“Mental health is how you feel about yourself, your relationships with other people, and about the world around you,” says Tayte Willows, the Community Development Manager for the Canadian Mental Health Association-PEI Division.
“One common misconception is that people equate mental health with mental illness. But you can be in great mental health and feel great about your life and still be living with a mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression. It’s important to recognize that there are ways for people with mental illness to grow and thrive and find ways that work for them.”
Other misconceptions – true or false?
- One in five Canadians will experience mental illness. Technically true. But that number is likely a lot higher because many people don’t come forward to get help.
- Mental health is the tenth-leading cause of disability and premature death in Canada. False. Mental health is the second-leading cause.
- Each week, at least 500,000 Canadians are unable to work because of mental health problems. True. Each week, there are approximately 355,000 disability cases due to mental illness and behavioural disorders. Another 175,000 full-time workers are absent from work due to mental illness. Those numbers do not include the people who go to work even though they are not able to do the tasks needed to do their job because of mental illness.
- Seventy percent of people report that they or their family member experienced stigma after discussing their mental illness. True. Stigma makes people feel ashamed instead of wanted and valued, and makes them afraid to reach out for help.
How can stigma be challenged?
When people are more aware, they know what to do and how to get help. When open conversations happen in the workplace, people know there are avenues they can follow and people they can talk to.
“Training ourselves how to respond to mental health situations is helpful. Treat everyone with respect. Ask for forgiveness if you use words that minimize the experience of people who suffer from mental health conditions.”
Tayte says it is important to reach out to other services available in the community. “If someone says they are thinking about suicide or hurting someone else, do not keep it to yourself. You are legally required to report that to the proper authorities.”
Challenge stigma when you see it. “It is important to set an example. Learn the facts about mental illness. The more you know, the easier it is to act appropriately.
“We need to take care of our own mental health before we can take care of others. Do things that make you happy, and connect with a community of like-minded people.”
Some of the many training opportunities available through CMHA
- Mental Health Works is a national program that can be delivered in workplaces on PEI. It gives supervisors and managers the tools to manage performance when mental health is involved.
- safeTALK is a three-hour alertness training program that helps people recognize the signs when people are thinking of suicide, and how to help.
- ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two-day suicide first-aid course to give people the tools to recognize when someone is considering suicide, keep them safe, and give them the help they need to move past those thoughts.
- Mental Health First Aid is two days of training to learn to recognize and move through mental health issues you may encounter.
- Clubhouses in Charlottetown, Summerside, and Alberton offer a variety of supports, including housing, employment, education, life skills, and social supports.“A US study found that 15 percent of those living with mental illness are employed, but for folks connected to a Clubhouse, the employment rate is 40 percent. This support works.”
- Transitional Employment program offers work opportunities that allow people to start moving back into the workforce. It allows people to explore their skills and strengths so they can decide what they want to do and what work environment is best for them.
To find out more about the programs delivered by Canadian Mental Health Association-PEI, call 902-566-3034. Visit www.cmha.ca/branches/prince-edward-island-division.