Healthy Thoughts

A Year of Mental Health Awareness

By Carolyn McKeown

Photo by TZA
Photo by TZA

Mental health issues have suddenly stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight throughout this past year. Illnesses including anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, and schizophrenia are no longer marginalized and are slowly being recognized as serious forms of sicknesses. Because of recent current events, from disturbing murders to the fateful suicide of Canada’s 15-year-old, Amanda Todd, mental illness is finally receiving the attention it has so badly required.

The significance of having and understanding healthy mental development cannot be overstated. Many people recognize the importance of maintaining a sound mind, but few understand how critical mental and emotional problems are, and how important and harmful they can be children and adolescents throughout their developmental years. Mental health covers a lifespan, but events in the early years can mould children’s personalities and how they will deal with similar events later on. Generally, mental illness is not recognized until adulthood, but it is evident that mental and emotional troubles in childhood should be taken seriously. Psychiatric disorders can arise and persist from the earliest years, and they develop further into adulthood.

The increased importance of mental health issues is evident at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa, where they saw the largest demand ever for mental health services. The hospital has seen a 49 per cent increase in emergency room visits for patients seeking help with their mental health. Even Hollywood is acknowledging mental health issues through sensitive portrayals of mental illness like Academy Awards nominee Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental health strengthens and supports our ability to have healthy relationships, make good life choices, maintain physical health and well-being, and to discover and grow toward our full potential. It is unfortunate that in our society, mental illness is ridiculed, dismissed, feared, and ignored. It takes bravery for people to admit they need help and healing and to seek management for an ongoing disorder. It is when we are free of depression, anxiety, excessive stress, addictions, and other psychological problems, that we are able to live our lives to the fullest.logo

To contact a mental health expert or for more information about mental health, visit: Alternatives, the East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency, which provides one-on-one client counselling, case management, and community support to individuals who have significant mental health challenges.

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