Mental Health Week (May 3-9th, 2021)
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is marking its 69th annual Mental Health Week between May 3rd to May 9th this year. Check out the Mental Health Week website and the 2021 tagline – “#GetReal about how you feel. Name it, don’t numb it.”
To commemorate Mental Health Week we wanted to share with you some general information on mental illness and some tools for creating attainable self-care goals. You can practice these skills for yourself for yourself, or you can share these skills with your friends and family.
What is mental illness?
Mental illnesses, or ‘mental health disorders’, are conditions that affect your mental wellbeing. This includes an impact on such things as your cognition, your thought patterns, your behaviours, your feelings, and your mood. These symptoms can impact your day-to-day life. Mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses; except unlike broken bones other people cannot easily see your mental health.
There is a lot of good information and research available on mental health yet despite this there still remains a prevalence of discrimination, misunderstanding, and even fear of mental illnesses. This could be as a result of people not really understanding mental illness, an inability of people to recognize poor mental health in others, or even because many people simply do not know enough about caring for their mental health. Unfortunately this stigma and discrimination prevents people from seeking supports from those around them and medical professionals.
Examples of mental illnesses are: anxiety disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia to name a few.
Mental illnesses can be diagnosed by a medical professional and treated or managed with the use of medication.
Of course many people do experience and feel anxiety and depression at certain points in their life without being clinically diagnosed. Others will be diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety because their daily lives are being significantly impacted by their symptoms.
Who could be affected by mental illnesses?
Many people will experience mental illnesses at some point in their lives, or have someone in their life (family member, friends, neighbour, or coworker) who is struggling.
Mental illness can affect anyone no matter what their education, gender, age, cultural backgrounds, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Why do some struggle with mental illnesses?
There are many factors that could result in someone experiencing a mental illness. Examples include environment, personality, genetics, and biology.
What can you do about it?
If you are struggling with mental illness the first step you might want to consider is reaching out to your doctor. Some family doctors know a lot about mental illnesses and the medications available. You might also be referred to a psychiatrist who is specialized in mental illnesses.
You could also reach out to any other mental health professional, such as a counsellor, to talk about your struggles. They may be able to work with you to develop coping tools.
If someone close to you is struggling with mental illness then you may feel helpless and unable to support them. The best way to offer support is to talk to them and actively listen. You can also help them to look for the mental health resources that they may want to access. Many organizations cannot accept 3rd party referrals for adults because of confidentiality, but you can help them to identify what services are out there.
How to manage your mental health
Talk about how you feel. Notice how you feel. Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever you might be feeling is totally okay. If you are someone who tends to minimize or dismiss your feelings and emotions then it can be helpful to start noticing and recognizing which emotions you are feeling (you can Google feeling faces and use it as a guide). If you are someone who notices bodily senses (such as tightness in the chest) it can be helpful to know that these sensations are also tied to your emotions and feelings and start to recognize this in yourself.
You may find it easier to name and recognize some emotions over others. That is totally okay. Some of the emotions and feelings you are experiencing you might not even have a word to describe. That is totally okay. Whatever you might be feeling and noticing, they are all your emotions.
You might want to find ways to express and process some emotions, such as anger, constructively and in a healthy way.
All of your emotions and feelings are valuable and important. So please, practice self-care.
Self-care is an important aspect of caring for yourself and meeting your needs. Engaging in self-care regularly will help you to manage your stress and anxiety. It is also important that you are well first before you can successfully care for others.
Self-care means doing something that brings a smile to your face and joy into your heart. Examples of self-care would be: walking, running, going to the gym/working out, reading, listening to music, watching movies, taking a bath, meditation, gardening, and the list goes on. As many tools as you can develop the better. Variations of self-care would be very useful so that you can pick and choose depending on your mood, needs, and time availability.
Practicing self-care isn’t easy, especially if it is not your regular practice. So start with something small and make sure it is doable, attainable, and concrete. For example, instead of planning to do a certain activity every day, make a plan to do self-care 3-5 minutes once or twice a week. Start small and make a habit of it. Once you feel confident with your new habit, then you can add a few more and stick with it.
Once you start to recharge your battery you may begin to notice certain situations feel less stressful than before. You might notice you feel less stressed. You might even notice your anxiety is manageable.
Take good care of your mental health regularly in the same way that you would take care of yourself physically.
Counselling Program offers free short-term counselling services for those who would like to work on anxiety, depression, grief, life transition to name a few. We are currently offering services in English, Farsi, and Japanese (please mention in your email if you are seeking a language specific service). We are currently developing a group counselling. For more information, please keep your eyes on our Facebook. If you are interested in being placed on the waitlist, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org