(art by: Isabella Acosta)
The first week of May is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada. Our mental health involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us and plays a big role in the relationships that we have with others and the relationships that we have with ourselves. Mental health is something that everyone has, and looks different for every single person.
Our mental health is something that we have to maintain just like we do our physical health and well-being. However, maintaining your mental health isn’t as easy as just eating more vegetables or flossing every night, it’s about forming a relationship with yourself and really taking the time to check in and see where you’re at. Understanding were your own limits are for how much time you can spend with others, how much school work you can do in one day, and even how many scary articles about Donald Trump you can read is important. All of these things we do and care about are things that require emotional time and labor and it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we just need to take time for ourselves to rest and reset. Taking this time is often referred to as self-care and can be as simple as writing in your journal, hanging out with your cat, or tending to your cactus collection. Setting up healthy boundaries is another big way that we can take care of ourselves and build space for positive mental health in our relationships. By acknowledging our boundaries and communicating them to others we can make sure that our wants and needs are being taken care of. For more information on healthy communication and boundaries check out session 5 of our Healthy Relationships for Youth curriculum.
In our relationships with others, it’s important to acknowledge that their mental health is different than our own. We need to respect the needs and wants of the people we care about and particularly those living with different mental illnesses. When it comes to supporting friends and loved ones who are living with mental illness be supportive and non-judgmental when they are talking about their experiences. Trivializing the mental health struggles of others when they are different from our own is never a cool thing to do. Respecting the boundaries of what language folks want to use to talk about their own mental health and how much they want to share with you is important. However, it’s also important to know your own boundaries and how much support and emotional labor you are able to do for another person. If you feel like supporting a friend or loved one is taking a big toll on your own mental health then let them know (in a respectful way) and help them find other resources and people to reach out to for support. Ensuring that we are supporting ourselves along with others can be a tricky balance but promotes the most positive mental health for everyone.
Here are some ways that we can spread awareness and create communities that support positive mental health. The biggest way we can do this is by working to reduce stigma around mental health and making it easier for folks to reach out and talk about their mental health. Understanding that mental health is something that we all have and that it looks different for everyone is the first step. Acknowledging that there is no shame in seeking support and that it takes a lot of courage to reach out to others and to work through mental health concerns is a powerful way to support positive mental health in ourselves and in our communities. Also spreading awareness that there is no shame in needing medication in order to maintain mental health, or therapy, or in any of the other choices that people make to help themselves. Reducing stigma around mental illness can be done by using inclusive language, this means not using terms like “crazy”, “psycho” or generally any language that others folks living with mental illness. This language is harmful and also reduces someone to a mental illness. People living with mental illnesses are full, whole, people and not seeing past a diagnosis is not respecting that.
For more articles on mental health check out:
Emotional self-care – http://www.rookiemag.com/2016/02/self-care/
Trusting your own brain – http://www.rookiemag.com/2015/03/how-to-trust-your-brain/
For resources on where to find help look at our Need Help? page