By Isabella Keats
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we should be talking about it. Mental health challenges can affect anyone whether they’re born with it, lived through a traumatic event, or have biochemical imbalances, so it’s good to be educated and keep a stigma-free view on the topic.
So who created Mental Health Awareness Month? This month was created in 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA). Each year in mid to late March, MHA releases a toolkit of resources to help people prepare for activities during Mental Health Awareness Month. During the month of May, MHA and anyone else who associates with MHA, conduct a number of activities that are based on a different theme each year. In past years the themes have been: #Tools2Thrive, 4Mind4Body, and Mental Illness Feels Like. With social media, local events, and film screenings, MHA wants to make mental health a more talked-about topic.
It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth will be affected by mental illness, but only 1 in 5 will receive the help they need. By age 19, it is estimated that 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth have experienced a major depressive episode. By age 19, 3.2 million people will be at risk for developing depression each year. 49% of Canadians who feel they’ve suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor. This lack of seeking help is sometimes due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Recently with Covid-19 happening, we’ve seen more people talk about mental health. Youth have experienced the greatest decline since the pandemic began with 60% (pre-Covid) reporting very good mental health to only 40% (July 2020) reporting very good mental health. Mental illness can look invisible but it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
Now you may be wondering what you can do to help. For starters removing the stigma around mental illness is a huge first step. Whether it’s removing it from your thoughts or others’ thoughts, this first step goes a long way. Next, if you want to help someone you know, then you have to remember that challenges with mental health look different for everyone. What works for one person might not work for another. If you want to help, the best thing you can do is ask the person “Is there anything I can do” or even just letting them know that you are there for them makes a huge difference.
Lastly, remember that there is no shame in asking for help and you shouldn’t feel the need to suffer in silence. Having a mental illness or struggling with your mental health doesn’t make you a weak person, it just means you might need help. Below this article, I’ve linked some free resources in case you or anyone you know may need them. Also, there are mental health resources right here at Harbord. You can talk with your guidance counselor, our social worker - Irene Au Yeung - our child and youth worker - Tabitha Dovell.
Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/
Mind Beacon: https://info.mindbeacon.com/btn542