What is the one thing that we all have in common but rarely gets talked about?
Our mental health.
Mental health is a state of well-being that encompasses the emotional, the psychological, and the social aspects of our lives.
When you are mentally healthy, you’re likely to reach your potential, work productively, manage daily life stressors, attain close and meaningful relationships, and contribute to your community.
Conversely, when you are mentally unhealthy, your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are negatively impacted, which in turn adversely affects your tolerance for stress, quality of relationships, contribution to society, and productivity at work/school.
Why It’s Crucial to Talk About Mental Health
Mental health is a central part of our overall health, yet it is often a taboo topic, largely due to the stigma associated with mental illness.
Mental illness is common, as are treatments for recovery. However, the stigma often prevents people from seeking help, which then further isolates them and exasperates their conditions.
Conversely, by openly talking about mental health, it vastly improves our wellbeing by “normalizing” the topic and encouraging seeking behaviours. Additionally, open discussion helps clarify what mental health actually is; it’s more than just a lack of mental illness, it’s also about mental and emotional fitness. And conversations about mental health provides opportunities to promote accurate information and constructive exchanges about it.
Mental Health Impacts Us All
Mental illness is common and impacts us all. Nearly 20% of the Canadian adult population lives with some sort of mental illness. These numbers are similar for children and adolescents as well. Seventy-five percent of mental illnesses manifest before age 24, with 50% showing the first signs before age 14. When you add in family and friends who support those living with mental illnesses, the number of people impacted increases significantly.
Signs of the Most Common Mental Health Concerns
Two of the most common mental health concerns are depression and anxiety. Here are some symptoms of both problems that may warrant further investigation by a physician or a mental health professional:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Abusing substances such as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
- Increased conflict with friends or family
- Contemplating self-harm or harm towards others
- Increased fatigue, restlessness, or apathy
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased muscle tension
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Increased sadness or irritability for an extended period
- Excessive anger, anxiety, confusion, fear, forgetfulness, or worry
- Extreme mood swings
- Withdrawal from people or social activities
- Difficulties conducting daily activities
How You Can Help
You can help by normalizing conversations about mental health simply by talking about it.
There’s a good chance that someone you know is struggling with their mental health. Some people don’t talk about it because they think no one will understand, they may get judged, or they’ll burden others.
If a friend, a relative, or a colleague exhibit some of the signs listed above, check in and ask how they are doing. Find a quiet space to talk, free from distractions. Provide your full, undivided attention.
Ask questions to clarify and show that you’re trying to understand and support them. Ask how you can help rather than tell them what they should or shouldn’t do or how they should or shouldn’t feel.
We’re All in This Together
No one has to go through mental illness alone. By talking about our mental health, we give each other permission to freely speak about our common struggles. We gain awareness about mental health and enrich our vocabulary to describe our lived experiences. Moreover, we strengthen trust in relationships that allow for greater expression of emotions and exploration of our inner world.
As this month is mental health awareness month, let’s give voice to our mental health and forge a healthier appreciation for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
We encourage you to reach out to one of our mental health professionals at Brentwood Counselling Centre if you’re struggling with your mental fitness. Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. We’re here to support you.