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We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about mental illness

By in Opinions

ALEXANDER QUON

Menta lHealth

When a person is talking about being healthy they don’t just mean physically. So how is it that mental health is often left out of the discussion?

Dealing with depression or any form of mental illness isn’t something that anyone has to do alone. The first step to dealing with an issue is admitting that you have one. The second step is talk to someone about what and how you’re feeling. It can be as simple as talking to a friend or a family member. If an individual needs more help they can talk to a therapist, but the most important thing is that they talk to someone.

Unfortunately, that’s the barrier many people face. Those suffering from a mental illness are often too scared to admit, not just to themselves, but also to their close family members, their loved ones and their friends that they’re facing something that they cannot deal with on their own.

I have dealt with depression since my diagnosis in 2010 and I still deal with it today, yet I often avoid talking about it. It’s not because I’m scared of admitting it to myself — I’ve done that and I got help for it — but because I know people will judge me simply because I have an illness that they may not understand.

A well-adjusted human being wouldn’t look down on a person for having cancer, nor would they judge a person for having a heart attack. So it seems unusual that the level of respect afforded to people suffering from physical ailments is often not applied to those who are afflicted with mental illnesses.

Our society stigmatizes mental illness in such a way that it can stop a person from admitting they need help. We characterize individuals who go through mood swings as “bipolar” and we describe those who suffer from other mental illnesses as “dangers to themselves and others.”

If a person is brave enough to admit that they are sick and that they need help, for some reason they are often not greeted with open arms but instead face the harsh reality that others will now handle them with a sense of wariness and distrust.

The fact of the matter is that mental illness is just that — an illness. It can be treated through medication and counseling. A person can become better.

I know that to some mental illness is a topic that is controversial or off limits. Whether that’s because people misunderstand the root of the issue or fear what they don’t fully comprehend, it is an issue that needs to be discussed and solved.

In 2012, the Canadian Community Health Survey found that 17 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 perceived themselves as having needed mental health care in the previous year. That’s around 4.9 million people in Canada that either need help or are receiving it already.

What we are doing isn’t enough, though, as nearly 4,000 individuals decide to take their life every year in Canada.

In a society where we have the ability to facilitate a conversation between individuals located thousands of kilometers apart, and where we can all but wipe a disease from the face of the earth, you’d think a simple conversation on mental health issues would be an easy task.

It’s not simple. But it should be and it can be, as long as we find the strength to get these conversations going.

The Canadian Community Health Survey had 25,100 respondents of 15 years of age and older between January and December of 2012. Full-time members of the Canadian Forces, the institutionalized population, people living on-reserve and on other aboriginal settlements were excluded.


Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor

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