Written by: Naim Jutha // @naimjutha
Real talks, what is Mental Health? Yes I'm about to go textbook on you...
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, mental health is the "capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity".
Mental Health affects the way we think and feel about ourselves and how we interpret things that happen to us. A Mental Health Problem can cause major changes in a person's thinking, emotional state and behaviour. In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health or addiction-related problem. And according to CAMH, by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have - or had - a mental health related problem. So, why is it so important that we "Start The Conversation" about mental health? And why are initiatives like #BellLetsTalk so important?
The stigma attached to mental health problems presents a serious barrier to people living with them because they feel responsible, devalued and alone. These feelings often deter people from being honest with themselves about what they're going through and seeking the help they need.
So, what can we do? How can we help eliminate stigma and encourage openness to ensure our family and friends get the help they need? This is probably the toughest question I've ever been asked. Mental health comes in all shapes and sizes and there's really no one way to approach the conversation. Even before starting this brand, I found myself in a number of Mental Health related conversations and here are some things I learned:
- The mere mention of the words "Mental Health" can do wonders. By saying these words, we are letting the people around us know that Mental Health is not a myth. It's important to let our friends and family know that we acknowledge its existence and understand that it could affect anyone and everyone.
- Listening. It's so so so important to simply offer your ears to others. As powerful as journaling is, speaking out loud could have the same effects. From experience, when I start to share with someone, my mind opens up space to find the voices of reason, rationality and acceptance (much like journaling). I learn more about myself when speaking out loud than when I say the exact same things in my head. Offering a non-judgmental ear and shoulder to cry on can really help your friends & family feel more comfortable and able to talk about what they are going through. Here's the tough part though... As humans, it's sometimes tough to just listen and not offer words that may seem encouraging like "Cheer up" or "You'll be okay, just having a bad day". I strive to listen, listen and listen a little more. Try it.
- Offer a gentle reminder to whoever you talk to that they are absolutely not alone. As you read above, it is not uncommon for people to experience mental health problems. Although everyone's experiences may differ in terms of length, degree, etc., they still go through something. Working to grow through what you go through is a task we should all focus on and offering each other support, is (in my opinion) the best way to do that.
These are just a few things that I've done to Start the conversation. I'm really really glad that #BellLetsTalk day has drawn a lot of attention to the subject matter but we have a responsibility to make this an everyday conversation. Bring Mental Health into your everyday vocabulary. YOU have the power to start the movement, why not use it?
"In order to succeed, we first have to believe we can"
I believe in NVSN. I believe in all of us. Do you?