Mental health is one’s state of psychological and emotional well-being and it’s always in flux. We all have days when we’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed and that is part of mental health. Many of us may have more prolonged periods of anxiety or depression where we need support to cope with these common conditions. Then there are some of us that have more challenge overcoming these conditions and we may be diagnosed with mental illness, a more severe condition that impacts one’s ability to function in a healthy way. Mental illness affects 1 in 3 Canadians but it’s not always visible to those around us.
People with depression still make jokes, people with anxiety still care for others and people with suicidal thoughts may still show up for work or school every day. These people are all around us and we never know what’s behind a plastered-on smile and “fine thanks” if we don’t take the time to look in someone’s eyes and kindly, genuinely ask how they are really doing.
January 29th, 2020 is Bell Let’s Talk day (https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/), a national campaign for the last 10 years, that is devoted to decreasing the stigma around mental illness. And it’s working! A 2019 Nielsen Consumer Insights survey showed that 84% of Canadians are comfortable talking to others about their mental health—this number has doubled from 2012!
Some research shows that half of mental illnesses start in adolescence, a time when youth may be connecting less with their parents and caregivers who could help support them. Suicide is the cause of one quarter of the deaths of our youth aged 15-24 and it effects males 4 times as much as females. This is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death and it is preventable, as long as we decrease the stigma around addressing it and get people the professional support they require.
At the moment, we do not have enough research to blame the exponential rise of screen time and social media on the high levels of mental ill health we have here in Canada, but it’s clear that it’s not making it better. Screens get in the way of one of the best things we can do for our mental health—talk!
We also know that adolescents have one of the lowest rates of physical activity, although it’s been decreasing in every age group in Canada. Physical activity is also a fantastic way to improve our mental health, both from the feel-good chemicals we produce when we’re active as well as the social aspect of many activities.
Connect with children and family more often by eating and being active together. Family meals have so many positive effects, one of which is mental well-being. Fill plates with vegetables, fruit, seafood and unrefined grains for the best effect on mental health.
For more information and to find support: