let’s humanize the term ‘mental health’

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image and text by UndergroundIn the States, this month is BPD Awareness Month. Here in Canada, this week is the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s 61st annual Mental Health Week.

Along with awareness events taking place throughout Canada (though none that I can find yet here on Vancouver Island), there have also been several articles and reports on the news about the Mental Health Commission of Canada‘s recent proposal for Canada’s first ever Mental Health Strategy, entitled Changing Direction, Changing Lives.

Reading the articles, I began a train of thought on the question, ‘What is mental health?’. So, in honour of Mental Health Week, here’s what I have to say:

Why mental health matters to everyone:

Mental health is the well-being of human beings. Our ability to feel connected, of service, and part of something greater than ourselves; our ability to experience fulfillment and provide for ourselves; our ability to establish a sense of belonging and feel like a valued member of community; our ability to lend a hand, and reach out for one when needed; our capacity for diversity, our resiliency in the face of adversity; our ability to establish and maintain balance of work and play — all of these, as individuals, communities and the planet.

I’m going to play with a controversial stance here and say that I don’t believe in the government as being responsible for these things. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the proposed $4B would be a bad thing at all; but, at some point, it is the people of a society who must make a change in the accepted norm, and the criteria for success. The government’s role is to inspire such changes in its people.

The contained and self-sufficient family is a failure. The norm of productivity, aesthetic beauty, and material things as criteria for success is a failure. These things are making for great suffering, epic depression, loneliness and estrangement.

People are estranged from their families, by geographical location, death, violence, lifestyle, religion and abuse; estranged from their communities by shame, ignorance and stigma. Counseling replaces the meaningful heart-to-heart conversations we used to have with friends and family members; support groups become the modern-day spiritual practice that brings us together to remind us of our common condition and the bigger picture of why we are here.

In each and every one of us there are aspects of this term mental illness. It is when these aspects begin to seriously and adversely affect the abilities listed above that our needs for these things in life begin to be realized and addressed. Those with the label of a mental illness remind us of what we are all feeling by magnifying it.

Mental illness is the illness of society, not the individuals diagnosed; it is the indicator of a society’s lack of humanity. No government can compensate for this deficiency.

(from the CMHA:)

One in five Canadians, over the course of their lives, will experience a mental illness and what that ultimately means is that every single family in Canada will in some way be affected.

There is nobody in Canada who can stand up and say, “Not my family, not my aunts or uncles or cousins or grandparents, children, siblings, spouse or self.” And yet the reluctance to talk about mental illness, to acknowledge it openly, to treat it as a form of human suffering like any other illness, relates in part to how threatening this set of illnesses is to our sense of who we are. Mental illness cuts across all age, racial, religious, or socio-economic categories.

The Impacts Are Staggering:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by the year 2020, depression will become the No. 2 cause world-wide of years lost due to disability. That’s a profound impact.
  • The number of suicides in Canada is almost 4,000 people a year. For people aged 15 to 24 in Canada, suicide is the No. 2 cause of death.
  • Mental illness is the number one cause of disability in Canada, accounting for nearly 30% of disability claims and 70% of total costs.
  • Mental illness costs the Canadian economy a staggering $51-billion a year, and each day 500,000 people will miss work due to mental health problems.
  • Each year employers and insurers spend a whopping $8.5 billion on long-term disability claims related to mental illness.
  • Mental health disorders in the workplace cost Canadian companies nearly 14% of their net annual profits and up to $16 billion annually.
  • The unemployment rate among people with serious mental illness is 70 – 90%. There is a 60% drop in family income when a breadwinner is diagnosed with mental illness.

Author: innerlight

A capricorn horse. Creative dreamer, over thinker. bpd, insecure attachment and any other labels for deep and chronic wounds and other gifts of brilliance that propel intense and eclectic lives and make for good art. We are high needs and high return, all the way, all the way. Surrender, integration, repair, rebuild, connect, create, evolve. Deeply.

One thought on “let’s humanize the term ‘mental health’

  1. Pingback: A Parade of Nuts |

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