Mental health is a topic that has been gaining popularity in the media these past few months, but it has certainly not reached the point of open, non-judgmental conversation. At least not yet. Depression, anxiety, and a plethora of other issues are crowded under the broad “mental health” umbrella, but do we, as a society, understand how ubiquitous these problems really are?
Staff Writer: Alexia Agouridis
Firstly, what is mental illness? Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are just some of the many facets in which mental illness manifests itself. For many of these conditions, genetics and chemical imbalances in the brain can play a role. However, a person’s life experiences can also cause these issues.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and 13% of our country’s population experience major depression or anxiety at some point in their lives. A staggering fact is that suicide accounts for nearly a quarter of all 15- to 24-year-old’s deaths in the country. Canada’s suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world. Nearly half of the Canadians who experience some type of mental illness will never see a doctor about it. Why?
For someone who struggles with mental illness, it can be frightening enough to come to terms with the idea that you might not be okay, let alone tell someone else. Many individuals also face economic barriers to treatment, which partially explains why the homeless are more likely to experience compromised mental health.
While the way we perceive mental illness is changing, it would be blatantly wrong to say that no judgment is cast upon those who do suffer. This is mostly due to a lack of education on the topic, whether it be in the sphere of the general population or from a medical standpoint. For example, many people do not know that symptoms of certain mental illnesses are often seemingly illogical. For example, one who suffers with anxiety can become uncomfortable in large groups of friends, even if they used to love being surrounded by people. Without a doubt, there is still much to be learned and explored in regards to mental health.
We seem to focus heavily on mental health around exam season and then conveniently forget about it once holidays begin. But this is truly a year-round issue. Mental illness does not have to be a lingering shadow because it can be treated effectively. Medication, therapy, and talking about mental health issues should carry no shame. Just like it is socially acceptable for diabetics to take insulin, one should be able to take anti-depressants without scrutinization.
If you have any mental health struggles, opening up about them would likely show you how many of your Sauder and UBC peers have gone through the same problems. We are talented at masking our problems and appearing as though our lives are perfectly set in motion, especially here at Sauder. Constantly in pursuit of that next internship or competing with classmates for that A+ can be exhausting, and nobody feels amazing 100% of the time. Hopefully one day we can openly discuss how hard it really was to get that new job title on Linkedin and that even though everyone is smiling in their perfectly crafted headshot, it would be a mistake to assume that they are all happy.Sometimes, it is okay to not be okay.
If you ever feel alone or down, talk to friends, family, a counselor, a doctor, or even call a hotline. There are always people out there who love you and care about you, whether or not it feels that way. Also, check out some of these great resources:
BC Crisis Centre
Canadian Mental Health Association
Kid’s Help Phone
UBC Counseling Services