Mental Health Stigma….Let’s Get Real!

Let's take a moment and talk about mental health. Your mental health…or a family members or friends or colleagues. When you think about mental health what is the first thought that enters your mind? Crazy? Useless? Loser? Sad? Challenging? If any of these words floated to the forefront of your mind this is what is known as “stigma”. Would these same words come to mind for someone who has diabetes or cancer?

Mental health is an issue that impacts and affects many Canadians; to be exact the simple truth of the matter is that one in five individuals will experience some form of mental illness at some time in their life. When you hear the number one in five now what thoughts do you have? This number makes the reality of a mental illness seem that much more common, a medical problem that many people within our society continue to not want to acknowledge or talk about and merely make light of. Take a look at those around you; think of your friends, your family, your colleagues, your neighbours, and your children. The chance that one of these individuals has, had, or, will battled a mental illness at some stage is high, it is a reality!

It has been documented by the Mental Health Commission of Canada that approximately 500,000 Canadians will miss work each week due to mental health, 22% of Canadians have some type of mood or anxiety illness and a study completed by the Canadian Mental Health Association noted that only 49% of Canadians would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness, this is shocking! With these facts what does that mean in our workplaces? schools? personal lives? How can we make changes in our society to end this unnecessary stigma?

Mental health is a topic that should be very normal because these illnesses are common. Often people don't talk about their mental illness because of the stigma in our Canadian society. There is a component of perceived embarrassment of having a diagnosis - just another component of the stigma that holds these individuals back from speaking out. I can imagine suffering in silence with the stigma of a mental illness would feel lonely, frightening, sad, and isolating. Why would we as Canadians, as human beings, want others to suffer due to the stigma that we create, due to fear and lack of understanding. Let’s work on how we can make the change to end stigma around mental health.

What would it be like to live in a Canadian society that is free of stigma for those that have a mental illness? To reduce and end stigma we need to have understanding, compassion, resources, and supports. Mental health issues are something that will continue within our society and will never go away. We can support those individuals in our lives to reduce the stigma by working hard as a society, a community, and as individuals to reduce the stigma around mental health. How do we do that? We can start by talking about it!

·         Educate yourself: Take the time to read and ask about mental health issues, speak to individuals who are open and willing to talk about their mental health

 

·         Language: Use educated, supportive words to allow individuals to feel supported, not judged. Approximately two out of three individuals who have mental illness feel if they speak about it they are going to be judged

 

·         Have conversations: Let’s talk about mental health! Have a conversation about mental health, open discussions with friends, family, your children, in your workplaces, and educational settings.

 

·         Listen: Sometimes we should just take a moment to listen, listen to what those around us are talking about with mental illness

 

·         Be Kind: We never know who in our lives has a mental illness.

 

Mental health issues do not discriminate. No matter your age, your race, your profession, your gender, your socioeconomic status. Individuals from all walks of life can suffer. I challenge you to take a few minutes out of your day and think about your attitudes and beliefs on mental health issues and strive to better our community for those living with mental illness, let’s get real and end the stigma!

If your or someone you know stuggles with mental health here are a few resources to check out:

·         Bell Let's Talk: January 27, 2016 - http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

·         The Calgary Distress Centre – 403.266.HELP (4357), http://www.distresscentre.com/

·         Heads Up Guys: http://headsupguys.ca/

·         Man Therapy: http://mantherapy.org/mobile/

·         Canadian Mental Health Association - http://www.cmha.ca/

·         The Centre For Suicide Prevention – 403.245.3900, http://www.suicideinfo.ca/

·         Suicide Helpline – 1.800.SUICIDE