By Lindsay Bear, Wood’s Homes Online Engagement Coordinator
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day – an annual campaign by Bell Canada to engage Canadians in the conversation around mental health.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges for anyone suffering from mental illness is the stigma – negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviour (discrimination) – attached to it.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says 40% of Canadians who responded to a recent survey admit they’ve experienced mental health issues but have never sought medical help, and 39% said they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
Here are the five ways Bell Let’s Talk says you can help end the stigma around mental illness:
1 – Language matters
We’re all guilty of it. But using words like ‘crazy’, ‘schizo’ and ‘insane’ can be extremely hurtful to someone living with a mental illness, and only contribute to the existing stigma.
Instead, Bell Let’s Talk recommends saying, “person with schizophrenia” or “person with a mental illness.”
2 – Educate yourself
According to Bell Let’s Talk, stigma has surrounded many diseases throughout history, and efforts to confront these attitudes have resulted in better treatment, more funding for research and a greater understanding. The goal is to achieve this same level of acceptance and understanding for mental health.
Here are some resources you can use to become better educated:
- Wood’s Homes’ Research Department
- Bell Let’s Talk
- The Canadian Mental Health Association
- The Government of Alberta
3 – Be kind
We all know the impact a simple smile can have on a ‘bad’ day. If you know a family member, friend or colleague having one of those days, ask them out for a coffee, send them a nice message or even just take the time to chat – letting them know you’re there can make the world of a difference.
In addition, Bell Let’s Talk recommends avoiding expressions like, “You’ll get over it” and “Just relax” – instead, offer your support and say, “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well” and “You’re not alone.”
4 – Listen and ask
Sometimes, just being there to listen and ask how you can help can be the first step in someone’s recovery.
Bell Let’s Talk provides the following examples of what to ask:
- “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well”
- “I’ve noticed you’ve seemed down lately”
- “Is everything ok?”
- “How can I help?”
5 – Talk about it
Bell Let’s Talk says it best – break the silence.
Mental illness affects each of us in one way or another through our family members, friends and colleagues and yet, despite the prevalence, a stigma remains. At Wood’s Homes, our hope is that seeking mental health treatment will one day be de-stigmatized. The truth can be hard to communicate, especially if you feel your truth is shameful. But there is nothing shameful about seeking help.
As Bell Let’s Talk says on its website, most people with mental health issues can and do recover, just by talking about it.
Wood’s Homes is proud to be a part of the Bell Let’s Talk conversation, to increase awareness, reduce stigma and change behaviours/attitudes about mental health issues. If you or someone you care about needs help, we’re here to listen.
For more helpful tips from Bell Let’s Talk, check out their Conversation Guide.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!