Canada Mental Health Week 2022
This year, Canada Mental Health Week runs from May 2nd to May 8th. This annual awareness week discusses the topic of mental illness and mental health. It draws attention to its importance, and how we can help ourselves and others who may be struggling. On the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) website, there is a toolkit directed at Canada Mental Health Week that includes infographics, social media post designs, posters, and many other things to help spread awareness. Not only this, but there is a helpful article section on the website to learn more about how to be empathetic and the power that lies within it.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of another. This is when you put yourself into the other person’s shoes and try to feel what they are experiencing to help your understanding. However, this is not a trait you are born with; it can take time to learn and refine the skill. Empathy has much more to do with listening rather than trying to verbally make connections between experiences. The simple act of listening to someone tell their story and what they have struggled with helps break the stigma around mental illness. Listening without judgement creates a safe place to discuss these tricky subjects.
Empathy is often mixed up with sympathy, but they are very different concepts. Sympathy is when you feel pity or sorrow for another person. Empathy and sympathy can often go hand in hand, however sympathy focuses more on your reaction to a situation rather than the other person’s emotions. Being sympathetic is not a bad thing! When it comes to mental health, sometimes the last thing a person struggling needs is to be pitied. Pity can cause a feeling of embarrassment and shame, which can create a more uncomfortable environment. Empathy is the key to opening up the conversation about mental health and giving a platform to those who are struggling.
Mental health has been a large problem in my life. In the second grade I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, GAD, and ever since then I’ve been plagued with worry. Anxiety is something that runs in my family, so my diagnosis was not the end of the world. I learned quickly how to calm myself down and how large my comfort zone is. I made it my mission to help get rid of the stigma revolving around mental illness and help others open up and share their experiences. After so many years of facing this battle, I decided it was time for me to get medicated and start therapy. I was honestly ashamed at first. Why did I need all this extra help? Why can’t I just be normal? And that was when I figured out that normal is not a reliable idea.
Everyone on this planet is vastly different. We all experience life in different ways and we have our own battles. I didn’t hear of many people talking about mental illness and mental health and how important it is. I took it upon myself to be transparent with my anxiety and create a space where I, and others, can open up about mental health. I was vocal about my medications and going to therapy, and soon after my friends opened up to me about their struggles. Multiple friends told me about their own mental health struggles and they gave therapy a shot as well. I had complete strangers contact me on social media sharing their own stories. Being vulnerable was probably the scariest thing I have ever done. But hearing from all of these people who didn’t feel safe talking until now, made it all worth it. Being empathetic and receiving that empathy back from others made such a welcoming space, and it felt amazing to feel like I was not alone in this. Canada Mental Health Week is furthering this stigma breaking and helping people like myself feel accepted with our struggles.
This boundary breaking must continue to keep this conversation going. Be vulnerable, be empathetic, and be kind. Reach out to the people you love and let them know you’re there for them. This is a time to help each other and be better when it comes to mental health awareness.
Canada Mental Health Association. “Mental Health Week.” https://www.mentalhealthweek.ca/.