What people are noticing about mental health from their unique context

The question, “What are you noticing about mental health from your context?” was sent to over 200 registrants for our Let’s Talk Hope conference alongside Bell Let’s Talk Day. The answers came in from parents, students, mental health workers, non profit leaders, business leaders, teachers.

Our conference on Bell Let’s Talk Day will be discussing these noticings along with others that aren’t represented here. We will then be creating an action plan for SOLUTIONS based on what we heard that will be measured at our next conference Bell Let’s Talk Day 2020. It’s not enough to just “hope” things will get better. We need HOPE in the form of a PLAN. BE a part of the conversation.

Have a read through and see what people are saying and then add your thoughts. What are YOU noticing about mental health from YOUR context?

What I’m noticing about mental health from my context is:
(in no particular order other than the order we received them)

1. The Stigma is lessening
As someone who works in the community with youth and families, the greatest thing I noticed about mental health is how open youth and families are in sharing their experiances, and how engaged youth are in supporting mental health in their community, helping break down mental health stigma. 

What I am noticing is that more and more people are feeling comfortable talking about  mental health. It’s becoming less of a taboo.

Working at the Mustard Seed, mental health is talked about open and freely. After all, many of the people we serve are challenged with aspects of their mental health.  I appreciate working in an environment where the topic is not skipped over. – Mustard Seed Employee

One thing I’ve noticed is that as kids have more intervention and become more aware of their own challenges and perhaps start to compare themselves to others we tend to see that they move away from more externalized behaviours to more internalized depression and anxiety, shutting down more. This can be overlooked because they’re not acting out. It’s important to help them understand that everyone has challenges and it’s OK to get help. – A mom

The thing I have noticed is the awareness that is out there.
From TV commercials to Facebook there are so many more places that are reminding the public.
I also think this generation of people are much more open about this kind of thing than we ever were.
We kept our “issues” behind closed doors at home.
Now everyone talks about everything very openly.
At the organization I work at, what I have noticed is inclusiveness.
We are very aware and respectful of the needs and situations of our clients. – a Non Profit leader

I think that the greatest thing that I have noticed about mental health from the context that I am in is that it is finally getting the time and energy it deserves.  Not only from establishments, employers, etc., but from individuals themselves.  People are exposed to the reality that mental health encompasses so many things and they no longer have to feel alone and just deal with it on their own.  There is power in sharing your story, your fears, your insecurities, you internal battles…once they are out they immediately wield less power.  This isn’t to say that everyone needs to be public with their personal life, it just means that there are many safe spaces for people to seek professional help and it is encouraged, applauded and recognized as a healthy thing to do.  This is so encouraging to me as a mother of a young child, to be able to tell them to treat themselves with care and that they can get any kind of help they may need.

2. The Stigma is still there

It’s getting better at our school but there is still a stigma around mental health – teacher

Stigma is still there, it is getting better, but we have a long way to go still. – Non Profit Leader

3. The link between addiction and mental illness
I would not necessarily say the “cause”, but the discussion is definitely around the ‘relationship’ or ‘connection’ between addiction and mental health. The consensus is mental health and addiction both have social/emotional/biological/psychological/environmental factors. It’s a complex discussion where the questions are “what would my mental health look like if I didn’t have my addiction?” and “what would my addiction look like if I didn’t have mental illness?”. An intricate interplay of factors, which leads to my work of, regardless of how you got here, what supports can we put in place to move forward and empower the client to make healthy choices. – Addictions Counsellor

4. Teachers are needing resources to help them meet the mental health needs of students
I’m noticing a few things in the context I am in.  I moved from a specialized learning environment that was best-suited to support survivors of developmental trauma.  I’ve noticed that at the learning through the arts school I’m currently at there is an increasing number of students with complex needs.  These students are seeking alternative learning environments to support their needs, and where students struggle with traditional literacies, the arts provide a unique means to communicate learning, explore emotions, identity and help self-regulation; students also often land in a group of outliers and make fast friends.

I’ve noticed, through this, teachers are unprepared.  Teachers support 30 students per class and often one third are identified as exceptional.. still more could be coded and given IPPS. Teachers are often unprepared to handle the complexities of this changing environment and are at-risk for burnout.  I’ve also noticed that language is changing in society and amongst teachers.  With the growing understanding of mental wellness as a society, teachers are on-board and eager to find strategies to support students holistically, and appreciate the necessity of this shift to ensure that learning happens.- trauma informed education teacher.

Kids are very aware of the issue, are beginning to talk about strategies (difference between healthy and unhealthy) to cope and accessing supports such as App for Kids help Phone. Kids want to be asked the tough questions. Boys frequently don’t want to talk because they feel they should ‘man up’ or ‘suck it up’.  The behaviours in class often reflect a larger background issue. Any time I discuss mental health the students are interested- it is never a ‘boring’ subject. It impacts everyone.  I believe kids  have a larger language and understanding for the topic and reinforcing the issues they appreciate the conversation without judgement that says we all have a mental health and it’s important to take care of it just as much as a physical health. Recognizing that coping and talking are keys to this and avoiding issues is not healthy.  That ‘addictions’ (gaming, sugar, alcohol etc. or anything that interferes with your life) as ways to cope with underlying issues that are not being effectively dealt with.  Kids want to talk.  There is a need for teachers to know that starting the conversation and asking the tough questions with them is not tough for the kids, its tough for the teacher. Practice is needed by teachers to skill build in questioning techniques to ask what they feel is a tough question such as ‘Are your feeling suicidal?’. Kids will talk and open up.  Let’s empower adults to say ‘it is your business to ask’ rather than ‘it’s not my business to ask’. Ask the tough questions and you will be surprised. – teacher

I notice that kids want to talk. There is a need for teachers to know that starting the conversation and asking the tough questions with them is not tough for the kids, its tough on the teachers. Practice is needed by teachers to skill build in questioning techniques to ask what they feel is a tough question such as, “Are you feeling suicidal?” Kids will talk and open up. Let’s empower adults to say “It is your business to ask” rather than “It’s not my business to ask”. Ask the tough questions and you will be surprised. – A Jr High Teacher

5. What youth are saying about mental health
One youth I work with defines mental health as: “the core of who we are” – mental health frontline worker

As someone who has struggled with mental health my entire childhood and adult life. Actually written and published a poetry book about mental illness. Having some of my closes family struggle as well. Someone who has tried meditation, counselling and just roughing it out. Over and over, my slogan is: we do live in darkness, but it holds no ownership over us. 

6. We are lacking connection and “a village”
The biggest challenge I have noticed from a mental health perspective is the lack of connection, the lack of a ‘village’ within our communities. As a society we place this idea of ‘it takes a village’ on a pedestal but at the same time contribute to the silo of isolation by focusing on ‘self help’, forgetting the power of simply walking alongside another in times of struggle. Without the time to cultivate relationships, people are left to support themselves, or needing to disclose the darkest corners of themselves in order to get permission to feel the way they are feeling through their struggles. We need connection and understanding to build relationships, to build that safety net of social support needed to grow with resilience within our communities. But to get to connection and understanding we need the time, the focus, the energy to be present with those we interact with daily. – Non Profit Leader

How mental health in a family doesn’t just effect one person but everyone in different ways. – youth worker

Mental health issues are affecting everyone. It has flatlined the “ghetto” and suburbia. No one is immune to mental health. We work in suburban schools and “ghetto” schools and although both come from different socio-economic backgrounds, the affects of anxiety and depression are evident in BOTH. For example, one comes from a family that never sees their parents due to having to work to stay out of poverty. The other comes from a family who never sees their parents due to corporate pressures of workload. – resilience worker
To heal we need to feel. What I notice is that many look at what’s wrong and turn to medication to fix it. We need more than a bandaid solution, or we risk seeing people resort to darker places to avoid the hurt.
We need to know it’s okay to feel those negative emotions – it’s the only way to heal that deep brokenness and work towards healing. Suppressing negative emotions circumstance after circumstance creates deeper hurts and separates us from what we need most -people.
We need to return and learn to talk to people about how to reframe our stories and reinterpret what happening. Learn to capture our thoughts and transform our thoughts with positive activities. Our thoughts control our lives. We need to better thoughts and choices, (what we choose to do) because they influence our thoughts too.

7. Not enough mental health supports
The first thing that came to mind regarding mental health in my context (working with adolescent females experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation) I have noticed multiple diagnosis, multiple medications and a lack of consistency and continuance with associated mental health supports. – Frontline worker

   What I notice about mental health in the area of community outreach for teens is the absence of preventative measures for mental health.  Calgary has amazing services for those experiencing acute mental health crisis, however there is a lack of supports for youth on a preventative level.
So many of the youth we serve are coming to our programs feeling like they are depressed or struggling with feelings of anxiety. We also have children, as young as 7, who are also coming to our programs and saying they are having thoughts of suicide. We see children who are so depressed that they feel physical symptoms like stomach aches and pains and are unable to participate in activities. The reality is that the prevalence of mental health issues are growing and our resources are not and this poses a significant challenge to our staff team.
The greatest thing that I notice is the lack of self-confidence that kids have and the anxiety they have to be just as good or better than the person next to them. – Manager of Boys and Girls Clubs programming

I notice that self medication is the fastest and easiest go-to to stop the pain of mental illness. Disillusionment with the “system” is strong. Being a parent of someone with a mental illness I found it is frustrating to know what to do, where to go for help. We have walked down a lot of dead end hallways which leads to despair and confusion. The stigma is still alive. – A Mom

I am noticing that mental health is becoming a real concern causing issue for many of the people I work with. In my mother’s generation I notice that it was not a topic you discussed and that was taught to my generation. Mental health seems to be becoming a huge issue within the healthcare system as it is not set up to deal with the increasing demands.

The greatest things I’m noticing about mental health from my context is….there is a lack of mental health support, groups, etc.. for young kids. Ages 4-8
Recently it was brought to my attention that in the small city I work in, AHS has decided not to continue with having a child and youth mental health worker
When I refer families with young kids the supports are limited and unless it’s severe (in the eyes of AHS) they might not offer any support but rather refer out.
Just what I’ve been currently experiencing over the last couple years. – A School Mental Health Resource Teacher

8. Mental illness is affecting those we least expect
Both teams were made up of beautiful, talented, popular. Intelligent girls. They were the envy of their peers and people thought they had the world by the tail. The thing was that years later we found out that more than 60% of these girls ended up with Depression, anxiety, eating disorders or had been victims of abuse.
I see this over and over again with the athletes that I deal with. The more they seem to have it all together on the outside the more I fear they are dealing with demons we know nothing about. I come to expect it/fear it now. – soccer coach

Just this past new years eve, my co-worker and friend committed suicide. He did everything everyone says to do for mental wellness: took care of himself, did yoga, was a good colleague, came from a good family. No one expected this. – a corporate employee

The greatest thing I have noticed from our context of owning a mindfulness company is that many people appear to “have it all on the outside” but suffer from varying levels of anxiety and depression, many of whom are embarrassed or ashamed to discuss it. We have noticed a difference mindfulness can bring to slow down, and most from a corporate context want this done in private. – Mindfulness Business Owner

9. Understanding historical and sociological complexities that contribute to mental health
The greatest thing I am noticing about mental health in my context is a lack of understanding of the historical context of indigenous peoples in Canada, and the effect that intergenerational trauma has on mental health.  – Indigenous leader and educator

(Aging) No matter how old we are distress lurks.  I, my siblings, and my friends need to continue to attend to our mental health if we want to thrive and flourish. – a spunky senior who works in resilience.

I believe there is still a gap culturally. In the south Asian community, we don’t necessarily talk about mental health. For some, it’s not tangible so I think that is why it may be harder to understand. I’ve heard family members and friends just say “No one really want’s to talk about mental health” or “I’ll get over it, it’s fine.”  I think having these conferences, programs, and movements that speak to our youth of tomorrow and to everyone is significant because it helps bridge the gap between communities to help build a larger community of understanding of what mental health is and how we can each play a role in each other’s lives. As well as, being comfortable that mental health can be worked through. With that being said, I am hopeful for the positive  impact that mental health can leave us.  – A South Asian Nursing Student

10. Preventative measures such as nutrition can help
Nutrition – especially for refugees. Very complex but simply imagine coming from Sudan and the food you ate was unprocessed you come to Canada and go into a grocery store and have no idea what to buy. But it is NOT just nutrition it is also physical activity that builds better BRAINS and bodies. – Non Profit leader

I notice that foods can help create better mental health – health care worker

11. Labels can limit people
Also that having mental health issues has become a crutch for so many to feel like they can use it as an excuse to get out of anything. For example I have heard things like;  I can’t do that I have anxiety or I need a mental health day everyday, so I’m not dealing with that. The awareness raised around mental health is amazing and I am excited to see how we can continue to bring engagement and implementation on skills and strategies on how to support each other where we are at and encourage us onwards.  – youth at risk worker

12. Mental Health affects our physical health

I would say the greatest thing that I have noticed about mental health from the context that I am in splits into two parts. One side of me that is a nursing student, I have seen such a tremendous push in our community towards mental health awareness but, also ways to deal with mental health, moving away from stigma, and allowing individuals to feel comfortable. In my practice, I have seen mental health play such an influential role in our actual physical health. For example, depression and anxiety may cause us to seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms, that could eventually lead us to having physical effects on our body. That is why I truly believe, that having your mind, body, and spirit aligned can help you move forward in anything that you are facing. Now, looking at another side of me, – A nursing student

13. We have to also address other things such as the Autism Spectrum and disability and bring them into the mental health conversation with their unique perspective.
We struggle with our adopted son who’s illness is not visible. He is on the spectrum (along with other mental health issues) but people say all the time, “He looks normal” or “he just needs a good spanking”. I get dirty looks all the time. One person actually called him a brat one time. I wish people would think before speaking which won’t happen unless we get more education out there. For my family this has been our biggest issue. – A Mom

After reading, leave a comment and tell us YOUR thoughts.

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