VANCOUVER - Margaret Trudeau says she has chosen sanity and that's the choice she wants other Canadians suffering with mental illness to make.

The former wife of the late Pierre Trudeau is using her profile to bring attention to mental illness, which has affected her for 35 years.

"Acceptance. . . is the biggest thing for people to do, just to accept that there is a problem, to accept that they need help," Trudeau told a news conference Monday.

"With mental health issues we're reluctant to accept it because of the stigma that has been played out in the media and the movies."

Trudeau, 58, first experienced depression after giving birth to her second son, Alexandre. That was the first of three times she was hospitalized for her illness. The second time came after the death of her son Michel in 1998 and then after her ex-husband died two years later.

She said she was in such dire straits at that time that she was forced to accept her bipolar disorder and get the help she needed.

"I've chosen sanity, I've chosen to be well," Trudeau said.

She has also distanced herself from marijuana, one aspect of her life that was well-documented when she was thrust into the Canadian spotlight as a 22-year-old flower child and bride of the former prime minister.

She said she's since found the enlightenment she felt from drugs in the form of spirituality. Trudeau is interested in Buddhism and follows the works of the Dalai Lama.

Trudeau said people should treat mental health as they would their physical health, taking days off when they feel unwell.

If Canadians start to talk openly about mental wellness, the stigma will diminish and people help will get the help they need, she said.

"It should be a conversation at the kitchen table, it should be a conversation on the way to work," Trudeau said. "Because recognizing depression in the early stages, you can change the course of the disease."