https://www.bpdbc.ca/.

READ MORE: Service union files labour complaint against Greater Victoria liquor store

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About the Author: Thomas Eley

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