Shifting our attitude about Mental Health – it matters

Shifting our attitude about Mental Health - it matters

To whom it may concern- whether you are going through tough times (school-related stress, grief, bullying, depression, sadness, anxiety, financial strain, suicidal ideation, sick, unemployed, etc.) or riding the waves of life, big or small, your mental health matters and you are not alone.

Mental health is a known term to all; however, there seems to be an element of ambiguity attached to its definition. Consequently, numerous myths, negative misconceptions and social stigma surrounding mental illness is prevalent e.g. “people do not/cannot recover from mental illnesses”; “mental illnesses are not real”; the list goes on.

So, what is mental health? It is a state of one’s wellbeing where individuals are able to recognize their abilities, as well as cope with stressors of life (Mental Health: Strengthening our response, WHO, 2018).

“You can’t solve a problem that you won’t name or recognize is real” – Tim Wise

Mental health is hardly talked about, if not ignored. It is mostly associated with the “weak” and “helpless” and in extreme cases, it is one that is perceived as one’s own fault due to whatever choices they made to “get them there”. Yet, simultaneously, mental health affects our everyday mood – our social, physical, mental and emotional well-being. Mental health affects the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It has no face.

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Each and every individual’s mental health can be affected by various societal and environmental factors, amongst many others, such as unemployment, inaccessibility to efficient health care, inadequate housing etc. These same factors can have a negative impact on one’s well-being and may present as emotional, behavioural and cognitive distress.

In order to get a clear perspective of mental health, it is important to know and understand that mental health is on a continuum. Diagnosed or not, there is a fine line that separates each one of us from being affected with poor mental health due to different stressors, which trigger emotional and psychological distress.

A brief example: Bill has lost his job (trigger), which leads him to develop a low self-esteem, stress and anxiety over a period of time. This could essentially lead to poor mental health due to constant worry, financial instability or other maladaptive behaviour. How we choose to respond to these

stressors along with the support received plays a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing. Mind you, these go hand in hand.

Granted, there are individuals who are more vulnerable and are at a higher risk than others; however, this does not negate the fact that anyone can be impacted. It is essential to note that we are each capable and have the power to make individual choices that have a positive impact on our everyday welfare. It starts with demystifying myths, raising awareness, and educating individuals about mental health and its various forms. It is imperative that we start and continue the discussion about ways to help and support rather than shun one another. Everyone is on a different life journey!

Let us keep in mind that someone loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals aged 15-29 years. (World Health Organization, 2019).

What can we do to turn these whispers into loud voices? Let’s talk!

Stacey Karuhanga is a registered Social Worker in Canada. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), specializing in Mental Health and Health. She has experience working with infants, children and youth who have emotional, behavioural and social difficulties. Additionally, she has worked with adults living with mental illness and concurrent disorders. Stacey currently works as a Child and Family Therapist.

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