Let's Celebrate Mental Health Awareness!

I hope I’m not the only person noticing the positive effects of mental health awareness campaigns and community efforts that are shedding light on the negative stigma and darkness of mental illness.

As a person who lives with chronic depression, I know how dark depression can be. I can go through days or even weeks fighting sad and hopeless thoughts, brought on by my depression. It started when I was a pre-teen. Most of my life, I didn’t tell anyone about these thoughts, I just lived with them. A symptom of the depression is the shame of feeling like there’s something wrong with me, so, of course I wouldn’t tell anyone.

With the birth of my second child, I fell into a suicidal depression, was hospitalized and learned of my mental illness. It was then that I finally received treatment and awareness of what was happening to me. I’ve studied it for years now and gained a lot of insight. If I start to fall into my depression, I recognize what it is and I can handle it as it comes. As my understanding increases, I can also comfortably talk about it and tell friends or family members how I am feeling. It’s surprising to me how many other people mention they suffer from similar thoughts when I talk about my personal struggles.

According to research provided by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, once mental illness is recognized, help for people who suffer from it can make a difference for 80% of those affected. Education and awareness are key to both understanding and treatment. 

Since Mental Health Awareness Week last year, (May 5 – 11, 2014) to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 4 – 10, 2015), a lot has happened in the Edmonton area for mental health. United Way of the Alberta Capital Region (United Way) has proudly supported Clara’s Big Ride – Bell Let’s Talk event held in Edmonton last June. As well, we have been a strong supporter of Lift the Silence suicide prevention week both last September and this upcoming September.  In January 2015, United Way partnered with CMHA – Edmonton Region, City of Edmonton, Mental Health Patient Advocate and Alberta Health Services to bring together Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and community organizations to learn more about the current research, Gap Analysis of Public Mental Health and Addictions Programs (GAP-MAP) by Dr. Cameron Wild with the University of Alberta.

United Way partners with numerous community agencies to ensure counselling supports are available. In 2014, 15,871 people accessed counselling provided by United Way funded partners from either calling the distress line to long term counselling supports. As well, thousands of people in the Edmonton area have learned about mental illness in the past year through community education programs. A new Drop-In Single Session Counselling program started this year being delivered through six different community organizations. Check out their website at http://www.dropinyeg.ca/about-us/

If we have the right education and tools, and support, we continue to lift the negative stigma and help people who suffer from mental illness to live happy productive lives. There are several things you can do to improve your own life or the life of someone else who might be suffering from a mental illness.

  • Learn the facts. Educate yourself and you will better understand if you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness
  • Know the signs. Sometimes the signs are easy to see and sometimes they are not, but if you know what to look for, you will have a better idea of what is happening.
  • Reach out. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You’re not alone. Contact a doctor, call 211, or tell a trusted friend.

Mental Health matters and it matters to all of us.