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The value of mental health


Mental health is a popular topic this time of year. And, for a good reason. We are currently between Blue Monday and Bell Let’s Talk day.
Blue Monday is typically the third Monday in January and has been touted as the most depressing day of the year for more than 15 years. Whether this is true or not has become a topic of debate but the idea of the day is that weather, debt level (specifically, the difference between debt and our ability to pay), the amount of time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling a need to take charge of the situation all may culminate right around this date.
Bell Let’s Talk is a little simpler. It’s a movement that encourages discussion surrounding mental health to help reduce stigma and build awareness. Held on the last Wednesday of the first month of a new year, the corporation pays for interactions from the public (calls, texts, social media shares, etc.) and donates the money to mental health initiatives.
Historically, both methods have been effective in getting people to talk about mental health and, I strongly believe, their efforts are paying off. People are starting to open up more at home and to their health professionals, less afraid of judgment.
Mental health is something that is very important to me. While I wouldn’t label any of my personal experiences as serious mental illness I’m not afraid to admit I have dealt with cases of the winter blues here and there and, in retrospect, I most likely had a slight touch of postpartum depression. I’ve been lucky and I know and appreciate this fact because other members of my family haven’t been.
My oldest daughter struggles daily with anxiety. This anxiety causes fear and insecurity, making it extremely difficult to go about the many social tasks that so many of us take for granted.
What she deals with was not learned. This is something she was born with. I can remember her being about two years old and she loved music and singing so much - but only if she thought no one was listening. If we even so much hinted that we could hear her quietly and discreetly singing out the words to songs she would be absolutely mortified - crying she was so embarrassed and then crawling into her protective shell.
Of course, as they grow, so do their problems and now we are actively involved in programming to equip ourselves with some skills to help her deal with the trials of everyday life because I accept that this is her reality and that I, as a parent, didn’t fail her just because she has struggles. But, I would be failing her if I didn’t do something to provide her with tools she can use in her future.
Anyone who struggles with mental illness or is supporting someone with mental illness (from mild cases to severe) knows that the journey is not easy. It’s often one small step forward only to take a couple of giant leaps back.
It’s not easy but I’m not willing to give up either, even though there are so many days it would be easier. Mental illness is time-consuming and it’s physically and mentally draining for not just those experiencing the symptoms but also those supporting them. But, through awareness and the reduction of stigma, today it is easier than it ever has been to find the resources you need to support you or your loved one. No one dealing with mental illness needs to feel alone and uncertain anymore.
January is a lot of things but, for me, the most exciting part is the very last day - which just happens to be my birthday. This year when my Facebook account asked me if I wanted to set up a Birthday Fundraiser I was delighted to see that the Swan River branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association was registered as an option and that The PayPal Giving Fund Canada (which oversees these fundraisers) would pay the money directly to the organization at the conclusion of the event. Obviously mental health is important to me, and so is supporting locally accessible programming, so this year I’m delighted to have my friends help me to aid CMHA in their continued efforts to bring programming and education to our community.
Mental health is for all, not just those dealing with mental illness.