Published in The Vancouver Sun, Opinion Editorial. May 4, 2015
Welcome to Mental Health Week.
Let this week remind us that mental health is key to our well-being.
Mental health is about realizing our potential, coping with the normal stresses of life, and making a contribution to our community. It involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us.
In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness. That equates to seven million Canadians. Unlike with many physical ailments, only one third of those experiencing the symptoms of mental illness will seek help.
There are many reasons people don’t seek help. They may feel shame or lack self-awareness. They may lack the resources to access help. They may not realize that mental illness can be effectively treated, and that people who live with a mental illness can and do thrive.
The Canadian Mental Health Association introduced Mental Health Week in 1951, highlighting a variety of mental health and addiction awareness and education campaigns, activities and events across the country.
Over 100 of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s branches are plahying host to Mental Health Week events to raise awareness. Activities such as seminars, open houses, film screenings, art shows, bike rides, workshops and walks provide Canadians with information, resources and practical ways to stay mentally and physically healthy.
I invite British Columbians this year to Get Loud. Get Loud is the theme of our Mental Health Week campaign and it’s a call to action. There are many ways you can Get Loud: start a discussion at your school, in your community or with your family about mental health; talk to a loved one to help them access the support they need; engage with your children’s school about how to make mental health a priority; connect with leaders in your community to advocate for change. Create a vision about what a mentally healthy future looks like for the environments you live, work and play in.
One fun way to Get Loud is by joining the Canadian Mental Health Association on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Olympic Village Square for a unique evening bike ride around downtown Vancouver. The Ride Don’t Hide Glow Ride is a small night ride starting at False Creek, and ending at Canada Place.
The Ride Don’t Hide Glow Ride aims to bring mental health out of the darkness so everyone can see — even those who are suffering in silence — that as a community, we are peddling towards a safe society where everyone can tell their story and get the help that they need.
And when the focus on mental health fades and the week comes to a close, I encourage you take the time to consider and reflect on your mental health needs. How can you create a mentally healthy future for yourself? Are there skills you can learn to help you keep the negative thoughts at bay? Are there opportunities for you to build meaningful connections with your colleagues and your neighbours? Are there activities that you can engage in that will help you stay well and navigate the difficult moments of your life?
The Canadian Mental Health Association offers many programs and services to help British Columbians to achieve positive mental health. In communities across BC, we help families and individuals navigate the challenges of a fragmented mental health system. We offer effective self-management programs for adults and youth, award-winning workplace workshops, post-secondary campus initiatives to improve mental health and reduce risky substance use, and an annual bike ride each June to bring communities together to fight the stigma around mental illness. These are just some of the ways the Canadian Mental Health Association is helping to ensure Mental Health Week lasts all year long.
Find out more by connecting with cmha.bc.ca. Wishing you many loud and quiet moments in the weeks to come.
Bev Gutray is chief executive officer of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division.