In honour of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 62nd annual Mental Health Week, I have written an open letter to anyone who has lived with, is currently living with, or who knows someone who has ever dealt with a mental health issue.
Dear moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, managers, employees, teachers, children, students, seniors, politicians, world leaders, athletes and friends,
You are my inspiration for this letter. When 1 in 5 British Columbians will experience a significant mental health problem at some point in their lives, we as a society need to take notice. We need to recognize that mental health is the foundation for our overall health and happiness and that without it we will fail to thrive. We need to change our focus to recognize and acknowledge that our mental health is no different from our physical health. Do we choose to have diabetes? Does having diabetes make us a bad person? Would we discourage someone with diabetes from seeking help? Would we be embarrassed if a friend or loved one was diagnosed with diabetes? No.
For those living with, surviving with and thriving with their own mental health every day, I am in awe of your strength and resiliency. I am inspired by the energy that it can take to wake up and exist each day. I am indebted to you for the life lessons that I have learned from being your friend, relative, sounding board and shoulder to cry on. You are the strong, underrated and often invisible and I strive every day of my life to be more like you.
I strive to be brave, because 2 out of 3 individuals with a mental health concerns will not seek help.
I strive to fight stigma, because 34% of Canadians believe that people will think less of them if they suffer from depression.
I strive to be fearless, because feeling different from others is not easy and can make it difficult to see how similar we really are.
If 80% of people with depression recover, why are these recoveries not celebrated? Why do we not get flowers to celebrate a return to work or school following a mental health issue?
If 1 in 5 British Columbians are potentially experiencing a mental health problem right now, why are we not talking about this and why are we not supporting each other to live and manage our mental health each and every day?
The sentiments in this letter are addressed to every human, because mental health issues do not discriminate based on age, gender, occupation, education or socio-economic status. Nor do they imply anything about a person’s character or capacity for intelligence.
Let’s start talking. Let’s celebrate our bravery, strength and resiliency.
This letter is my digital bouquet of flowers to everyone thriving with their mental health today.
All my best,
*Statistics in this post are taken from UBC’s Responding with Respect program in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association.