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Mental Health Week focuses on normalizing conversations

April 27, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

It is estimated that one in five people will have varying degrees of mental health issues at some time in their life.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week is running May 1-7 this year, focusing on educating people in the community about how to create safe spaces for conversations about mental health.

At one time, speaking of mental health issues was a taboo subject. People didn’t want to discuss it, and many would not tell others they were having problems.

That is all changing as people are now encouraged to come forward and speak to someone and be directed to a place where they can be helped.

“The point of this week is to bring awareness,” explained Rebecca Shields, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association York Region and South Simcoe. “We’ve changed the conversation over time – at first just getting people to talk about mental health resulted in stigma. However, now, I feel the message is changing. Going through the pandemic, more and more people are realizing the impact of mental health, and we still find that people need to know where to go to get access care. I often talk to families who ask, when is my kid just moody, verses, maybe the child has anxiety and needs extra support? Or how do I know if my daughter has an eating disorder? People have so many questions. Mental Health awareness week is really about recognizing that we need to be aware of mental health and we need access to information and access to care.”

Over the course of the pandemic, the need for mental health services increased as many vulnerable people became even more isolated.

“During the pandemic we have seen an increase in demand, particularly for those vulnerable groups like our youth who were impacted by school closures and the loss of their friends,” Ms. Shields explained. “That certainly includes people who were isolated, people who were already not doing well, and those who had services cut, regardless of what those services were. Not only did we have more people that needed care, we had people coming who had delayed seeking care. Mental illness is like any other illness. If you catch it early, you have a better chance of getting treatment and a good outcome.”

Unfortunately, many people do not want to admit they are having a problem. Other times, those close to them will simply not understand why the person is having issues.

“People think it’s a form of weakness,” Ms. Shields said. “There is also a lot of fear. They think that ‘people think I’m a criminal or I’m a bad person.’ We want to raise awareness around what is ‘goodness of health’ and how people can get treatment. Mental Health Awareness Week is to let people know how to take care of their mental health, and that we should be taking care of our mental health the same way we take care of our physical health – by eating right, and exercising and all of those things. We know that one in five Canadians is suffering from some sort of mental health or mental illness issue.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association has more than 30 free mental health and addiction services for youth, adults, and family caregivers.

If you need help, the best way to get started is to visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website, where you can find the right resources.

Mental Health Week is being observed from May 1 to 7.

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