Mental Health Awareness Week #IAmStigmaFree

We are in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Week October 4 – October 10th this year.  Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, 2015).  Mental Health Awareness Week reminds us of the stigma that still exists toward persons who are diagnosed with mental illness.

Who is affected by it?

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 4 people (62 million) are affected by mental illness annually, and 1 in 17 (14 million) live with a major mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Close to 20 percent of teens from 13-18 cope with mental illness annually, and about 18 percent of adults (42 million) cope with anxiety disorders (as cited in Glatter, 2015).  Unfortunately, there is still a strong societal stigmatization of mental illness, forcing individuals into the shadows to suffer alone in silence.

What is mental health?

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It’s a state of well-being.  Mental health is key to our well-being. We can’t be truly healthy without it. It involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us. Mental health is about realizing our potential, coping with the normal stresses of life, and making a contribution to our community (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2015).

For myself, I have struggled with depression and anxiety.  Many people do not know this because I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  I think ultimately this is what drew me to pursuing a counselling degree.   Every day I have to think about my mental health otherwise the voices of depression and anxiety will creep back in.  It is something I will have to continuously work on in order to stay healthy.

How to be mentally healthy?

I stay connected to friends and family, I do not isolate myself when I am feeling down.  If I feel anxious or depressed, I ask myself why do I feel this way? What triggered this? And I try to resolve it the best I can.  I let my friends and family know how I am feeling, I communicate.  I journal, so that I can stay in touch with my emotions and what is going on for me right now.  I stay active.  Exercise and any behavioural activation will make you feel happy.  Sometimes I really dread going to the gym, but I just try to focus on how good I feel after I do it.  If I am still struggling, I see my doctor, therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and energy healer!  Physical health is connected to mental health and vice versa!

References

Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (2015). About mental illness awareness week. Retrieved from http://www.camimh.ca/mental-illness-awareness-week/about-miaw/

Canadian Mental Health Association (2015). Why is your mental health so important? Retrieved from https://mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/your-mental-health/mental-health-fact-sheet/

Glatter, R. (2015). Mental Health Awareness Week 2015: #IAmStigmaFree Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2015/10/05/mental-health-awareness-week-2015-iamstigmafree/

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