According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), “34% of Ontario high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression), and 14% indicate a serious level of psychological distress.” Despite the large number of people impacted by mental health issues each year, mental health used to be considered a private matter that shouldn’t be discussed publicly. This notion made these issues difficult to discuss with family, friends, employers and even health practitioners. This was incredibly detrimental to individuals and communities as stigma surrounding mental health can prevent and delay seeking care and assistance.
Fortunately, through public awareness and education, the perceptions of mental health issues are changing for the better in Canada. Bell’s Let’s Talk Day (January 26, 2022), Canada’s Mental Health Week (May 2-8, 2022) and the World Health Organizations’ World Mental Health Day (October 10, 2022) are designed to get society talking about ways to improve mental health and encourage organizations to look at how they can provide improved support to those suffering from mental health issues.
The first Mental Health Week in Canada was in 1951, Canada has been trying to address mental health awareness for a long time – more than 70 years! While progress is slow, it appears the tide of public opinion is changing on mental health as a result of these educational efforts. According to a 2015 “Bell Canada Let’s Talk” Survey, “81% (of respondents) are more aware of mental health issues compared to five years ago.” This better understanding and awareness is impacting how people feel about their own mental health and has increased their willingness to speak with others about it. An Ipsos Reid poll from May 2021 found that 53% of the Canadians polled were willing to discuss a mental health issue with a family member, health professional or publicly on social media. This is an improvement from an April 2018 poll that indicated that 41% of people were not willing to discuss a mental health issue.
Practicing self-care including exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep, is something everyone can do to take care of their mental health. For those seeking mental health support, the Ontario Government has information on Mental health services for children and youth on their website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/mental-health-services-children-and-youth