As the leaves fall, people’s moods can, too. Come autumn, families are in the thick of school and work schedules and stresses. Reduced daylight can affect routines. Also, people affected by the wildfires may be noticing the lingering effects of stress. That’s why it’s an ideal time for the 22nd annual Beyond the Blues: Education & Screening Days, which have helped 93,000 people across BC since 1995.
“People sometimes think talking about mental health has to be depressing or boring, but it doesn’t,” says Sarah Hamid-Balma with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division and provincial coordinator for Beyond the Blues. “Beyond the Blues is about prevention, catching problems early and connecting to local help in a fun, friendly and interactive way. We’ve got stress bingo, emoji activities, colouring and more. We’re competing for people’s time and attention just like everyone else so it has to be engaging and creative.”
Held during or near Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1-7), Beyond the Blues is an annual awareness day to engage people to learn more about mental well-being and mental health problems. There are at least 70 events set up across BC.
The events are free, anonymous, confidential and drop-in. At the event, attendees can take part in fun and engaging activities such as videos, games, presentations, or resource fairs to learn more about stress, mood and anxiety problems, supports and self-care. They can fill out short self-tests on depression, anxiety and risky drinking and talk privately with a clinician about next steps and local resources. They can also fill out a well-being self-test that look at features of good mental health like vitality, social support, healthy thinking, and self-esteem.
“We want to create friendly, engaging, and safer spaces for people to reflect on their own mental health and have a conversation about how to prevent problems or feel better,” says Hamid-Balma. “We want Beyond the Blues attendees to leave feeling empowered, better informed, hopeful and supported.”
There are specially-tailored screening forms available for adults, older adults, youth, new or expectant mothers, Aboriginal adults and people who are concerned about a friend or family member. Brief risky drinking screens also help people see the links between their alcohol use, possible harms, and impacts on their mental well-being.
“Our research shows anyone can benefit from attending,” says Hamid-Balma. “The information and activities are designed to support people in educating themselves so that they can see what’s going well for them, and also know what to do next if they or someone they care about is affected down the road.”
To see all 70+ BC events in October and beyond, please visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca/beyond-the-blues