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Mental wellness

May 01, 2015

Mental health: It's everyone's issue

Mental Health Week is a good time to talk about mental illness and help break down the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week encourages Canadians to understand, talk about and take action on mental health. In my work with employers and individuals, I continue to see the critical need for (and immense benefits from) information and education to support personal and collective mental health.

According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental health issue, and any of us has the potential to be that one. It’s therefore incredibly important that we continue to grow our mental health literacy so we can break down stigma, act to maintain good psychological health and ensure that if we or others around us are suffering, we get the help and support that’s needed.

In most systems, small changes can amount to big differences; my hope is that small shifts in ourDr. Marie-Helene Pelletier,Director of Mental Health at Sun Life Financial collective awareness, understanding and actions will lead to a seismic shift in how we approach and deal with mental health issues in our homes, communities and country.

Whether you are looking at it from a personal or an employer perspective (or both), I encourage you to take some time this week to deepen your understanding of mental health issues and take action to improve your mental health and the mental health of those around you.

To that end, I’d like to share with you four resources and initiatives that I’ve been fortunate to be part of lately. Raising awareness about mental health is very inspiring — I hope that you, too, will be inspired.

1. Video series tells personal stories

In the My Story video series sponsored by Sun Life, several prominent Canadians talk about coping with mental health issues. Sports personality Michael Landsberg, host of TSN’s Off the Record, discusses how depression changed his life, and how sharing his experience has helped. His hope is that if he can talk about his mental illness, others will be able to do so as well. You can help break down the stigma around mental illness by sharing these stories with your family, friends and colleagues.

2. Website focuses on individuals, children and the workplace

The Mental Health News website shares articles and interviews representing various perspectives on mental health, with a focus on mental health for individuals, children and in the workplace. I found this interview with Lieutenant-General the Hon. Romeo Dallaire (Retired), advocate for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, to be incredibly compelling. I was also interviewed, along with Lieutenant-Colonel Stephane Grenier (Retired), about how workplace peer support programs can offer support and hope to those who are suffering.

3. Webinar makes the connection between lifestyle and mental health

In Healthy Lifestyles and Mental Health: The Critical Connection, a webinar I led for the publication Canadian HR Reporter, we explore the important connection between lifestyle factors and mental health. Often under-recognized in treatment plans for mental health, factors such as exercise, diet and relationships have been demonstrated by research to have a potentially powerful impact on our mental health. I invite you to learn more about this connection and, if you are an employer, to find out what you can do to inspire important lifestyle changes among your employees.

4. Study examines employer-sponsored mental health programs

An upcoming study from the Conference Board of Canada, Healthy Brains in the Workplace, seeks to better understand the employer’s role in addressing mental health by examining the position, effectiveness and potential impact of employer-sponsored mental health benefits and programs, particularly as they relate to depression. It will be presented in several installments over the course of 2015, beginning in May, on the Conference Board website.

You can also follow my blog, Dr. Pelletier's page, for more information on workplace mental health initiatives.

Other mental health resources

Many organizations are working to help Canadians learn about and manage mental health issues. While this list is not meant to be comprehensive, it offers a good place to start:

  • Canadian Mental Health Association. This post would not be complete without referencing the CMHA, the organizers of Mental Health Week. The CMHA has a wealth of resources to help you learn more about preventing and managing mental health issues. These include personal assessment tools such as the mental health meter.
  • Partners for Mental Health. This non-profit organization strives to bring mental health information and resources to all Canadians. If you or someone you know is in crisis, consult this list of crisis centres to look for help in your province.

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