It's the most wonderful time of the year for Canadian mental health advocates! Wednesday, January 28 is Bell Let's Talk Day. To learn more about this amazing initiative click here.
First things first, let's learn the basics. What is mental health? People tend to get mental health and mental illness confused. It's not hard to understand why, seeing as they are very much connected to one another.
"Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." It also means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.
"Mental illness is a recognized, medically diagnosable illness that results in the significant impairment of an individual's cognitive, affective or relational abilities. Mental disorders result from biological, developmental and/or psychosocial factors and can be managed using approaches comparable to those applied to physical disease." Examples of mental illness are depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder etc.
On Bell Let's Talk Day, conversations will be taking place online, in homes, schools, and offices across the country. All wonderful, but, will you be participating in these discussions by sharing your personal experiences? Many people won't. Why? Because even on special days like this, where we are encouraged to be honest and open about mental health, many of us are still embarrassed. We may be ashamed or afraid of letting others see any sign of "weakness" (which is a stigma people associate with mental illness), or what people might think of us if they knew our "secret."
Perhaps we can dissolve these fears by having a conversation with ourselves about our own mental health. Only then can we begin to truly understand the message and importance of Bell Let's Talk Day.
How exactly does one go about having a conversation with themselves? Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I take the time to step back and reflect on what's happening in my life?
- Am I mad? Am I happy? How am I feeling right now?
- How am I really doing?
- When was the last time I let myself have a good cry or laugh so hard until my stomach hurt?
- What's missing from my life/ what would make it better?
- Are my day to day needs being met or fulfilled? (See Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs below, starting from Physiological and working our way up to Self-Actualization)
It's not unusual that we get comfortable with our everyday routine -- wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to sleep. We often forget to take care of ourselves in the simplest of terms, which can play a big role in our overall mental health. Let's start to look at our own mental health and the improvements we can make. Getting in touch with ourselves is the first step in breaking the stigma.
If you can take anything away from Bell Let's Talk Day, take away the fact you are not alone. Don't be afraid to let things unravel. Speak up! Ask for help when you need it, and most importantly, lend a hand to others.
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Don't be fooled by Terry Bradshaw
's demeanour on NFL broadcasts; even tough guys like the Super Bowl-winning former quarterback have struggled with depression.
The ex-Pittsburgh Steeler opened up about his struggle with the illness in 2004, and how he had difficulty "bouncing back" after a divorce.
"With any bad situations I'd experienced before — a bad game or my two previous divorces — I got over them. This time I just could not get out of the hole."
He has also talked openly about his struggles with memory loss
, which resulted from concussions he sustained in his playing days.
In "Silver Linings Playbook," Bradley Cooper played Pat Solitano, a Philadelphia man struggling with bipolar disorder after being released from an institution.
Cooper admitted to knowing very little about the illness before the role, but he has since spoken openly about mental health, talking about veterans dealing with PTSD in a speech at the MTV Movie Awards
, and attending the White House's National Conference on Mental Health in 2013.
At the conference, he talked about how a friend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and how people dealt with it by not talking about it.
Cooper encouraged delegates to "[help] people understand that they're not alone, that the thing they're feeling, it probably has a name."
Last year, as Robert De Niro's film "Silver Linings Playbook" was in theatres, he broke down crying while talking to Katie Couric about his father's difficulties with bipolar disorder
"I don't like to get emotional, but I know exactly what he goes through," he said of the film's character Pat Solitano (played by Bradley Cooper).
De Niro's public discussion helped to show how families also suffer when people close to them experience mental illness.
Canadian Olympic medallist Clara Hughes is among the most prominent voices speaking out about mental health in the Great White North.
The speed skater and cyclist, who is the only person to ever win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, has been open about her struggles with depression
, which have been present throughout her athletic career.
Hughes took that experience and channeled it into a job as spokesperson for Bell Let's Talk
, an initiative that aims to end the stigma around mental illness. She cycled across Canada for 11,000 kilometres as part of "Clara's Big Ride for Bell Let's Talk," which triggered a conversation around mental health from coast to coast to coast.
Hughes visited 105 communities and 80 schools and youth groups as part of the ride.
Getty Images via The Toronto Star
, host of TSN's Off the Record, cuts an energetic figure on TV.
But in 2010, he went public about his struggles with depression in a TSN special alongside ex-NHLer Stephane Richer in an effort to let men know that it's OK to talk about it.
The special triggered as many as 30 emails, all of them from men, Landsberg told The Toronto Star.
Years later, he helped a woman who tweeted at him about her plans to kill herself. Landsberg found the woman
and sought help for her from the police.
Actress and singer Demi Lovato
did not have a strong relationship with her father, but when he died, she went public about both his and her own struggles with mental illness.
She also established the Lovato Treatment Scholarship
, which helps to pay for people's treatment.
As a figure skater, Elizabeth Manley did Canada proud by winning a silver medal in ladies' singles at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Prior to the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, she experienced a series of unfortunate events. Her coach left her, she ended up training in the U.S. away from those closest to her, and her parents divorced.
Manley gained weight and her hair fell out. She was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown and depression.
Manley has since become a spokeswoman on mental health issues. She told her story in her 1990 autobiography "Thumbs Up!" and organized "Elizabeth Manley and Friends
," a 2012 benefit show whose proceeds went to teen mental health initiatives.
Who can forget Amanda
? The 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam, B.C. jumpstarted a whole new discussion on bullying and mental health after she went public with allegations of harassment in a heartbreaking video that was posted on YouTube.
Then on Oct. 10, just over a month later, she killed herself.
Her death sparked an outpouring of emotion from around the world, and prominent voices such as B.C. Premier Christy Clark cited her in speeches at We Day 2012 in Vancouver.
Her mother Carol Todd also set up a trust fund at Royal Bank of Canada, which would raise money for young people living with mental health issues
In 2006, Margaret Trudeau
, ex-wife of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, went public over her struggle with bipolar disorder, and how she used marijuana to cope with it.
She has spent subsequent years since giving speeches about the condition, telling packed audiences about her highs and lows.
Her book "Changing My Mind" details her life as it's been affected by the disorder and offers advice to others who live with it.