One in five Canadians — seven million of us — will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Truly, mental health difficulties affect us all, either through our own experience or through that of a friend, family member, or co-worker.
The pandemic brought mental health to the forefront and helped to normalize it. Despite the inroads we have made, stigma around mental health issues persists. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, stigma can be significantly reduced, but it “requires the collective effort of all Canadians — at home, at work, in schools, in the media, and on the frontlines of healthcare.”
Below are some critical actions to help reduce stigma and normalize mental health for all Canadians.
Share your personal experiences
Many celebrities have opened up about their mental health. To name a few, Lady GaGa talks openly about her PTSD, Ryan Reynolds shared his struggles with anxiety, and wrestler/actor Dwayne Johnson has come forward about his battle with depression.
Although we do not have the same influence as celebrities, we can still make a difference. Talking openly about our experiences helps normalize mental health, reducing the shame, stigma, and secrecy that often surrounds mental health issues.
Change how you think and talk about mental health
Most individuals will seek treatment for physical health issues and injuries without hesitation. We need to think about our mental health in the same way.
Develop an attitude that puts mental health and physical health on equal footing. For instance, if you are inclined to minimize or dismiss mental health symptoms, remind yourself that “mental health is just as important as physical health.”
Normalize caring for your mental health
We maintain physical health with a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep hygiene. Self-care activities to support our mental health are equally important. Self-care goes beyond pampering oneself with bubble baths and manicures. For instance, effective self-care can include meditation, breathing exercises, asking for help, getting enough sleep, practicing gratitude, setting boundaries, and learning to say “no.”
Reach out to others
Ask friends, family members, and co-workers how they are doing, especially if you notice a change in them. Let them know you are there for them. Keep in mind that they may be experiencing shame and guilt related to their mental health difficulties, making it harder to open up. They may feel like they are “defective” and may blame themselves for what they are experiencing. Let them know what they are going through isn’t their fault and inspire hope.