By Paul Krajewski
On Jan. 25, it seemed the whole nation was talking about mental health. People posted, tweeted and sent text messages extolling the virtues of psychological and emotional well-being. They openly spoke about the pitfalls of what happens when we fail to address mental health and challenged the stigma.
However, this wasn’t because we as a society fully accept and appreciate the advantages of mental health, although many do. The annual Bell Let’s Talk Day encouraged us to do so. In the span of 24 hours, Canadians sent over 131 million messages with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, and in return, Bell committed over $6.5 million toward mental health initiatives.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a remarkable achievement. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people speaking out in solidarity for those who suffer and others who have survived is outstanding, and something to be proud of. As Bell stated on its website, “This has helped us come one step closer towards creating a country that’s stigma-free.”
Yet in the days that followed, the hashtag faded. For many, the time to talk openly about mental health was over, but it shouldn’t be. The facts are real—mental health affects us all in some form or another.
Statistics Canada estimates one in five Canadians will experience some sort of mental illness throughout their lifetime. Many of whom will face symptoms of confusion, prolonged depression, extreme emotional shifts, excessive fear and worry, overwhelming anxiety, social withdrawal, anger, delusion and considerable changes in sleeping and eating habits.
The government of Canada reports 10.1 per cent of those aged 15 and older, approximately 2.8 million people, have faced symptoms consistent with at least one mental or substance abuse disorder within the past year. Furthermore, Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada states anxiety is the most common mental illness in the country.
Whether you are suffering from it or know someone who is, at no point should we stop talking about it.
A recent CTV Calgary poll found nearly 50 per cent of respondents believed mental health stigma still exists, so if we really want to live in a “stigma-free” society then we need to keep talking about it. Not just for one day, but everyday.
If we keep the conversation going, less people will suffer in silence, more will see its value and our society will accept it as a norm. As a result, we’ll have healthier kids and more competent adults. We will fully understand the significance of psychological and emotional well-being, and we won’t need a day to remind us why it’s so important.
For more information on what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing concerning mental health symptoms, contact the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Hotline (toll free, 24-hours a day) at 1-877-303-2642.