Today is World Mental Health Day – and it means more than just a headline and a hashtag.
While we would like to think that we’ve made major strides in eroding the stigma – and thanks to powerful social media campaigns, vocal celebrities and initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk, we have most definitely gained traction – we have a long ways to go.
Instead of simply tossing someone’s World Mental Health Day social media post a like or skimming the headlines, we should take a moment today (and every day, frankly), to really consider why World Mental Health Day is a “thing” and why we should care.
We can offer 14 reasons to help you out…
- Nobody is immune to it.
By now, if you assume that the rich, famous, genetically blessed and so-called “has it all” set are immune to mental health struggles, you should emerge from that rock you’re living under. In recent years, Hollywood stars like Cara Delevingne, Kristen Bell and Ryan Reynolds have been vocal about their mental health struggles, as have Prince Harry and a handful of pro athletes, including Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna, who made headlines last season when he missed a game due to anxiety.
It creeps up on you.
Unlike many physical illnesses, the symptoms of a mental health condition are not always easy to detect; you may be experiencing mental health issues without even realizing it and without a distinct catalyst (like a tragedy). Symptoms can include sleepiness, insomnia, lack of motivation, lack of excitement, mood swings and an increased level of indulgence in alcohol, among others. Recognizing the signs, of course, is the first step in getting into gear and taking action.
The stigma persists.
Despite the impossible-to-ignore and growing dialogue when it comes to mental health, the stigma still persists – both in the workplace and in personal relationships. A new study by CIPD course providers, DPG Plc found that 85 per cent of UK workers still thought there was a stigma attached to mental health issues in the workplace. Just the other day, a guy friend told me that he wouldn’t date a girl if he knew she suffered from depression or anxiety (and, apparently, neither would “most” of his buddies).
It spills over into the workplace.
There’s a good reason why this year’s World Mental Health Day theme involves mental health in the workplace. When 500,000 Canadians miss work every week due to a mental illness, mental health should be as important as workplace safety regulations are. Mental health issues can take a serious toll on productivity; research has shown that presenteeism is closely linked to mental health issues in the workplace. Not only are happy employees easier to be around (and you spend a lot of time at the office), they are more productive.
It affects your relationships.
Something as simple as an unanswered text message, an unexpected change in plans or petty argument can affect a partner who struggles with anxiety and/or depression more than you may know. A partner who understands the triggers and workings of their significant other’s mental health struggles could mean the difference between a strong and solid relationship and one riddled with insecurity and misunderstanding (and inevitable fights).
We live in uncertain and chaotic times.
Between back-to-back natural disasters, mass shootings, terrorism, threats of war and Donald Trump as President of the United States, it’s difficult to feel optimistic about the future at times (even in Canada). It’s hard to feel happier when every news broadcast seems to be either maddening or tear inducing.
We are increasingly disconnected.
For all the benefits of modern communication, being perpetually connected has left us more disconnected than ever. At a time when heart-shaped emojis replace old-fashioned “I love yous” and we increasingly communicate via a screen, real and deep human connections are increasingly rare. This means we’re having less important, honest conversations about real-life issues (as opposed to our perfectly filtered social media lives).
It can affect our kids.
With such an uncertain, ever-connected, social media-driven society (and subsequent constant stimulation), it’s safe to say that our kids are going to face challenges that can take a toll on their mental health. Understanding the causes and characteristics of mental health is therefore essential for parents – we’re losing too many kids to suicide as of late, whether as the result of bullying to online sexual harassment.
It’s as serious as physical diseases.
Whether when it comes to awareness, funding and attention paid, mental health continues to take a backseat to the bigger physical diseases like cancer. If untreated though, mental illness can easily lead to suicide and drug overdoses, making it as potentially deadly as physical illnesses. More than 90 per cent of people who commit suicide have a mental or addictive disorder.
The topic is riddled with myths.
Along with the lingering stigma, there is still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to mental health and the topic remains full of myths. For example, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, on of the most prevalent myths is that a person can’t be cured of mental health-related issues. It is also widely assumed that they can’t live fully-functioning lives.
The stats. Period.
Don’t just take our word for it; the proof is in the numbers. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression and 260 million suffer from anxiety issues – with many living with both. In Canada, mental illness will affect one in five people at some point in their lives. Of course, we also can’t ignore the chilling reality that suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 15-34 in Canada.
Ignorance isn’t bliss.
If you’re a business owner and mental health isn’t of concern, you’re already falling behind your competition in the progressive thought department. It’s time everyone realized that mental health awareness is not a passing trend. It wont be long before not being forward thinking and aware of the seriousness of mental health will become as taboo as talking openly about mental health once was.
We are lacking in access.
Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, access to adequate, affordable and timely help is lacking in certain parts of the country (for example, in Prince Edward Island) – and a growing number of voices are calling for change. The good news is that a growing number of startups, like the brand-new online platform Beacon and the few-years-old TranQool have stepped up to offer access to affordable care.
- It’s about time.
While the dialogue and action surrounding mental health is new in nature, the issue itself certainly isn’t. For centuries, people who have suffered have either been treated inhumanely (with things like electroshock therapy and isolation) or suffered in silence. It’s beyond time we change our thinking and doing when it comes to mental health.