Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and Bell does an amazing job of getting the word out.
So.. let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about mental health and why it’s important to… well, talk … about it.
When people use the phrase “mental health”, what exactly are they referring to?
- BiPolar Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Anger problems
- Psychotic disorders (such as Schizophrenia)
- Personality disorders (such as narcissism)
- ADHD (Does that one surprise you?)
- PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
For a more comprehensive list, check out The American Psychiatric Association.
Sometimes I think the wording of how we address mental health is part of the problem. (In a side note: I googled health in research for this blog and there was very little regarding mental health that came up!) A great many times the above-listed mental health issues are caused by physical health and emotional health. Sometimes the root cause of mental illness is circumstantial, other times it is a physical cause such as hormone or chemical imbalance, it can come from training, life lessons or choices we make along the way. To call it a “mental illness” can feel like it’s something you have control over, like something you choose.
No one chooses illness, mental or otherwise.
Mental illness is one area of health that is still ignored. Where doctors and specialists are covered by healthcare, psychologists and therapists are not. Where prescriptions are covered, counseling and life-skill training is not. (Remember I live in a country with socialized medicine.)
It is time to take a stand, to recognize that mental illness is simply illness. To realize it is out of the control of the person who is suffering. To know that invisible illness affects more lives than is truly conceivable.
Mental illness can be deadly if untreated. It’s not easy to share the statistics of suicide in Canada because many factors influence the numbers. Among the Inuit of the far north there is significantly more suicides than in the lower climates. On average there are 15.6 suicides per 100,000 people in Canada. In Ontario, more people in the last ten years died by suicide than in car accidents. Men successfully commit suicide more than women, but women are hospitalized more often for suicidal behavior.
We need to be aware of those around us. Many are quite adept at hiding mental illness and denying they need help. Many times those who need help the most do not have the energy to recognize their need or to reach out.
Mental health isn’t just about suicide. It’s about life. Having a healthy mental and emotional life is just as important as taking care of our physical health. Healthy mental health means talking about your struggles, asking for help, taking medicines as needed, being aware of your thoughts, and taking care of yourself (self-care).
Having said that, here are some resources about suicide because it is important to be aware of the risks!
What are some of the suicide risk factors? (Taken from The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP))
How To Be Helpful When Someone Is Suicidal
- Take all threats or attempts seriously
- Be aware and learn warning signs of suicide
- Be direct and ask if the person is thinking of suicide. If the answer is yes, ask if the person has a plan and what the time line is.
- Be non-judgmental and empathic
- Do not minimize the feelings expressed by the person
- Do not be sworn to secrecy …seek out the support of appropriate professionals
- Ask if there is anything you can do
- Draw on resources in the person’s network
- Do not use clichés or try to debate with the person
- In an acute crisis take the person to an emergency room or walk in clinic or call a mobile crisis service if one is available
- Do not leave them alone until help is provided
- Remove any obvious means e.g. firearms, drugs or sharp objects) from the immediate vicinity
Source: International Association of Suicide Prevention: http://www.iasp.info/resources/Helping_Someone
Let’s keep the conversation going. You can lean on me.