EDITORIAL: Mental health needs to be talked about

Help end stigmas surrounding mental health by joining the conversation

One in five Canadians suffers with a mental illness, but according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness affects everyone in some form.

We all know someone who has experienced mental illness at some point. Whether we have talked about it with them is another issue. It’s a heavy burden for anyone to have on their shoulders, so let’s share the load and allow our friends and loved ones to share that burden.

By talking about mental illnesses we can help break down the barriers and stigmas that prevent people from getting the help they need and deserve, and is their constitutional right.

While the words we use to describe mental illnesses have changed drastically over the years, some common misconceptions have not.

Myth: Mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses.

These are not the regular ups and downs of life. They do not go away on their own.

Myth: Mental illnesses are just excuses for bad behaviour.

While it is true that some people who experience mental illnesses may act in a way that is unexpected or may seem strange to some, it is the illness – not the person – that is behind these behaviours.

Myth: People who suffer from mental illnesses are weak.

While stress impacts everyone’s well being, people who experience mental illnesses may actually be better at managing stress. Taking care of yourself is not a sign of weakness, but actually a sign of the strength it takes to get help.

Myth: Bad parenting causes mental illnesses.

No one factor can cause mental illnesses. They are complex conditions that arise from a combination of genetics, biology, environment and life experiences.

Myth: Kids can’t have mental illnesses, they are adult problems.

Everyone, even children, can experience mental illness. Many first appear when a person is younger, and they often present differently in children. It is estimated that only about one out of five children in Canada receives the mental health services they require.

Mental illnesses come in a variety of forms, ranging from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder to eating or anxiety based disorders. They affect everyone that surrounds the person suffering, including significant others, children and friends.

By starting a conversation, the hope is to light a spark that may inspire some change within a West Shore household. Once that dialogue is flowing, change can happen. People will get the help they need. It could even save a life.

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