In recent years, open conversations about mental health have shed light on an important issue facing people of all ages and from all walks of life. In fact, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their life. Yet despite advances in research and a heightened awareness, there are people who remain silent about their struggles and hesitate to get the help they need.
What is mental health?
Mental health is often defined as finding a balance across all aspects of life – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When one or more of these things is out of balance, it can have an impact on how we think, feel and act.
Good mental health is the ability to think about and deal with everyday challenges that come up. Making choices and decisions, adapting to new situations, expressing needs and desires, and maintaining meaningful relationships are just a few of the things that we all face all the time.
But just as our lives and circumstances change, so can our moods and thoughts and sense of well-being. Everyone feels sad, worried, scared or suspicious sometimes. That’s to be expected. When these feelings grow to the point that they consume our thinking and start having a negative impact on our behaviour, mental illness may be the cause. Just like a physical illness, a mental illness can take many forms.
Breaking the stigma
For many people dealing with mental health challenges, the fear of stigma can be the single biggest barrier to getting help. In fact, for some, worrying about being judged can be harder to deal with than the illness itself. Despite efforts to raise awareness and create a culture that embraces and supports people with forms of mental illness, some mental illnesses are still met with prejudice, discrimination and judgement. Sadly, mental illness is still feared and misunderstood; however, as we have learned more about mental illness through education and open dialogue, that fear has lessened.
Since 1951, the Canadian Mental Health Association has designated one week in May as Mental Health Week. This is a time to talk, reflect, engage and celebrate mental health for all.
In recent years, the Bell Let’s Talk® initiative has leveraged social media to amplify the voices speaking up about mental health and about what’s required – as people, as communities, as organizations, and as a nation - to break the stigma and encourage those in need to speak up. At the heart of this initiative is the belief that talking is the first step towards meaningful change and building greater awareness, acceptance, and action.
The good news for anyone coping with mental illness is that there is help. At many organizations, an Employee Assistance Program is offered as part of a group benefits plan. These programs provide access to counselling and often times, to counsellors who specialize in any number of conditions and experiences. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
There are also provincial health resources that offer support and counselling, and in many communities across the country, there are distress centres and crisis resources available 24 hours a day. If you fear you or someone you know is in crisis, however, visit your local emergency department or call 911.
For more information about Bell Let’s Talk, visit http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ (http://cause.bell.ca/fr/)
For more information about Mental Health Week, visit http://mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/(http://mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/fr/)
For information about EAP services offered through Equitable Life Group Benefits programs, visit here.