Pamela Chan/BCFamily.ca/Editorial

If we take care of our mental health like we take care of our dental health,
we’ll be OK.  — Howie Mandel

There’s an elephant in the room taking up too much space – affecting everyone from the very young to the elderly.  Its name is Anxiety.  One estimate made in the health community listed anxiety as the number one health condition that will affect people in the next 20 years.  As the #BellLetsTalk hashtag trends on social media this week for the Bell Lets Talk mental health awareness campaign, it’s a good time to consider how mental health challenges affect everyone in Canada.

One in five Canadians will face a mental health condition head on while the other four will be a bystander – often supporting someone else.  Sometimes it is a long term – even lifelong - challenge and sometimes it is a short term condition.  Mental health conditions can even appear later in life as a primary health condition, in response to an event such as bullying at school or at work, as a symptom of another health condition or in response to taking medication, for example. Our emotional well being can even be affected by circumstances that affect other people. When you take all these situations into account, one in five seems to be a conservative estimate.

I have personal experience in my own life that has shown me how changes to our mental health can come about.  Realistically speaking, our lives are fragile and change is always afoot. We need to continue to surround ourselves with good people – supportive friends, family members and colleagues who are on Team You and Me.

When you hear the words “mental health” do you conjure up negative associations in your mind?  Perhaps you’ve seen how other people have struggled with a condition or with the stigma that is associated with these two words.

Have you ever made a joke about someone being sent off to a mental institution? Many people tell me these jokes were traded back and forth when they were growing up.

“If you don’t behave well, we’ll send you to Riverview.”

It’s important to understand that mental health services in our community can be very helpful to families and individuals.  The Early Childhood Mental Health programme offered here in the Tri Cities area of Metro Vancouver, for example, includes wonderful group parenting classes that can be both comforting and very educational.

We need to make ourselves aware of these programmes because we could be losing out if we don’t avail ourselves of these services.  We also need to keep them on our radar so that we can ensure that they continue to receive the funding they need (usually not enough) from public and private sources.

If you’re looking for organizations and agencies that can provide support, don’t forget to look at offices in other countries such as Great Britain. On social media websites you can find their pages, Twitter accounts and website addresses.  An office in London might be sharing the information and online resources that will make the difference for you or a friend or family member.  As an example, here’s information about a resource (see video below) that was shared by the people running TweetSmarter on Twitter.

Each of us has our struggles. We carry them with us in our professional and private lives.  Let’s increase awareness and thereby increase empathy and support as well.

The Bell Let’s Talk about it campaign focuses on 5 ways to support people with mental health conditions:

• Language matters – which words do we use to talk about mental illness?
• Educate yourself – learn, know and discuss mental health information more.  Understand the signs.
• Be kind – small acts of kindness make a big difference.
• Listen and ask – sometimes the best support we can provide is to listen.
• Talk about it – when we start a dialogue we break the silence.

Howie Mandel has shared his personal story for the #BellLetsTalk initiative. (See video below.) Do share it with your friends on social media (or share a link to this page).

Related

Alyson Schafer: Are Your Children  Mentally Healthy?

Kristy Wolfe writes about the loss of her father Dr. Dennis Morgan

Child and Youth Mental Health information shared by the BC Government.

6 PR lessons from clinical depression (or “How mental illness made me a better communicator”)

Olympian Clara Hughes discusses the stigma and judgement surrounding mental health illness. (See video.)

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