Mental illness is something that’s becoming increasingly common, and thanks to organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as well as the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, an important spotlight is on mental health, including the warning signs that may be present in someone living with a mental illness, as well as the importance of talking about mental health and seeking help through the appropriate avenues and resources.

Specifically, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) represents a wide range of individuals and groups that are dedicated to promoting and facilitating an action plan on mental illness. These include patients and their families, health care providers, social workers, research groups, community programs, and other professional associations from coast to coast.

Mental Illness Awareness Week, first established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (and now overseen by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health), kicks off on October 1st. It is a campaign designed to educate Canadians on the reality of mental illness and, through their Faces of Mental Illness initiative, features the stories of a number of Canadians who have personally experienced a decline in their own mental health and how they overcame it. By sharing their stories, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health hopes that it will not only help to raise awareness, but also end the stigma that is so often associated with having a mental illness. One of the most common stigmas surrounding mental illness is that the individual or individuals are incurable or dangerous. While violence can occur with mental illness, it is often the result of a combination of things that triggers this type of behaviour, such as alcohol and illicit drug use, in addition to the mental illness itself. Generally speaking, many people that do suffer from a mental illness typically experience depression or anxiety, which leads to feelings of worthlessness as well as isolation. In fact, individuals with a mental illness are more likely to become the victims of violence as opposed to committing violent acts themselves.

While raising awareness on mental health and mental illness is a great starting point, action is also essential. For example, if someone you know is experiencing a mental decline, then it’s important to ensure they get the same level of care and concern that they would if they were experiencing a physical ailment, such as a broken bone. A mental illness can be just as debilitating as that of a physical one, so dismissing it and shrugging it off as something that’s no big deal can actually only compound the problem and make their symptoms worse. Furthermore, it’s also important to make people aware of the many resources out there that they can turn to for help if they feel it’s necessary.

In British Columbia, the Mental Health Support Line is available 24/7. Just dial 310-6789. From there, you will be connected to a worker that is trained to in providing you with support, in addition to making sure you have further information and resources on mental illness should you need it. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or have concerns over someone who has expressed ideations, you can also call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). For children and teenagers aged 20 or younger, the Kid’s Help Phone is also available 24/7, and their professional counsellors can be reached by calling 1-800-668-6868.