Towards Better Mental Health

Its a long weekend ...

Most people probably plan to enjoy time with family and friends over the last long weekend before fall. Other people will take some relaxing self time. Still others will use the time to catch up on work or home projects.

Then there are the other people. People in crisis. People facing each long morning of a long weekend after a long night of wrestling with pain, conflict and an entire spectrum of emotions. Sometimes all at one time.

I'm not a psychologist, a doctor or a health professional of any kind. I am a public servant who's blessed to be in a position where I am tuned into many things going on in our community and the lives of its members; and what I see is disturbing me.

It seems the number of those among us facing an increasingly challenging world with more and more fragile mental health is increasing. There are some who have a diagnosis, therapy, treatments and a supportive environment and network of friends and family. These people are all around us and among us. They are us. I know many people who fit this spectrum. Life is a challenge for all of us. For them sometimes more so, but they are prospering on the best of days and coping on the worst.

The rest - that's a different story. In the absence of proper supports in their lives and understanding from a caring community these folks quickly fall between the cracks. In the absence of an 'official' diagnosis these people get labelled all kinds of things and yes - some exhibit very disturbing, challenging and at times violent behaviour in public. Is it acceptable? No. Is it their fault? No. Someone facing mental health challenges can no more be blamed for them than can someone with a heart condition. It's part of who they are. At the same time lets not for a moment imagine all of these people look like drifters or odd characters. I know people holding down good jobs who have families and responsibilities who clearly are having mental health challenges and perhaps aren't seeking or aren't getting the care they need. Sometimes the cap they place on their inner pressure blows and there's an eruption of disturbing activity. This gets papered over quickly attributed to work stress or life pressure.

We have resources in our community:

The Distress Centre, a 24/7/365 confidential and anonymous phone line (613-238-3311)

The Youth Services Bureau centre at 2301 Carling, 613-562-3004

The Mental Health crisis line 613-722-6914

And many more.

The key though is to make sure we use these services and support those we see in need to as well.

The help only helps if you help yourself to it.

People who are abused by life circumstances or other people often have a history with mental health challenges or addictions that have led them to this place. It's not their fault and the sooner we stop blaming them and instead helping them the better we will all be. Similarly those who are the abusers, the bullies and the 'out of control' often have that same past where mental health troubles have derailed them. Addictions and harmful behaviour become their coping mechanism all while they fight not what's in front of them but what's within them.

As you reflect on how you will spend your long weekend think about your own mental health. Think about the mental wellbeing of those around you. Especially think about those who may be using an addiction or harmful/hurtful behaviour to 'get by'. Are these people in your life (or you) supported by a positive circle of people - dedicated to their success? If the answer is no - then they are starting to drift.

In the increasingly choppy waters of our world, good mental health is our anchor. Without it we drift.

If you find yourself without a solid anchor, ask for help. If you see someone in need of their anchor, support them in getting it. Only when we start acting on this thought when we see people struggling in a shop or on a street corner will we be able to say we have a true mental health and addictions strategy in our community. It has to start with "I care - how can I help?"

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