January 30th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a fantastic initiative that raised almost seven million dollars last year and has helped change the conversation about mental health in this country. The event has encouraged Canadians to be open and accepting of our fellow citizens who experience mental illness and has motivated us to learn more about this issue and how we can help.
One in three Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. It indiscriminately effects the lives of so many people in this country and can only be addressed if we all take action. In anticipation of Bell Let’s Talk Day, we’ve gathered some tips on how you can help those around you who may be experiencing mental illness and be a positive force in your community.
Help Your Friends and Family
The greatest way you can help your friends and family is to be there for them. Many people when they first experience mental illness may be hesitant to reach out for help. Noticing when a friend or family member is acting differently (if they are not doing the things they love, seem angry or sad for no reason, or are sleeping or eating irregularly) and taking the first step to check-in and ask, “are you doing ok?” can start a dialogue. Even if they don’t want to talk, letting a friend or family member know that you care about them and are there if they need you can make a huge difference.
One important thing to remember is that your mental health is important too. You can play a significant role in making someone feel loved and valued, but it is not your job to handle their illness or place the blame on yourself for the challenges they face. Be there for them, but don’t forget about yourself.
Help Your Community
The greatest barrier to getting help for many people who experience mental illness is overcoming the stigma surrounding the issue. CAMH estimates that 40% of people who suffer from anxiety or depression avoid seeking medical assistance because of fear of stigmatization. The best thing you can do for your community is work to address this stigma.
A great first step is to get educated on mental illness and pass the information you learn to those around you. Make sure to avoid derogatory terms like psycho, or phrases like, “I’m so depressed” or “that’s so OCD,” if you’re not truly experiencing these illnesses. If you hear people using that vocabulary, make sure to let them know that’s not OK. This will help make your community more welcoming to those who experience mental illness.
Helping your family and community is fantastic, but it can’t be done unless you make sure you’re helping yourself. Simple steps like eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity and sleep, as well as moderating drinking can all make a huge difference.
These little changes can add up to make a big impact, but if you’re starting to feel that things are becoming too much, reach out to a friend, family member, or medical professional. No one should experience their mental health journey alone and taking the first step to reaching out can lead to a really positive change.
We want to hear from you! What are some ways you improve the mental health of your family, friends, and community?
To educate yourself more on mental illness check out CAMH’s great resource here.