Mental Illness Awareness Week breaking societal stigma
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) ran from Oct. 4 to 10 and according to the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is, “designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness.”
This year’s theme for Mental Illness Awareness Week was There is no health without mental health.
According to CAMIMH, “One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year.” The organization also shared that, “Every week, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to mental illness.”
Alyson Martin, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) District Mental Health Services for Older Adults Program Geriatric Mental Health Lead said “Mental illness awareness is something that’s very important, 365 days, 24/7. We are just being aware of the fact that we work and live with people who are living each day to the best of their ability and we are all trying to support one another in different ways that we may not even realize. During the pandemic, whether you are somebody who copes well as a rule, or whether you are somebody who has challenges or struggles. This is a very trying time, a very challenging time for everyone, so just being aware that mental illness is critically important, especially during a pandemic as it affects everyone. Even if people say, ‘I don’t have it so it doesn’t affect me,’ it does actually affect people in several different ways. It may not always be apparent,” said Martin.
According to the Canadian Mental Health of Ontario, currently more than 6.7 million people are living with a mental health condition in Canada with almost half of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety never having gone to see a doctor about this problem. Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment, but also to acceptance in the community. It also states that mental health conditions account for approximately 30 percent of short and long-term disability claims, and are rated one of the top three drivers of such claims by more than 80 percent of Canadian employers.
The Clinical Manager for FIREFLY, Ashley Apland said that FIREFLY promotes and supports the mental health and wellbeing of children, youth, and families. It offers a variety of services, such as counseling, autism services, speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy, to name a few. Specifically the counseling program offers counseling and parenting support for children, youths, families, and caregivers from birth to 18 years of age. “We are offering virtual services during the pandemic, in cases where virtual isn’t possible we are able to do in-person services,” she mentioned.
“If you have concerns, questions, and need support, this is the time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any time. It’s a strength, and seeking out help, asking questions, and trying to find what you need in the process is a sign of strength. It’s not a weakness to acknowledge and say I am struggling right now dealing with mental illness. There is a lot of strength in knowing oneself and putting yourself out there to get the support you need,” she said.
Apland shared some of the ways to help reduce stress, like getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, developing coping skills that work for you such as deep breathing, taking a hot bath, using your five senses to soothe yourself, going for a walk, reading a book, or working out. “It is important to talk to your child about their day and have them identify positive events from the day. Identify triggers that cause you to have unwanted feelings. Explore ways to change your thinking, which will change your feelings, which will change your behavior. Most importantly, know there are professionals available to help you,” she said.
FIREFLY continues to see clients during the pandemic. Their intake line is open for youths and caregivers to complete a referral on their own or through third party referrals, such as schools and doctors. They can also be reached through their intake line at 1-833-NWO-KIDS. Togetherall is a free for all, online platform, that also offers a safe and anonymous access to a community of online, registered mental health practitioners, courses and resources.
Nodin Mental Health Services provides counselling, support and intervention services to First Nation children, youth, adults and families from communities served by the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and can be reached at 1-800-446-7863.