Dignity through understanding
Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians and Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, and 1 in 6 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in their lifetime.1 According to the CAMH Foundation, mental illness is the leading cause of disability and premature death in Canada, and 500,000 Canadians are unable to work because of mental health issues.
Yet unfortunately mental illness is still a taboo subject with so much stigma attached to it. That is precisely why World Mental Health Day, observed every year on October 10, is so important. The overall objective of this day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world, and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. It provides an opportunity for those working in the field to talk about their work, and about what more needs to be done to make better care a reality for people around the globe.
Perhaps even more importantly, it gives those suffering with mental illness an opportunity to feel as though they are being heard and better understood. Learning more about what mental illness is, what forms it can take, what the symptoms and warning signs are, and what treatments are available can make it easier for someone suffering in silence to feel less alone and to seek professional help. It can also make it easier for people to have empathy for friends and family who are struggling with mental health problems.
Stigma is still one of the biggest hurdles that needs to be overcome, which is why this year’s theme is “Dignity in Mental Health.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights by being discriminated against and misunderstood. WHO will be raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that those with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity.
Be an advocate
How can you be a mental health advocate and help make things better for those with mental health conditions?
- Watch your language, and teach your children to be respectful too. Words like “crazy,” “nuts,” or “insane” are hurtful to those who are suffering, and making light of what is an actual debilitating bodily illness is ignorant at best and cruel at worst.
- Learn about signs and symptoms. 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence, so educate yourself so you know what symptoms to look for and can get help for your child or grandchild right away. Visit Mental Health America for a comprehensive list of the different warning signs for children and young adults.
- Be a myth buster. Advocate for those with mental illness by arming yourself with factual information and sharing it with others. For instance, did you know that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else? Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to those living with a serious mental illness. For more myth busting visit MentalHealth.gov .
- Reach out to those who are struggling. Let them know you’re there and that you care, but avoid giving them treatment advice. It isn’t helpful to tell someone suffering from depression to “snap out of it” – it’s just not that simple. Just let them know that you are a willing shoulder to lean on and that you are always available if they need you.
We need to start thinking of a mental health problem as an illness, not something to be embarrassed by, ashamed of, or mocked. Use the following resources to find out how to get help if you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health concern:
- In the Unites States: MentalHealth.gov
- In Canada: The Canadian Mental Health Association
- In the United Kingdom: Mental Health Foundation
412847G CAN/US (10/15)