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Isn’t every week Mental Health Week?

Ask for help, it’s worth it
Ask for help. It’s worth it. Photo submitted

One of my daughters asked me this question when I mentioned I’d be writing an article for the Optimist in support of mental health week. She’s not wrong. While recognizing mental health this week is important, what’s really important is what we do the rest of the year.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and leading researcher. Their research shows that in any particular year, one in five Canadians experience a mental illness, and one in two have, or have had one by age 40.

Youth ages 15 to 24 are the most likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders. Men have higher rates of substance use disorders than women, and women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. Finally, more than 4,000 Canadians die every year by suicide – and all ages and backgrounds are affected.

We’re not okay in Canada. Too many Canadians are in pain. Having worked in mental health for more than 20 years, I can tell you that we lose too many people to mental health, and I’m not okay with that. Are you?

But what do we do? At a grass-roots level, we need to start with relationships. There’s a little-known fact about relationships that we all need to know - nothing reduces pain for human beings better than a safe, secure relationship with another human being. Nothing. It’s better than any pain medication on earth, and we have research to prove it. Knowing this, how do we help?

Check in on your friends and family.

Don’t be afraid of the hard conversations. If someone says they’re “fine,” gently let them know it’s okay if they’re not, and you’re there to listen.

You don’t have to know what to say or do, you just have to show up, care and listen.

If they’re not okay, encourage them to ask for help, and share if you’ve asked for help. That’s part of breaking the stigma. Offer to help them connect with a professional.

If they’re in danger, call 9-1-1 or take them to your nearest hospital. You may be afraid they’ll be mad – and I understand why. It’s better that they’re mad than dead.

I’ve struggled with mental illness for 37 of my 43 years. I didn’t ask for help for years. Now I am, and life is so much better. Ask for help, it’s worth it.